Did you enjoy today’s rare super blue blood moon? Well, if it’s left you yearning for more astronomical events then fear not, because there’s plenty more to look forward to in 2018.
This year, like any other, has a host of eclipses, planetary events, and meteor showers for you to get excited about. And you don’t need a telescope to see most of them. Just those two telescopes embedded in your skull will be fine. Your eyes, I mean.
So, without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the most exciting events coming up this year. Thanks to our friends at Sea and Sky and Sky and Telescope for the information on some of these events.
On February 15, a partial solar eclipse will be visible in South America. This occurs when the Moon covers part of the Sun but not all of it. Southern Chile and Argentina will see up to 40 percent of the Sun obscured, and you can also catch it from Antarctica – if you’re making a trip there.
On March 7, Saturn, Mars, and Jupiter will all be visible in the sky, with the Moon joining the party on March 8.
March 20 heralds the March equinox, when the Sun shines directly above the equator, signaling the start of spring in the Northern Hemisphere and fall in the Southern Hemisphere.
Peaking on the night of April 22 will be the Lyrids meteor shower. It will produce a few meteors an hour, perhaps up to 20, but a brightish Moon may scupper observations in North America before midnight.
On the night of May 6 keep an eye out for the Eta Aquarids meteor shower, boasting up to 60 meteors per hour. It’s best seen in the Southern Hemisphere, although you could spot up to about half that number in the Northern Hemisphere.
Jupiter will reach its closest point to Earth on May 9. It’ll be visible to the naked eye, but with binoculars you’ll be able to spot its four large Galilean moons (Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto). With a telescope, you’ll even be able to spot the planet’s bands of storms.
Summer begins in the Northern Hemisphere on June 21 with the June solstice as Earth’s north pole is tilted to its maximum towards the Sun. For the Southern Hemisphere, it’s the start of winter.
Saturn will reach its closest point to Earth on June 27, visible to the naked eye. With a telescope, you’ll even be able to spot its rings, which will be angled by about 26 degrees to our line of sight.
There’s another partial solar eclipse in July too (on July 13), but it’s only visible right at the southern tip of Australia and, again, Antarctica.
On July 27, we get quite a big event, when a total lunar eclipse will be visible throughout Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia. The Moon will pass into the darkest part of Earth’s shadow, its umbra, turning it red as the Sun’s light comes through our atmosphere.
Also on July 27, Mars will be at its closest point to Earth. It will be completely illuminated by the Sun, making this the best time to view the Red Planet all year.
But that’s not all! On the night of July 28, the Delta Aquarids meteor shower will peak. Best seen from the Southern Hemisphere, it usually produces up to 20 meteors at its peak – but a full Moon this year could scupper views.
On August 11, people in Canada, Greenland, northern Europe, and northern and eastern Asia will be treated to another partial solar eclipse. The Moon will cover up to 68 percent of the Sun on this occasion.
The night of August 12 will see the Perseids meteor shower produce up to 60 meteors per hour. It can be seen from both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. Almost new (dark) Moon should allow for some decent observations.
On September 7, the ice giant planet Neptune will be at its closest point to Earth, but you’ll need a telescope to see it.
September 23 heralds the start of fall in the Northern Hemisphere and spring in the Southern Hemisphere with the September equinox, as the Sun passes directly over the equator.
There’s a small meteor shower on October 8, the Draconids, producing only about 10 meteors per hour. It’s best viewed in the evening.
But there’s a bigger one on October 21, when the Orionids reach their peak, producing up to 20 per hour. A full Moon could scupper efforts somewhat.
Uranus will reach its closest point to Earth on October 23, but like Neptune it’s only visible with a telescope.
On November 5, we’ll see a weak display of the Southern Taurids meteor shower, only up to 10 per hour, but there’s always a possibility of a “Taurid fireball swarm” when slow-moving fireballs burn up in the atmosphere, so keep an eye out.
The Leonids meteor shower peaks on November 17, with up to 15 meteors per hour. Roughly every three decades it produces hundreds per hour, although we’re not expecting that until the 2030s.
It might be possible to see Comet 46P/Wirtanen with the naked eye on December 12, with some predictions suggesting it could be the brightest comet seen in the Northern Hemisphere for five years.
On December 13, the Geminids meteor shower peaks, which is normally the best meteor shower of the year with up to 120 multicolored meteors per hour.
It’s the start of winter in the Northern Hemisphere and summer in the Southern Hemisphere on December 21, when the Sun reaches its December solstice.
The last meteor shower of the year is the Ursids on December 21, with up to about 10 meteors per hour visible.