Notable Celestial Events in 2012
This year comes with its share of many remarkable skywatching events that we can participate in. The most important is the rare transit of Venus across the face of the Sun in June 2012. The next time this will occur again is in 2117. We have the unique opportunity to observe this. (A note to Philippine observers: We are in a good location for this event!) Moreover, there’s also the Mercury elongation in February, Jupiter-Venus conjunction on March 13-15, the solar eclipses on May 21 and November 14 and our favorite annual meteor showers.
The list below also contains some tips for Philippine observers.
Clear skies and happy observing!
February 20 – March 12 : Best Chance to see Mercury
The planet Mercury will be far enough from the Sun’s glare to be visible shortly after sunset. Mercury will reach greatest elongation from the Sun on March 5, reaching a relatively bright magnitude of about -1. This will be your best chance to see the planet this year.
February 26 : Moon, Jupiter and Venus at Dusk
Look westward after sunset to see the moon and the dazzling planets Jupiter and Venus lighting up the western sky.
March 3 : Mars at Opposition
The red planet will be at its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. This is the best time to view and photograph this planet. Mars will be an imposing naked-eye sight, shining at magnitude -1.2, just a bit dimmer than Sirius, the brightest star, and will be visible in the sky all night long.
March 14 : Conjunction of Venus and Jupiter
The two brightest planets in the sky will be within 3 degrees of each other in the evening sky. On March 25 and 25, the crescent Moon will be near the two planets, creating a dazzling evening spectacle.
March 26 : Crescent Moon, Jupiter and Venus line up at Dusk
Watch for the young waxing crescent moon and the planets Jupiter and Venus near each other in the west after sunset. The moon, Venus and Jupiter rank as the brightest, second- and third-brightest heavenly bodies of nighttime respectively. This will be last chance in 2012 that you will see them all-together at dusk.
March 27: Venus at Greatest Eastern Elongation
Venus reaches its greatest eastern elongation and will be separated from the Sun by 46°, its greatest apparent distance from the sun on our sky’s dome. Venus will set about three hours after sunset during this event. At this superb evening elongation for the Northern Hemisphere, Venus will stand above the setting sun. This is a good time to look out for the Schroter Effect, which predicts that dichotomy the 50% lit phase occurs a few days early for evening elongation.
April 3: Venus near the Pleiades
Venus will appear to the left of the Pleiades star cluster. Especially with binoculars or a small telescope, this bright plant should appear swimming in a sea of stars.
April 15 : Saturn at Opposition
The ringed planet will be at its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. This is the best time to view and photograph Saturn and its moons.
April 21, 22 : Lyrid Meteor Shower
The Lyrids are an average shower, usually producing about 20 meteors per hour at their peak. These meteors can produce bright dust trails that last for several seconds. The shower usually peaks on April 21 & 22, although some meteors can be visible from April 16 – 25. With no moon to get in the way this year, this really should be a good show. Look for meteors radiating from the constellation of Lyra after midnight.
May 21 : [Annular] Solar Eclipse
The path of annularity will begin in southern China and move east through Japan, the northern Pacific Ocean, and into the western United States. A partial eclipse will be visible throughout parts of eastern Asia and most of North America. (NASA Map and Eclipse Information) (Note: In the Philippines, we will be able to see a crescent sun at dawn.)
June 4 : Partial Lunar Eclipse
The eclipse will be visible throughout most of Asia, including the Philippines Australia, the Pacific Ocean, and the Americas. (NASA Map and Eclipse Information) In the Philippines, we can observe this event as an eclipse at dusk, meaning we will be able to see an eclipsed moon rising.
eclipse magnitude: 37.6%
moonrise: 6:17 pm PHT
greatest eclipse: 7:03 pm PHT
partial eclipse ends: 8:07 pm PHT
penumbral eclipse ends: 9:19 pm PHT
Go to http://shadowandsubstance.com/ to see an animation of the eclipse.
June 6 : Transit of Venus Across the Sun
This extremely rare event will be entirely visible throughout most of eastern Asia, eastern Australia, and Alaska. A partial transit can be seen in progress at sunrise throughout Europe, western Asia, and eastern Africa. A partial transit can be seen in progress at sunset throughout most of North America, Central America, and western South America. The next transit will not take place until the year 2117. (NASA Transit Information | NASA Transit Map)
July 15 : Moon, Venus and Jupiter near the Hyades and the Pleiades Star Cluster
See the three brightest objects in the night sky next to the Pleiades and the Hyades open star cluster in Taurus before dawn on July 15th.
August 12, 2012: Occultation of Jupiter by the Moon
For Philippine observers, the morning of 12 August sees the waning crescent Moon pass in front of Jupiter and its moons in a so-called occultation. Occultations are comparatively rare events, which offer good photo opportunities for amateur astronomers. Prospects and timings for the event vary with location.
The event takes place while Jupiter and the Moon are low in the sky during the wee hours of the morning.
|2012 Aug 12 02:43||Occultation disappearance of Jupiter (Mag -2.2)|
|2012 Aug 12 03:16||Occultation reappearance of Io (Mag 5.5)|
|2012 Aug 12 03:17||Occultation reappearance of Jupiter (Mag -2.2)|
|2012 Aug 12 03:18||Occultation reappearance of Europa (Mag 5.7)|
|2012 Aug 12 03:20||Occultation reappearance of Callisto (Mag 6.1)|
|2012 Aug 12 03:32||Occultation reappearance of Ganymede (Mag 5.0)|
August 11, 12 : Perseids Meteor Shower
The Perseids is one of the best meteor showers to observe, producing up to 60 meteors per hour at their peak. The shower’s peak usually occurs on August 11 & 12, but you may be able to see some meteors any time from July 23 – August 24. The radiant point for this shower will be in the constellation Perseus. The near last quarter moon will be hanging around for the show, but shouldn’t be too much of a problem for a shower with up to 60 meteors per hour. Find a location far from city lights and look to the northeast after midnight.
October 5 : Moon-Jupiter Conjunction
The King of the Planets and the crescent moon will reunite for a close celestial pairing. Check the eastern sky around midnight to spot these two objects that are less than one degree apart!
October 21, 22: Orionid Meteor Shower
The Orionid Meteor Shower usually reaches its peak around October 21, having an average of 20 meteors per hour. The Orionids are fast meteors and also have fireballs. These meteors radiate near the boundaries between the Great Hunter Orion and Gemini. The cometary debris left behind by Comet Halley — bits of ice, dust and rubble — create the Orionid meteor shower. It last visited Earth in 1986.
A good show could be experienced on any morning from October 20 – 24, but some meteors may be seen any time from October 17 – 25. The first quarter moon will set by midnight, leaving a dark sky for what should be a good show.
The best time to view these meteors is usually in the wee hours before dawn. That time holds true no matter what time zone you’re in.
November 13 : Total Solar Eclipse
The path of totality will only be visible in parts of extreme northern Australia and the southern Pacific Ocean. A partial eclipse will be visible in most parts of eastern Australia and New Zealand. (NASA Map and Eclipse Information) (Note: This event is not visible in the Philippines.)
November 17, 18 : Leonids Meteor Shower
The Leonids is one of the better meteor showers to observe, producing an average of 40 meteors per hour at their peak. The shower itself has a cyclic peak year every 33 years where hundreds of meteors can be seen each hour. The last of these occurred in 2001. The shower usually peaks on November 17 & 18, but you may see some meteors from November 13 – 20. The crescent moon will set early in the evening leaving dark skies for what should be an excellent show. Look for the shower radiating from the constellation Leo after midnight, and be sure to find a dark location for viewing.
November 27 : Conjunction of Venus and Saturn
These two bright planets will be within 1 degree of each other in the morning sky. Look to the east around sunrise.
December 3 : Jupiter at Opposition
The giant planet will be at its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. This is the best time to view and photograph Jupiter and its moons.
December 11 : Saturn, Venus, Mercury and the Crescent Moon at Predawn
Check the eastern sky about an hour before dawn to see this magnificent celestial display of the three planets and the thin lunar crescent.
December 13, 14 : Geminid Meteor Shower
Considered by many to be the best meteor shower in the heavens, the Geminids are known for producing up to 60 multicolored meteors per hour at their peak. The peak of the shower usually occurs around December 13 & 14, although some meteors should be visible from December 6 – 19. The radiant point for this shower will be in the constellation Gemini. This year the new moon will guarantee a dark sky for what should be an awesome show. Best viewing is usually to the east after midnight from a dark location.
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- Stellarium Planetarium Software