MYSTERY WIRE — Meteor showers, comets, planets, supermoons and eclipses. These are the stars of the celestial show that awaits us in 2020.
The first big meteor show of the year — the Quadrantids meteor shower — peaked over the weekend, but moonlight made meteors more difficult to see.
Here’s a sample of the best to come this year:
( For more detailed information on these events, see In The Sky — a guide that includes notes on whether you should plan to use a telescope, and where in the sky to locate these events. Also, see a calendar of events on seasky.org. )
New Moons are the best time to observe galaxies and star clusters, as the moon is not interfering in the night sky. Dates through the year: Jan. 24, Feb. 23, March 24, April 23, May 22, June 21, July 20, Aug. 19, Sept. 17, Oct. 16, Nov. 15, Dec. 14.
- Feb. 9: The Full Snow Moon, also known as the Full Hunger Moon.
- March 9: The Full Crow Moon, also known as the Full Crust Moon, the Full Sap Moon and the Lenten Moon.
- April 8: The Full Pink Moon, also known as the Sprouting Grass Moon, the Growing Moon and the Egg Moon.
- May 7: The Full Flower Moon, also known as the Full Corn Planting Moon and the Milk Moon.
- Oct. 31: Full Moon, Blue Moon. The Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be will be fully illuminated.
Eclipses and planet watching
- June 21: Annular Solar Eclipse. An annular solar eclipse occurs when the moon is too far away from the Earth to completely cover the Sun. This results in a ring of light around the darkened Moon. The Sun’s corona is not visible during an annular eclipse. This eclipse will not be visible in North America.
- July 5: Penumbral Lunar Eclipse. Visible throughout most of North America.
- July 14: Jupiter at Opposition. The giant planet will be at its closest approach to Earth. It will be brighter than any other time of the year and will be visible all night long.
- July 20: Saturn at Opposition. The ringed planet will be at its closest approach to Earth. It will be brighter than any other time of the year and will be visible all night long.
- Sept. 11: Neptune at Opposition. The blue giant planet will be at its closest approach to Earth. It will be brighter than any other time of the year and will be visible all night long.
- Sept. 29-Oct. 28: Martian glory: According to Space.com, Mars will be “spectacular” in October, peaking on Oct. 13. Because of its proximity to Earth, Mars will appear brighter than Jupiter and will be the third-brightest object in the nighttime sky, after the moon and Venus.
- Oct. 31: Uranus at Opposition. The blue-green planet will be at its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the sun, but you’ll still need a telescope.
- Dec. 21: Rare Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, known as a great conjunction. The two bright planets will appear so close that they will make a bright “double planet.”
- April 22-23: Lyrids Meteor Shower. An average shower, usually producing about 20 meteors per hour at its peak.
- May 6-7: Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower. An above average shower, capable of producing up to 60 meteors per hour at its peak.
- July 28-29: Delta Aquarids Meteor Shower. An average shower that can produce up to 20 meteors per hour at its peak.
- Aug. 12-13: Perseids Meteor Shower. One of the best meteor showers to observe, producing up to 60 meteors per hour at its peak.
- Oct. 7: Draconids Meteor Shower. A minor meteor shower producing only about 10 meteors per hour.
- Oct. 21-22: Orionids Meteor Shower. An average shower producing up to 20 meteors per hour at its peak.
- Nov. 4-5: Taurids Meteor Shower. A long-running minor meteor shower producing only about 5-10 meteors per hour. It is unusual in that it cosists of two separate streams.
- Nov. 17-18: Leonids Meteor Shower. An average shower, producing up to 15 meteors per hour at its peak.
- Dec. 13-14: Geminids Meteor Shower. Considered by many to be the best shower, producing up to 120 multicolored meteors per hour at its peak.
Of course, moonlight and clouds are factors everyone has to account for. As for city lights … get out of town.
Meteor showers, in particular, will be disappointing unless the conditions are favorable: dark skies.
The closest place for darker skies near Las Vegas is Red Rock Canyon. Next best is probably Mount Charleston, away from the residential parts of Kyle Canyon. But if you’re just a little more dedicated to getting a great view, think about Death Valley National Park or the Grand Canyon. Great Basin National Park is another good spot.