Regardless of lock-downs and social remoteness, this year’s astronomical calendar is filled with surprises and astronomical sights. Here are some dates to keep an eye out for in 2021 so you can enjoy the events.
1. Venus-Jupiter conjunction, February 11
If you are an early riser you could be rewarded with an encounter between two of our brightest planets, Jupiter and Venus. These will appear as dots in the sky, and the pair will seem so close in the sky that they will both be visible possibly at the same time. Planet Saturn will be drifting to the right side.
✨ This new year comes with cosmic treats! In January, our planet will be at its closest point in orbit around the Sun, known as perihelion. We’ll also get a chance to see Uranus near the Moon and Mars and spot a fast-moving Mercury. 🔭— NASA JPL (@NASAJPL) December 31, 2020
Skywatching tips: https://t.co/HTlEpZ1khX pic.twitter.com/bx3WduD7ue
2. Quadruple formation, March 9 and 10
During the quadruple formation, Mercury, Jupiter and Saturn will appear in perfect alignment , while the crescent moon will frame the trio of the planets. Through optics, stargazers will be able to see Jupiter’s four biggest moons, while a little telescope will uncover Saturn’s rings. Due to Earth’s position comparative with Mercury and the sun, just 50% of the innermost planet’s disk will appear illuminated, so Mercury will seem like a small scale version of the quarter moon through the telescope.
3. “Blood moon” total lunar eclipse, May 26
During the total part of the eclipse, the moon will change from a dark gray tone during the partial period of the eclipse, to a ruddy orange tone during totality, although the moon’s exact color can vary, as it depends on different amounts of dust in Earth’s atmosphere.
This total lunar eclipse coincides with the moon being at its closest point to Earth in its orbit, and is sometimes called a supermoon because it’s bigger and brighter than an average full moon. The partial eclipse is due to begin at 1:44 am Pacific time, as this is when the first hint of Earth’s shadow starts to cover the moon. Between 3:11am and 3:25am, the total eclipse, when the moon appears to turn red, will take place.
The New Year brings hope, especially this year…however 2020 was NOT entirely negative, as the past year offered several rare observable astrological events. All the best to your dreams for 2021 and don’t forget to enjoy the wonders of the worldhttps://t.co/U4ffTJ6IrI pic.twitter.com/avMTfDxBIi— RodCain (@RODCAINcom) December 28, 2020
4. “Ring of fire” solar eclipse, June 10
A “ring of fire” eclipse will be visible as the sun rises, to anyone along a certain path running north from Canada, into part of Greenland, and Russia. Otherwise called an annular solar eclipse, this is an amazing occasion that happens when the moon, sun, and Earth are aligned. The lunar disk is too small to cover the whole sun, and so leaves a ring of light around the dark lunar silhouette. The full eclipse path starts at 9:49 UT over northern Canada and ends in Russia at 11:33 UT.
Whilst for many the “ring of fire” eclipse will not be within sight, millions will be able to witness the related partial solar eclipse. This is when large parts of Asia, Europe, and North America will see part of the sun blocked by the moon. If you are seeing either of the eclipses, make sure to never look at the sun directly without appropriate eye protection, for example, sunglasses.
5. Venus-Mars Conjunction, July 12
Following local sunset, Venus and Mars, two bright planets, will seem to make contact in the sky. The pair will be joined by a crescent moon in an impressive visual display, during which Mars and Venus will be so close they will be visible at the same time to anyone looking through a backyard telescope. Venus, unmistakably bright and star-like, will be the easiest to spot, whilst Mars will appear much fainter, so you will have to look harder for it, especially next to Venus’s bright glare. Once your eyes have adjusted though, both plantes should be easy to see with the unaided eye, separated by a space equal to the width of a full moon.
6. Perseid meteor shower, August 12 and 13
The Perseid meteor shower occurs every mid-August as Earth travels through a cloud of debris shed by the comet Swift–Tuttle. This produces a flurry of shooting stars as small meteors burn up in the upper atmosphere, and there can be up to 60 shooting stars an hour in a typical year. This year should be especially good as the meteor shower takes place with a dark moonless sky thanks to it coinciding with a thin crescent moon and great viewing conditions. This meteor shower always appears to radiate from its namesake, constellation Perseus, and as this lies close to the horizon in summer, it is best viewed from the Northern Hemisphere.
7. Mars-Mercury conjunction, August 18
The Mars-Mercury conjunction is a close encounter between the innermost planet of the solar system, Mercury, and the fourth planet from the sun, Mars. This dramatic meeting will be difficult to catch because of its close proximity to the setting sun, so you’ll need a clear line of sight toward the western horizon. Mercury, illuminated more by the sun, will appear brighter than Mars, but if you can see the conjunction through a telescope, the two planets will seem as though they are squeezed together so closely that they can both be viewed at high magnification.
8. Draconid meteor shower, October 8
The Draconids are a flurry of meteors that come from a stream of sand grain-size particles, spread along the orbit of comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner. These will sparkle in the high northwest skies after nightfall, when you can see about 10 to 15 shooting stars every hour. Coinciding with a thin crescent moon, dark skies will make them easy to spot and enjoy. The name comes from the constellation from which they appear to radiate—in this case, Draco, the dragon. Best viewed from nightfall to midnight, this is when shooting stars will appear highest in the sky, whilst at the shower’s peak, Draco will be nearly overhead around local midnight throughout the Northern Hemisphere. Helpfully, the dragon’s shooting stars are fairly easy to spot since they are some of the slowest moving of any annual shower.
9. Partial lunar eclipse, November 19
The last lunar eclipse of the year will be visible across North and South America, Australia, and parts of Europe and Asia. While it is actually a partial eclipse, up to 95 percent of the full moon will be cast within the Earth’s shadow. During the maximum stage, the lunar plate may show traces of orange or red.
The eclipse will begin at 2:18 a.m. EST, and Earth’s shadow will encompass the vast majority of the moon’s surface by 4:02 a.m. EST.
Total Solar Eclipse – March 29, 2006, Turkey – source pic.twitter.com/lFl21a7vU2— Marcos Cruz… GRUPOS NÃO… (@MarcosC23258945) January 6, 2021
10. Total solar eclipse, December 4
An incomplete overshadowing of the sun will appear across parts of Chile, Argentina, South Africa, Namibia, and Australia. Watchers using solar-filtered glasses in these districts will see a nibble removed from the sun as the moon clouds the sun-powered plate.
Those who decided to make the trip to the southernmost piece of the world will have the chance to catch the overshadowed sun close to the skyline in the early morning hours, with icy masses and frigid tundra in the forefront—a fabulous method to finish the year.