Well-known constellations like the ones in the Winter Hexagon – Gemini, Orion, Canis Major, Canis Minor, Auriga and Taurus – can be easily seen during the longer hours of darkness in the Northern hemisphere this month.
Most of the events listed here can be readily observed with the naked eye, but some objects such as the planets and some star clusters are best seen through binoculars or a small telescope.
All of the times and dates found here are in Philippine Standard Time (PHT) unless otherwise indicated. Note that PHT = UT+8.
Clear skies and happy skygazing! 🙂
# # #
This month’s highlights:
- The Quadrantid Meteor Shower
- Planetary conjunctions with the Moon
|Jan. 1||First Quarter Moon||2:15 PM|
|Jan. 2||Moon-Jupiter close pairing (~7° apart)|
|Jan. 3||Moon at apogee||4:00 AM||farthest distance to Earth|
|Jan. 3-4||Peak of the Quadrantid Meteor Shower||3:23 AM||Quadrantid Shower: ZHR = 120|
|Jan. 5||Earth at perihelion (0.9833 AU)||8:00 AM||closest distance to the Sun|
|Jan. 5||Moon near the Pleiades (3.1° N)|
|Jan. 9||Full Moon||3:30 PM|
|Jan. 16||Last Quarter Moon||5:08 AM|
|Jan. 16||Moon near the star Spica (2° N)|
|Jan. 17||Saturn 6° north of the Moon||3:00 AM|
|Jan. 18||Moon at perigee||5:00 AM||nearest distance to Earth|
|Jan. 23||New Moon||3:39 PM|
|Jan. 25||Neptune 6° south of the Moon||8:00 PM|
|Jan. 27||Moon-Venus close pairing||dusk||Venus 7° south of the Moon|
|Jan. 30||First Quarter Moon||3:39 PM|
|Jan. 30||Moon-Jupiter close pairing|
|Jan. 31||Moon at apogee||2:00 AM||farthest distance to Earth|
January 2: Moon-Jupiter Conjunction
An eventful sky year begins with brilliant Jupiter high up on the Aries-Pisces border at nightfall. On January 2, Jupiter will be about 7 degrees away from the 61% full moon in the constellation Pisces.
January 3-4: Quadrantid Meteor Shower
This should be a fine year for one of the best, but least observed, annual meteor showers like the Quadrantids. The Quadrantids are an above average shower, with up to 40 meteors per hour at their peak. This meteor shower should be most active in the early morning hours of Wednesday the 4th, but some meteors can be visible from January 1 – 5. The Moon sets around 3 AM local time then, leaving the sky dark until the first light of dawn around 6 AM. Look for meteors radiating from the constellation Bootes.
Last October 28, 2011 I immediately headed to the SM Mall of Asia after our 2-day sem planning in Makati to take an image of this nice celestial grouping shortly after sunset. Sleeplessness failed to hinder me 😛
It features the thin Young Moon and the two inner planets, Venus and Mercury hanging near each other in the western sky at dusk.
I was really fortunate to have been able to catch this sky display just before darkness came. *Traffic in the city really sucks.*
Anyway, I hope the skies will always be this clear. 🙂
To the stars!
As summer time has already ended, the constellation Sagittarius, along with the other Summer constellations sets earlier during the month of October.
Sagittarius is believed to have originated with the Babylonians. He was their god of War, and he stands with his bow aimed at the heart of Scorpius, the scorpion. Like Centaurus, he is a half man, half beast creature.
We in modern times may not be able to imagine the stars of Sagittarius as a Centaur. Instead, many stargazers know the stars of Sagittarius as a “Teapot”. This asterism is really easy to recognize.
Sagittarius is an important constellation in that it marks the direction of the center of our galaxy, the Milky Way. It also contains more Messier objects than any other constellation in the sky.
Earlier this evening, I took the chance to take an image of the “Teapot” before it disappears in the night sky. I was also planning to image Scorpius but it was already too low in the south west. As I looked at the image more closely, I began to noticed something interesting. On the right (just above its lid), there is a faint cloud-like patch that resembles the Milky Way. I got surprised. 🙂
Could it be really possible to see a faint apparition of the Milky Way in this light-polluted suburb?
As the nights get longer in the northern hemisphere, the skies are filled with good observing opportunities.
Meteor showers, a comet, and Jupiter at opposition are the highlights for October.
|2||Mars in the Beehive Cluster in Cancer|
|4||First Quarter Moon||11:15 AM|
|8||Draconid Meteor Shower (Active from Oct 6-10, ZHR up to storm levels)|
|8||International Observe the Moon Night 2011|
|12||Full Moon (Hunter’s Moon)||10:05 AM|
|13||Jupiter and the waxing gibbous moon is about 5 degrees apart|
|15||Waxing gibbous moon near the Pleiades|
|16||Comet Elenin’s closest approach to Earth|
|20||Last Quarter Moon||11:30 AM|
|22||Orionid Meteor Shower (Active from Oct 17-25, ZHR=20)|
|27||New Moon||04:00 AM|
|28||Mercury-Venus Moon at minimum separation||dusk|
|29||Jupiter Opposition (closest approach to Earth)||08:40 AM|
Two meteor showers: Draconids & Orionids
The Orionids will peak this year on the evening of October 21/22 . Periodic (76 year orbit) comet 1P/Halley is the source of these meteors. Meteor specialists have meteor counts for this pass averaging a modest 20 per hour, best visible before dawn under dark skies. These meteor fragments radiate from the top of Orion’s upraised club, near the Gemini border. The waning crescent Moon this year should not interfere much with your observing of these shooting stars.
Newly discovered comet Elenin will make its closest approach to the Earth on October 16. The comet was discovered on December 10, 2010 by Russian amateur astronomer Leonid Elenin. It is estimated that the comet will reach 6th magnitude as it makes its closest approach. This will make it just barely visible to the naked eye. With a good pair of binoculars and a little determination, you may be able to get a good look at this new comet during mid October.
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. The giant planet will be a big and bright as it gets in the night sky. A medium-sized telescope should be able to show you some of the details in Jupiter’s cloud bands. A good pair of binoculars should allow you to see Jupiter’s four largest moons, appearing as bright dots on either side of the planet.
This month’s full moon is called Hunter’s Moon because at this time of year the leaves are falling and the game is fat and ready to hunt. This will also be the smallest full moon of the year because it will be near apogee, its farthest point from the Earth.
Mercury-Venus & Moon at minimum separation
This is a wonderful conjunction of 2 planets, the waxing crescent Moon and the red giant star Antares about 30 minutes after sunset on the nights of October 28 & 29th. You will need an unobstructed view low to the SW. Use binoculars or a small telescope to locate challenging Mercury.
International Observe the Moon Night 2011
Join people from all over the world to celebrate the second annual International Observe the Moon Night on Oct. 8, 2011. InOMN is an annual event celebrated globally to encourage people to go out and observe Earth’s nearest neighbor in space — the Moon.
For more information and resources for planning your own International Observe the Moon Night event, visit: http://observethemoonnight.org/. The website features activities, educational materials, multimedia and much more!
Happy skygazing! 🙂
- PAGASA Astronomical Diary
- Philippine Celestial Events for 2011 by PAS
- 2011 Astronomy Calendar – SeaSky.org
I began my preparation to observe the June 16, 2011 Total Lunar Eclipse as soon as I’ve learned about it several months ago.
It was a relatively rare opportunity to observe a Total Eclipse of the Moon — not to mention that the duration of totality of this eclipse will be one of the longest in 100 years (totality lasted for 100 minutes, from 3:22 am until around 5:02 am PHT).
I immediately checked the eclipse circumstances available in the NASA eclipse website and estimated the location of the Moon for each phase using Stellarium, so as to choose the best place to observe the event. I also reviewed the previous photos I’ve taken to see which places have a clear view of the southwest sky — the region where the Moon was mostly located during the course of the whole eclipse event. After considering a few sites, I came down to only three choices — the PAGASA Observatory in UP Diliman, a place along San Miguel by the Bay and at the Seven Suites Hotel Observatory in Antipolo.
Dropping the other two choices, I observed at the Seven Suites.
Since I still have a class to attend the following morning, observing at San Miguel by the Bay was the least good option. It surely was a nice place to observe as it has a very clear western horizon (which will enable me to catch a glimpse of the eclipsed moon setting at the bayside), but traveling would be a bit of a hassle for me because it was too far. The most convenient choice was actually to observe at the PAGASA Observatory. It’s just a walking distance away from my college and most of my orgmates in UP AstroSoc were there, too. However, I was worried that the buildings surrounding the observatory might block the view of the Moon when it gets too low during the last phases.
Through Mr. Ramon Acevedo or Kuya Ramon — an alumnus of my astronomy org UP AstroSoc — the manager of Seven Suites allowed me and a few more orgmates to observe from Seven Suites for free 🙂 Thanks, Kuya Ramon!
Seven Suites is the first and only hotel observatory in the Philippines. As it is situated along the hillside route of Sumulong Highway in Antipolo City (not too far away from UP Diliman), it offers a breathtaking view of Manila by night — a stunning view of the metropolis, its city lights and the dazzling night sky. It also houses a 12”diameter Dobsonian which is the fourth largest telescope in the country.
We arrived at Seven Suites at about two hours before the start of the penumbral eclipse. Upon reaching the roof deck, we marveled at the awesome cityscape just below us.
Despite the rainy weather forecast, thank God it didn’t rain a bit the whole night. Only a few patches of clouds could be seen floating amid the moonlit sky.
A few minutes past midnight, a group of mediamen from a local TV Network came to join us to cover the event. Someone from GMA contacted me earlier that day via Twitter for an interview regarding the eclipse. He told me that he learned about me after seeing a post which linked my astro blog. He further asked me where I will be observing the event and I told him of my plan and the time of the eclipse . I also added that another group of my orgmates in UP AstroSoc will also be observing the event from the PAGASA Observatory. After our conversation, he said that they will send a group there. And they did. Kuya Ramon was also notified of their coming.
I shied away from the camera when they started doing the interview. Any how, my other orgmates were also there and they answered the interview questions adequately. 🙂
All of us were excited to witness the eclipse. But before it started, a bright fireball zoomed in to our view. It came from the northeast direction, near the Summer Triangle so we guessed that it could be a June Lyrid.
At the time of the penumbral eclipse, no visible changes in the moon’s brightness can be easily recognized until it slowly become dimmer a few minutes before the umbral phase. By about 2:30 AM, a small part of the Moon on its upper left limb was already being covered by the Earth’s shadow. This chunk grew larger and larger after several minutes until finally only a small sliver of the Moon remained visible. The Moon entered totality at 3:22 AM. Just before the light on the Moon totally disappeared, an apparent reddening of the lunar disk took place. It became more and more obvious to the eye until the whole lunar disk was transformed to a blood-red orb hanging above among the stars. It was a breath-taking view.
I also created two montage composed of the images of the Moon during different stages of the eclipse. In the second photo, the images were taken by about 5-10 minutes apart.
Totality ended at 5:02 AM. Unfortunately, the fifth contact (end of the partial eclipse) and sixth contact (end of the penumbral eclipse) could not be observed from the Philippines since the moonset was at 5:30 AM.
Here is a time-lapse video of the setting eclipsed Moon which I made using Windows Movie Maker. The transition of the images were quite slow because each frame can only be separated by a minimum of 1 second when using WMM. Can anyone suggest a better video editing software (preferably with a small size on disk) that can be used by amateurs?
Only a small part of the Moon remained visible as it continuously sank near the horizon. A few minutes before sunrise, we noticed another nice atmospheric phenomenon — anticrepuscular rays.
Anticrepuscular rays are similar to crepuscular rays, but seen opposite the sun in the sky during sunrise or sunset.
We packed up and prepared to leave at around 6:00 in the morning. I was starting to feel tired during then but I resisted sleepiness as I still need to attend my class. One of us even said that we were already like zombies during that moment because of sleep-deprivation. Haha!
Our efforts didn’t go fruitless, anyway. Seeing the Red Moon was truly a priceless experience. Besides, I was also happy that I was finally able to set foot in Seven Suites after a few years. Yes, I’ve been planning to visit the place ever since. but some circumstances seemed to hindered me most of the time.
All photos were taken using Nikon D3000 DSLR camera. Thank you, Nicky for lending me your camera. 🙂
My fellow UP AstroSoc members who observed at the PAGASA Observatory were also successful in observing and documenting this event. God is really great, we were not clouded out. 🙂 Like us, they also got interviewed during the event.
The news reports including the interviews came out later that day. The person from GMA who contacted me texted me that the video coverage was already being aired. I wasn’t able to catch it on the television but it was now available online. You can watch the video of the interview from here.
The lunar eclipse was the talk of the town during the whole day. Eclipse pictures, videos and articles flooded the Internet. Moreover, Google also featured the lunar eclipse that just took place through its regular Google Doodle. So if you happened to take a peek at your Google homepage last June 16, you should have seen a playable lunar eclipse photos, like the one below:
This “live” doodle showed a live feed of the lunar eclipse from images from robotic telescope service Slooh. During the eclipse, visitors to Google.com can see a dial at the bottom of the image moving left to right, going through the various stages of the eclipse, before settling on the current feed.
On the other hand, clicking on the doodle will take you to the top search results about the 16 June Total Lunar Eclipse. Some friends told me that the link to my blog about the visible eclipses in the Philippines in 2011 was on the 4th spot. 🙂 And indeed, I got a lot of site visitors during that day. Thanks to all who dropped by and left their wonderful comments.
‘Til the next Total Lunar Eclipse on December. 🙂 Ad astra!
Meet the night sky’s newest ‘double star’!
It’s only a made-up one and temporary pairing, but Saturn and the star Gamma Virginis, also known as Porrima, make one of the most realistic close pairs of ‘stars’ in the night sky this season. Their pairing closely resembles a telescopic view of a true double star.
The beauty of this close pairing is that Porrima itself is a true binary or double star, making its proximity to Saturn a ‘double double’ delight.
As of this month, the two are separated by a gap of just 1.7″ of arc — a quite small separation. Remember that a second of arc is equal to 1/60 of a minute or 1/3600 of a degree. For reference, the full moon is 1/2 degree or 30 minutes of arc in diameter.
Saturn is easy enough to find. Wait until an hour and a half after sunset, then look for it high in the south-southwest about 15 degrees from Spica. (Saturn will be just a tad brighter and should look yellow compared to Spica’s blue.) For the naked eye observer, watching Saturn and Porrima during June of 2011 provides a terrific opportunity to see a planet in retrograde motion – then pause, then swing back in its normal eastward path against the background stars. For the small telescope user it’s even better. Porrima is a stunning double star when seen in a back-yard telescope – and Saturn, with its rings, the most awesome planet in a small telescope.
Camera used: Panasonic Lumix Digital Camera (7mm focal length, f/3.1, ISO-80 at 60 sec. exposure)
You can view a nice close up image of Saturn and Porrima here.
This month’s skywatching highlights:
- June Solstice. The Sun reaches its most northerly point in the sky, the June solstice, on June 21 at 17:16 Universal Time (UT). This marks the beginning of summer in the northern hemisphere and winter in the south.
- Partial Solar Eclipse. Visible from the Arctic, Siberia, and parts of Iceland on June 1. The eclipse peaks at 21:16 Universal Time.
- Total Lunar Eclipse. Completely visible on June 15 from South Africa and western Australia, this long and deep eclipse is the first of 2011. The eclipse peaks at 21:12 UT.
- Boötids Meteor Shower. Peaks on or about June 27 near midnight, this unpredictable meteor shower has shown up to 100 meteors an hour. Or it could be a dud. The Moon isn’t a factor this year, so take a look and see what happens. The radiant is just off the peak of Boötes, though you can see meteors anywhere in the northern sky.
|Partial Solar Eclipse – This will not be visible in the Philippines. The eclipse will begin at exactly 3:25 a.m. (Philippine Standard Time). It will be visible in Eastern Asia, northern N. America, the N. tip of Scandinavia, Greenland and Iceland.|
|New Moon||5:05 AM|
|First Quarter Moon||10:10 AM|
|Saturn 8° North of the Moon||5:00 AM|
|Moon at perigee (nearest distance to Earth)||10:00 AM|
|Mercury in superior conjunction||8:00 AM|
|Total Lunar Eclipse of the Moon — The eclipse will begin at 1:23 AM Philippine Standard Time (PHT) and will end at 7:02 AM (PHT).|
|Summer solstice — Philippine nights are at their shortest and daytimes are at their longest around the Summer solstice.This is the time when the Sun attains its greatest declination of +23.5 degrees and passes directly overhead at noon for all observers at latitude 23.5 degrees North, which is known as the Tropic of Cancer. This event marks the start of the apparent southward movement of the Sun in the ecliptic.||1:16 AM|
|Pluto occultation||7:15 AM|
|Uranus 6° South of the Moon||11:00 PM|
|Moon at apogee (farthest distance to Earth)||12:00 NN|
|Peak of the June Bootids (Active from June 22 to July 2 ZHR=0-100+)
— The radiant of the shower will originate from the constellation of Bootes, the Herdsman, which lies nearly overhead when darkness falls.
|Pluto Occultation||10:15 PM|
|Pluto at opposition||1:00 PM|
|Mars 1.7° south of the Moon (These two objects can be found hanging in-between 2 notable star groups – the Pleiades and Hyades in Taurus)||3:00 AM|
* PHT = UT + 8
- PAGASA Astronomical Diary
- Philippine Celestial Events for 2011 by PAS
- 2011 Astronomy Calendar – SeaSky.org
I and my friend Bea Banzuela were walking around the Academic Oval of our university last May 5 when we noticed the sunset behind the trees at the lawn.
The transition of the bluish sky into crimson during this time of the day is always lovely to look at.
I remembered that the 2-day old thin Moon will set just before the Sun that afternoon. I checked Stellarium for its location in the western sky and waited until it became visible.
We soon found it hanging below a contrail a few minutes after the Sun had disappeared from view. It was around 5% illuminated and barely visible to the naked eye.
As the sky grew darker, the Moon become more apparent, along with the bright stars located around it.
We were grateful that we had along with us a nice point-and-shoot Panasonic Lumix DMC camera which works great when used for landscape photography. Using its starry sky mode, we were able to produce the images above even with minimal light. This setting allows for 15, 30 and 60 second exposures that is best for night sky photography. Other cameras often produce very dark images unless there is some amount of light out. (Thanks to Aaron Misayah for lending us his camera.)
I hope the sky would always be this clear. 🙂
The month of May will show up the finest planetary conjunctions of the year. Naked-eye planets line-up in the eastern horizon before sunrise. On May 1, 9, 13, and 30 at 5:00 AM, Mars, Jupiter, Mercury, Venus, Uranus and Neptune will be found lining-up above the eastern horizon as shown in Figures 2, 3, 4, and 5 respectively. Uranus and Neptune will be needing a star map and a binocular or a modest-sized telescope for its proper viewing. The planets will lie among the background stars of the constellation Pisces, the Fish, except for Neptune, which will be found at the constellation of Aquarius, the Water-Bearer.
Saturn will be visible in the evening sky throughout the month. The Ringed planet will be located among the background stars of the constellation Virgo, the Virgin.
|1||Mars Jupiter at minimum separation||dawn|
|2||Jupiter 6° south of the Moon||03:00 AM|
|3||New Moon||04:50 PM|
|5||The 3% thin crescent Moon will lie in between the star groups Hyades and Pleiades in the constellation Taurus in the west.||dusk|
|7||Mercury at greatest western elongation||dawn|
|7||Eta Aquarids : Active from Apr 19 to May 28 — ZHR 70|
|8||Venus Mercury at minimum separation||dawn|
|11||First Quarter Moon||04:35 AM|
|11||Mercury, Venus, and Jupiter Conjunction – The three planets will form a 2-degree long vertical line in the early morning sky. The planet Mars will also be visible nearby. Look to the east near sunrise.||dawn|
|11||Mercury Jupiter at minimum separation||dawn|
|12||Venus Jupiter at minimum separation||dawn|
|14||Saturn 8° north of the Moon||11:00 PM|
|17||Full Moon (called Full Flower Moon)||07:10 PM|
|18-26||Mercury Venus Mars conjunction||dawn|
|18||Mercury Venus at minimum separation||dawn|
|22||Jupiter 8° below the Moon||dawn|
|25||Last Quarter Moon||02:50PM|
|31||Mars 4° South of the Moon||dawn|
Clear skies! 🙂
- PAGASA Astronomical Diary
- Philippine Celestial Events for 2011 by PAS
- 2011 Astronomy Calendar – SeaSky.org
On the walk from our house to the street one afternoon, a nice sight in the western sky caught my eyes — the 27% illuminated waxing crescent Moon and a pink-colored sunlit contrail against a blue-violet sky. This contrast of colors looked just fascinating. 🙂
Fortunately, I brought my Kodak digital camera with me so I was able to take a picture of it. The image turned out to be a bit blurry though without using a sturdy tripod.
Notice that while both the Moon and the cloud were illuminated by the same Sun, the cloud was pink and the Moon was so white. The answer lies in the fact that the atmosphere absorbs and scatters the shorter (blue) wavelengths of light, while allowing the longer (red) wavelengths through. The low angle afternoon sunlight arriving at the cloud (contrail) had traveled through significantly more atmosphere than the more “pure” sunlight reflected by the Moon.
Amazed by the remarkable beauty of the Moon hanging on a perfect indigo sky one afternoon, I immediately set up the tripod and grabbed my trusty Kodak C813 8.0 megapixel digital camera to capture the view.
My camera is not suitable for taking images of distant objects such as the Moon especially during low light conditions. Nevertheless, I still tried my luck in getting a few relatively decent shots.
The Moon was nicely situated on the sky (almost directly overhead) that it appeared close to my favorite Avocado tree. 🙂
This 40% illuminated Moon was in the constellation Gemini during this apparition. While checking on the images, I saw that a star was visible on the upper left of the Moon — about 10 degrees away from it. After running Stellarium, I realized that it was the 1.93 magnitude star Alhena (or Gamma Geminorum) that is located on the left foot of the Twin Pollux.
I really need a camera upgrade I guess. 🙂 Haha!
It feels great whenever there’s great opportunity like this to take photos of the night sky.
Anyway, with or without pictures the Moon has really never failed to amuse me.
For Philippine observers, a star-moon eclipse will occur on March 17, 2011, from 6:20 pm to 7:10 pm (PHT). The event will be visible to the naked eye, but is best observed with a pair of binoculars, or with an astronomical telescope.
DETAILS (from AstronomyLive.com)
STAR & MOON: Omicron Leonis is a +3.5 magnitude star. The waxing Moon will be 92%, so there is some lunar disturbance. It all starts in Iba, the Phillipines at 10:50 Universal Time. Check the link below, to see when it starts and ends at your location.
LIVE BROADCASTING SCORE: Good. Although the Moon phase is not optimal, this occultation is beautiful to watch mainly because it disappears behind the dark side of the Moon. Another thing that makes broadcasting this occultation interesting is that the white line on the map – locations where the star will disappear and reappear behind the mountains on the lunar edge during darkness- is near the densely populated cities of south-east Australia. So when living near those white lines you should really find yourself a telescope and watch this occultation taking place.
HOW TO READ THE MAP BELOW?: The white line indicates that the occultation takes place during darkness. Blue is occultation at twilight and the dotted red line indicates occultation during daylight. Cyan means the occultation takes place when the Moon rises or sets. Another important feature of these maps is that you can check grazing locations (on the lines), places where the star will ‘scrape’ the Moon and thereby is occulted for a very short period of time.
2011 promises to be a great year for astronomy enthusiasts as it was filled with several upcoming spectacular lunar and solar eclipses, beautiful planetary conjunctions, celestial groupings and of course, annual meteor showers.
What excites me most about this year is that all of Asia including the Philippines — where I live — will be able to see all of the eclipse phases of a Total Lunar Eclipse on December 10, 2011, including a “Reddish Moon” during the peak stage. 🙂 Such is truly a rare event to witness, but how rare is that? Well, according to what I found during my online research, I think the last total lunar eclipse that was visible from the Philippines occurred during the 1980s. I wasn’t even alive then.
Anyway, below is a list of astronomical events for this year (arranged according to date) to serve as a guide on your skygazing and give you a preview on your 2011 cosmic journey.
|January 3 – 4||Quadrantid Meteor Shower peaks The Quadrantids are an above average shower, with up to 40 meteors per hour at their peak. The shower usually peaks on January 3 & 4, but some meteors can be visible from January 1 – 5. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Look for meteors radiating from the constellation Bootes.|
|January 4||Partial Solar Eclipse The partial eclipse will be visible in most parts of northern Africa, Europe, and Asia. (NASA Map and Eclipse Information)|
|January 10||Crescent Moon and Jupiter approximately 10 degrees apart.|
|March 20||Equinox The March Equinox occurs at 23:21 UTC. The Sun will shine directly on the equator and there will be nearly equal amounts of day and night throughout the world. This is also the first day of spring (vernal equinox) in the northern hemisphere and the first day of fall (autumnal equinox) in the southern hemisphere.|
|April 3||Saturn at Opposition|
|April 22 -23||Lyrid Meteor Shower peaks 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. This year, the gibbous moon will hide most of the fainter meteors in its glare. Look for meteors radiating from the constellation of Lyra after midnight, and be sure to find a dark viewing location far from city lights.|
|May 5 – 6||Eta Aquarid Meteor Shower peaks Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower. The Eta Aquarids are a light shower, usually producing about 10 meteors per hour at their peak. The shower’s peak usually occurs on May 5 & 6, however viewing should be good on any morning from May 4 – 7. The radiant point for this shower will be in the constellation Aquarius. Best viewing is usually to the east after midnight.|
|March 15||Mars-Jupiter Conjunction Like two ships passing in the twilight, Mercury and Jupiter come within 2 degrees of each other this evening. For comparison, your fist held at arm’s length covers about 10 degrees of arc in the night sky.Jupiter will be heading toward the sun, while Mercury is moving away from the sun during this time. Immediately after sunset, concentrate on that part of the sky just above and to the left of where the sun has just set. Using binoculars, sweep around this part of the sky to see bright Jupiter sitting just below and to the left of the harder-to-spot Mercury.|
|May 11 (all month long)||Four of the five naked-eye planets will crowd together into what could be described as a Great Celestial Summit Meeting.Mercury, Venus, Mars and Jupiter are contained within a 10-degree span on May 1, shrinking to a minimum of less than 6 degrees on May 12, then opening back up to 10 degrees on May 20.Twice during May, three planets close to within nearly 2 degrees of each other: Mercury-Venus-Jupiter (on May 11-12) and Mercury-Venus-Mars (May 21). And the crescent moon joins the array on May 1 and again on May 30-31.|
|June 1||Partial Solar Eclipse The partial eclipse will be visible in most parts eastern Asia, Alaska, northern Canada, and Greenland. (NASA Map and Eclipse Information)|
|June 15||Total Lunar Eclipse The eclipse will be visible throughout most of South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia.(NASA Map and Eclipse Information)|
|June 21June 23- 27||June SolsticeOccurs at 17:16 UTC. The North Pole of the earth will be tilted toward the Sun, which will have reached its northernmost position in the sky and will be directly over the Tropic of Cancer at 23.44 degrees north latitude. This is the first day of summer (summer solstice) in the northern hemisphere and the first day of winter (winter solstice) in the southern hemisphere.Pluto+Charon+Hydra occultation by 2 bright starsRead more …Link 1, Link 2, Link 3|
|July 1||Partial Solar EclipseThis partial eclipse will only be visible off the coast of Antarctica. (NASA Map and Eclipse Information)|
|July 28 -29||Southern Delta Aquarid Meteor Shower The Delta Aquarids can produce about 20 meteors per hour at their peak. The shower usually peaks on July 28 & 29, but some meteors can also be seen from July 18 – August 18. The radiant point for this shower will be in the constellation Aquarius. This year the thin, crescent moon will be hanging around for the show, but it shouldn’t cause too many problems. Best viewing is usually to the east after midnight from a dark location.|
|August 12 -13||Perseid 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 13 & 14, but you may be able to see some meteors any time from July 23 – August 22. The radiant point for this shower will be in the constellation Perseus. Look to the northeast after midnight.|
|August 22||Neptune at Opposition The blue planet will be at its closest approach to Earth. This is the best time to view Neptune, although it will only appear as a tiny blue dot in all but the most powerful telescopes.|
|September 23||Equinox The September equinox occurs at 09:05 UTC. The Sun will shine directly on the equator and there will be nearly equal amounts of day and night throughout the world. This is also the first day of fall (autumnal equinox) in the northern hemisphere and the first day of spring (vernal equinox) in the southern hemisphere.|
|September 25||Uranus at Opposition The blue-green planet will be at its closest approach to Earth. This is the best time to view Uranus, although it will only appear as a tiny blue-green dot in all but the most powerful telescopes.|
|October 8||Draconid Meteor Shower Many meteor experts are predicting a good chance that an outburst of up to many hundreds of Draconid meteors will take place. Unfortunately, like the Perseids, a bright moon could severely hamper visibility. The peak of the display is due sometime between 16h and 21h UT, meaning that the best chances of seeing any enhanced activity from these very slow-moving meteors would be from Eastern Europe and Asia.|
|November 10||Mars and bright star A colorful conjunction takes place high in the predawn sky between the yellow-orange Mars and the bluish-white star Regulus in Leo, the Lion. They are separated by 1.3 degrees, but they’ll be within 2 degrees of each other for five days and within 5 degrees of each other for nearly three weeks, so they will be a rather long-enduring feature of the mid-autumn morning sky.|
|October 21-22||Orionids Meteor Shower The Orionids is an average shower producing about 20 meteors per hour at their peak. This shower usually peaks on the 21st, but it is highly irregular. A good show could be experienced on any morning from October 20 – 24, and some meteors may be seen any time from October 17 – 25. Best viewing will be to the east after midnight.|
|October 29||Jupiter at Opposition The giant planet will be at its closest approach to Earth. This is the best time to view and photograph Jupiter and its moons.|
|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. Look for the shower radiating from the constellation Leo after midnight.|
|November 25||Partial Solar Eclipse This partial eclipse will only be visible over Antarctica and parts of South Africa and Tasmania. (NASA Map and Eclipse Information | NASA Eclipse Animation)|
|December 10||Total Lunar Eclipse The eclipse will be visible throughout most of Europe, eastern Africa, Asia, Australia, the Pacific Ocean, and the North America. ((NASA Eclipse Information)|
|December 13 – 14||Geminids 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. Best viewing is usually to the east after midnight.|
|December 21||December Solstice The December solstice occurs 05:30 UTC. The South Pole of the earth will be tilted toward the Sun, which will have reached its northernmost position in the sky and will be directly over the Tropic of Capricorn at 23.44 degrees south latitude. This is the first day of winter (winter solstice) in the northern hemisphere and the first day of summer (summer solstice) in the southern hemisphere.|
Clear skies and happy skygazing! 🙂
SPACE.com — Solar Eclipse and Meteor Shower to Launch 2011 Skywatching Season
AstronomyOnline.org — Dates for conjunctions, eclipses, meteor showers and transits