15 Celestial Events Worth Keeping an Eye out for This Year

Space is no stranger to change. Although largely undiscovered, it manages to display its sparkly miracles every now and then. Each season offers new wonders.

Since the total solar eclipse, everyone has been looking at the sky. People captured an unforgettable moment of the moon obscuring the sun. Now, they can’t stop looking at the heavens.

There’s much to marvel at, from changing moon phases to meteor showers. Here’s a list of astronomical events to anticipate for the remainder of the year.

1. Ursid Meteor Shower (December 22)

Ursids Meteor
Image Credit: Earthsky Communications Inc.

There’s more to the heavens than starry skies. Earth usually misses out on this smaller shower because of the holiday season. It originates from the debris trail left by comet 8P/Tuttle. When the meteorites clash with the Earth’s atmosphere, they flare up and fly across the sky with radiant streaks.

This phenomenon is most visible in a moonless sky. These meteors are a contrast to the evening sky. The shower often coincides with the December solstice.

2. Earthshine Mornings (May 4-5)

Image Credit: Jean-Baptiste Feldmann – Earthsky Communications Inc.

This event happens during a new moon. For optimal viewing, viewers must find a suitable time during the dark hours, around dusk or dawn. The moon’s albedo (the degree to which it reflects sunlight) is less than Earth’s at this time, leading to Earthshine.

This event occurs when Earth mirrors sunlight onto the moon’s surface. This reflection sheds rays on the unlit portion of the moon. The dimness of this reflection is because this radiance is cast back twice.

3. Eta Aquarid Meteor Shower (May 4-5)

The Eta Aquariids meteor shower
Image Credit: P. Horalek – CC BY 4.0/Wiki Commons.

The sky presents the stellar show of the Eta Aquarids meteor shower to accompany the Earthshine. This shower is spawned by Comet Halley’s debris train, which marks one of the most amazing events in the Southern Hemisphere.

It will reach its apex around the new moon, and visibility promises up to 10 to 30 meteors per hour. The faster meteors may shoot at a rate of 41 per hour. This event requires no special equipment. Skywatchers should pick the darkest hours to view the event in its full glory.

4. Perseid Meteor Shower (Aug. 11-13)

Image Credit: Ahmed Abd Elkader Mohamed, Own Work – CC BY-SA 4.0/Wiki Commons.

This yearly phenomenon is back with a bang. Comet Swift-Tuttle leaves a trail of ice and rock, creating a brilliant show of shooting stars within Earth’s orbit. This burning meteorite display is typically the most spectacular event of the year.

Without a moon to compete with, the rate reached an astonishing 150 to 200 meteors per hour in 2016. This year, the moon will be less of an interruption at 50% brightness. This celestial spectacle is expected to evolve into a meteor storm in 2028.

5. Conjunction of Mars and Jupiter (August 14)

Image Credit: Salamander – Wiki Common.

Astrologers value this experience because it significantly affects horoscopes. On August 14, Mars and Jupiter will align in the constellation Taurus with their striking light.

Mars and Jupiter together can be seen with the naked eye in both hemispheres during sundown hours. The planets’ brightness and the distance between them make this conjunction a visual treat. View this spectacle in the darkest hours of the night for the most clarity.

6. Lunar Occultation of Saturn (August 21)

Image Credit: Wiki Commons.

This one’s for the scientists who pursue science in Antarctica. A lunar occultation occurs when the moon covers a planet, asteroid, or star. It’s one of the rarer events of the year.

In late August, residents of the far south will see the moon cross Saturn’s path. While this is typically challenging to see with the naked eye, those in or near Antarctica will have the best luck viewing this spectacle.

7. Saturn at Opposition (September 8)

Image Credit: NASA/Wiki Commons.

Saturn will lie directly opposite to the Sun in early September. Present in the Aquarius constellation, this event will peak around midnight but will be clear viewing for most of the evening.

As Saturn approaches Earth’s orbit, it will appear brighter than ever during this event. It’s worth taking a trip out to the wilderness, where the city lights won’t disrupt the view.

8. Partial Lunar Eclipse (Sept. 17-18)

Image Credit: Shutterstock.

A part of the moon will overlap the Earth’s shadow, painting the moon in a darker shade. In mid-September, spectators on the western side of the world can witness this incident a couple of hours before midnight.

Unlike a solar eclipse, a lunar eclipse requires no viewing tools or equipment. However, the moon’s position only allows this event to occur biannually.

9. Annular Solar Eclipse (Oct. 2)

Image Credit: CC BY 4.0/Wiki Commons.

For those of you who missed the total solar eclipse, another one is available. This fall, the new moon will cover the Sun’s beams over the Pacific Ocean. This phenomenon may last 7 minutes and 25 seconds—nearly three minutes longer than before.

As the name suggests, this shadowing will be different. The moon does not entirely conceal the sun, thus creating a ring of fire in the sky. Locals in Argentina and Chile will have the best view of this eclipse.

10. Draconid Meteor Shower (Oct. 8-9)

Draconid Meteor Shower Canada
Image Credit: David Cox – EarthSky Community Photos.

Skygazers deem this shower unique. Unlike most meteor showers, this event is most viewable during evening hours. These showers are typically lazy, however, with only a few streaks per hour.

These outbursts originate from the Dragons Eyes, two stars in the Draco constellation. The shower’s unstable nature will keep viewers glued to the sky during prime time.

11. Comet Tsuchinshan-ATLAS (Oct. 12-19)

Comet Tsuchinshan-ATLAS
Image Credit: C Messier, Own Work – CC BY 4.0/Wiki Commons.

This recent discovery by China means a dazzling show might occur in mid-October. Comet Tsuchinshan-ATLAS or A3 could grace our evening sky with its diffused tail. Some say its intensity rivals that of stars, though more spread out.

A3 will draw close to our planet, possibly only 44 million miles away. However, it’s important to keep expectations in check, as these events usually require equipment to view.

12. Supermoon (October 17)

Image Credit: Shutterstock.

This one’s a crowd favorite. Supermoons appear luminous and large, sometimes 14% brighter and 30% larger than usual. There’s a logical explanation, though: they’re full moons close to Earth.

The moon follows an oval orbit, so sometimes it’s closer to us than other times. Despite being a common occurrence, the supermoon is a stunning sight that captures the attention of many worldwide.

13. Orionid Meteor Shower (Oct. 20-21)

A green Orionid meteor
Image Credit: Brocken Inaglory – CC BY-SA 3.0/Wiki Commons.

Many are familiar with the Orion constellation. This chain of outbursts originates from Halley’s Comet near Orion, which presently lies at the farthest end of the Sun. Interestingly, Halley’s Comet produces two meteor showers.

A waning gibbous moon may also be viewable during the prime viewing time. Under favorable conditions, nearly 10 to 20 meteor streaks can be seen. The Orionids, known to leave a lingering tail, sometimes tend to produce fireballs.

14. Leonid Meteor Shower (Nov. 17-18)

Image Credit: Navicore, Own Work – CC BY 3.0/Wiki Commons.

The Leonid meteor shower achieves storm status once every three decades. The spectacle of 1966 marked an unrivaled sight when the celestial downpour occurred at a rate of a thousand ribbons within 15 minutes.

Periodic Comet Tempel-Tuttle generates this fleeting shower. Normally, it achieves a humble rate of 10 to 15 streaks per hour. However, a radiant moon is expected at the same time as the shower, which may steal some of the audience.

15. Geminid Meteor Shower (Dec. 14-15)

Image Credit: Asim Patel, Own Work – CC BY-SA 3.0/Wiki Commons.

The Geminid meteor shower is expected to be a showcase like no other. However, viewers must remain vigilant as the shower only averages 150 streaks per hour.

It stems from near Castor star in the Gemini constellation. Unlike other meteors on this list, the Geminid originates from an asteroid instead of a comet.

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