Mark Your Calendars

The skies this year will be full with blood moons, meteor showers, and exceptional planet viewings. Mark your calendars accordingly. Unfortunately not all events will be visible from everywhere.

Today we have a total lunar eclipse. A total lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes completely through the Earth’s dark shadow, or umbra. During this type of eclipse, the Moon will gradually get darker and then take on a rusty or blood red color. The eclipse will be visible throughout most of North America, South America, eastern Asia, and Australia. In some areas, like Perth, it will only be a partial lunar eclipse. In Perth, the eclipse will begin at 5pm and finish at 11pm with the maximum at 8pm.

April 22, 23 – Lyrids Meteor Shower. The Lyrids is an average shower, usually producing about 20 meteors per hour at its peak. It is produced by dust particles left behind by comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher, which was discovered in 1861. The shower runs annually from April 16-25. It peaks this year on the night of the night of the 22nd and morning of the 23rd. These meteors can sometimes produce bright dust trails that last for several seconds. The first quarter moon will set shortly after midnight, leaving fairly dark skies for the what could be a good show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Lyra, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

May 5 and 6 – Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower. The Eta Aquarids is an above average shower, capable of producing up to 60 meteors per hour at its peak. Most of the activity is seen in the Southern Hemisphere. In the Northern Hemisphere, the rate can reach about 30 meteors per hour. It is produced by dust particles left behind by comet Halley, which has known and observed since ancient times. The shower runs annually from April 19 to May 28. It peaks this year on the night of May 5 and the morning of the May 6. The nearly full moon will be a big problem this year blocking out all but the brightest meteors. If you are patient, you should still be able to catch a few good ones. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Aquarius, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

May 7 – Mercury at Greatest Eastern Elongation. The planet Mercury reaches greatest eastern elongation of 21.2 degrees from the Sun. This is the best time to view Mercury since it will be at its highest point above the horizon in the evening sky. Look for the planet low in the western sky just after sunset.

June 6 – Venus at Greatest Eastern Elongation. The planet Venus reaches greatest eastern elongation of 45.4 degrees from the Sun. This is the best time to view Venus since it will be at its highest point above the horizon in the evening sky. Look for the bright planet in the western sky after sunset.

June 24 – Mercury at Greatest Western Elongation. The planet Mercury reaches greatest western elongation of 22.5 degrees from the Sun. This is the best time to view Mercury since it will be at its highest point above the horizon in the morning sky. Look for the planet low in the eastern sky just before sunrise.

July 1 – Conjunction of Venus and Jupiter. A spectacular conjunction of Venus and Jupiter will be visible in the evening sky. The two bright planets will be extremely close, appearing only 0.3 degrees apart. Look for this impressive pairing in the western sky just after sunset.

August 12, 13 – Perseids Meteor Shower. The Perseids is one of the best meteor showers to observe, producing up to 60 meteors per hour at its peak. It is produced by comet Swift-Tuttle, which was discovered in 1862. The Perseids are famous for producing a large number of bright meteors. The shower runs annually from July 17 to August 24. It peaks this year on the night of August 12 and the morning of August 13. The thin crescent moon will be no match for the bright Perseids this year so be prepared for a great show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Perseus, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

August 29 – Full Moon/Supermoon. This occurs when the Moon moves into a position that’s on the opposite side of Earth to the Sun, which means its face will be fully lit-up, while also making its closest approach to Earth, making it appear larger and brighter.

September 28 – Full Moon/Supermoon/Total Lunar Eclipse. The Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be will be fully illuminated. This moon is also known as the Harvest Moon. The Harvest Moon is the full moon that occurs closest to the September equinox each year. This is also the second of three supermoons for 2015. The Moon will be at its closest approach to the Earth and may look slightly larger and brighter than usual. This will be the closest full moon of the year. There will also be a Total Lunar Eclipse visible throughout most of North and South America, Europe, Africa, and western Asia. The eclipse will last for 3 hrs and 20 minutes from beginning to end. The Moon will be totally eclipsed (totality) for about 1 hr and 12 minutes so if you are lucky enough, you have plenty of time to catch it.

October 21, 22 – Orionids Meteor Shower. The Orionids is an average shower producing up to 20 meteors per hour at its peak. It is produced by dust grains left behind by comet Halley, which has been known and observed since ancient times. The shower runs annually from October 2 to November 7. It peaks this year on the night of October 21 and the morning of October 22. The first quarter moon will set shortly after midnight leaving fairly dark skies for what should be a good show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Orion, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

October 27 – Full Moon/Supermoon. The Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be will be fully illuminated. This is the last of three supermoons for 2015. The Moon will be at its closest approach to the Earth and may look slightly larger and brighter than usual.

October 28 – Conjunction of Venus, Mars, and Jupiter. A rare, 3-planet conjunction will be visible on the morning of October 28. The planets Venus, Mars, and Jupiter will all form a tight 1-degree triangle in the early morning sky. Look to the east just before sunrise for this spectacular event.

November 17, 18 – Leonids Meteor Shower. The Leonids is an average shower, producing an up to 15 meteors per hour at its peak. This shower is unique in that it has a cyclonic peak about every 33 years where hundreds of meteors per hour can be seen. The last of these occurred in 2001. The Leonids is produced by dust grains left behind by comet Tempel-Tuttle, which was discovered in 1865. The shower runs annually from November 6-30. It peaks this year on the night of the 17th and morning of the 18th. The first quarter moon will set shortly after midnight leaving fairly dark skies for what could be a good show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Leo, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

December 13, 14 – Geminids Meteor Shower. The Geminids is the king of the meteor showers. It is considered by many to be the best shower in the heavens, producing up to 120 multicolored meteors per hour at its peak. It is produced by debris left behind by an asteroid known as 3200 Phaethon, which was discovered in 1982. The shower runs annually from December 7-17. It peaks this year on the night of the 13th and morning of the 14th. The crescent moon will set early in the evening leaving dark skies for what should be an excellent show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Gemini, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

December 25 – Full Moon. What a way to spend Christmas, with a big, bright Moon in the sky to celebrate.

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