At various points throughout the year, I have people asking me if I saw the meteor shower the night before. Almost every time, that question is the first time I even heard of said shower.
So this time, I’ve made a list of some of the most impressive astronomical events of the upcoming year. Many of these will be visible throughout the world, while some are specific to certain continents. You don’t have to have an interest in science to find these feats of the sky amazing, and hopefully this will help you avoid missing them.
10. Lyrids Meteor Shower
Visible between April 16th and the 25th, but peaking between the 21st and 22nd, the Lyrids Meteor Shower takes place at the same time every year. There are usually between 10 & 20 meteors per hour, but there can be up to 100. The trails these meteors leave behind can last for several minutes. The meteors also cause minuscule flakes of comet dust to collide with the atmosphere at 49 kilometers per second, resulting in further streaks of light.
9. Partial Lunar Eclipse
A lunar eclipse is when the Earth passes directly between the Sun and the Moon, meaning that the moon enters the shadow cast by the Earth. April 25th will only be a partial eclipse, which means that part of the Moon will be in the Penumbra, where some sunlight will reach it (though less than usual,) and part of it will be in the Umbra, where no sunlight will reach it. This eclipse will last 27 minutes, and be visible in Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia.
The second of three Lunar eclipses due to take place in 2013, a Penumbral lunar eclipse, will occur on May 25th. The final lunar eclipse of the year will take place on October 18th, which will also be Penumbral.
8. Saturn at Opposition
On April 28th, the Earth will come directly between Saturn and the Sun. This is called Opposition, because Saturn will be directly opposite the Sun in our sky. It will rush in the East at sunset, and set in the west at sunrise. During the night, it will be the brightest object in our sky. While Saturn will be closer to us than usual for all of 2013, this is when it will be clearest in the sky. Those of you in the Northern Hemisphere (i.e. about 90% of people) should be able to see Saturn all summer, and anyone with a telescope will be able to see its rings.
7. Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower
Visible from May 4th through the 7th, but peaking on the 5th & 6th, the visibility of the Eta Aquarids increases drastically the further south you go, with up to 60 meteors an hour in the Southern Hemisphere. In Mexico, and the southern US, it is predicted that there will be about 10-20 meteors visible per hour. The best time to view the meteors is an hour or two before dawn on any of these days, with the most meteors expected to fall on the morning of May 5th.
6. Annular Solar Eclipse
As we all know, a Solar Eclipse is the opposite of a Lunar Eclipse, in that it is when the moon passes between the Sun and the Earth, casting a shadow on the surface of the Earth. There are two types of solar eclipses: total and annular. This will be an Annular Solar Eclipse, meaning that the Sun will not be totally blocked out, but a ring of it will still be visible. The result, though, is no less impressive than a total eclipse. This year, it will be visible on May 10th, in Australia, New Zealand, the Solomon Islands, and the Central Pacific.
5. Venus And Jupiter at Opposition
On May 28th, Venus and Jupiter will appear within 1 degree of one another in the sky, with Mercury also visible nearby. Both Venus and Jupiter are extremely bright planets, which is ideal, because they will be setting just before sunset in the West, meaning that if they were darker, they would probably be outshone.
4. Perseids Meteor Shower
This is one of the bigger meteor showers of all, among sky-watching fans. Taking place on August 12th & 13th, the summer weather allows for much clearer viewing than some of the other showers throughout the year. There can be up to 60 meteors every hour, with the best viewing taking place at around 11 PM. A crescent moon will be setting around this time, meaning the meteors won’t be outshone.
3. Neptune And Uranus at Opposition
On August 27th, Neptune will make its closest appearance Earth, and will be illuminated by the Sun. Due to the clear skies we can expect in August, it should be quite visible, as a blue circle in the sky. Uranus, meanwhile, will appear closest to Earth on October 3rd. Due to less clear skies however, powerful telescopes will be required to see the blue-green planet.
2. Hybrid Solar Eclipse
A Hybrid Solar Eclipse is one that shifts between total and annular at different points on the Earth. This particular eclipse will take place on November 3rd, beginning at 10:04 (Universal Time,) and ending at 15:28. Unfortunately, it will miss most of North and South America, although it will be visible to some, mainly in parts of the East, just after sunrise. The shadow of the eclipse will cover almost the entire continent of Africa at once, before finishing in Iran.
1. The Geminids
The Geminids meteor shower is considered by many to be the greatest and most beautiful shower of all. They produce up to 60 meteors per hour and, unlike many of the other showers throughout the year, these ones are multicolored. Visible from December 6th to the 19th, but peaking from the 13th to the 15th, these meteors are best viewed at midnight, and it is predicted that the show will be spectacular.