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Meteor showers and planets will make 2021 spectacular

Ready for some spectacular sky shows? Here’s a list of some of the major celestial events you can expect overhead this yea. This  year you can enjoy an awe-inspiring meteor shower, a bright Mercury at its furthest point from the Sun and Uranus visible to the naked eye.

 

January

Jan. 21: The moon, Mars and Uranus will make a close approach in the evening sky. The trio will be above the southwest horizon after sunset.

Jan. 23: Mercury at greatest elongation east. The innermost planet will reach its greatest eastern separation from the sun, shining brightly at magnitude -0.7 shortly after sunset.

Jan. 27: Mercury reaches its highest point in the evening sky, shining brightly at magnitude -0.7. See it just above the southwest horizon after sunset.

Jan. 28: The full moon of January, known as the Full Wolf Moon, arrives at 2:16 p.m. EST (1916 GMT).

February 

Feb. 27: The full moon of February, known as the Full Snow Moon, arrives at 3:17 a.m. EST (0817 GMT).

Feb. 28: Mercury reaches its highest point in morning sky, shining brightly at magnitude 0.1. Catch the innermost planet above the eastern horizon shortly before sunrise.

March

March 20: Vernal Equinox. Today marks the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of autumn in the Southern Hemisphere.

March 28: The full moon of March, known as the Full Worm Moon, arrives at 2:48 p.m. EDT (1817 GMT).

March 28: Venus reaches its greatest brightness in its 2021 evening apparition, shining brightly at magnitude -3.9. Catch the planet just above the western horizon at sunset.

April 

April 17: Lunar occultation of Mars. The waxing crescent moon will briefly pass in front of the planet Mars for skywatchers in parts of Asia. Elsewhere in the world, the moon will make a close approach to Mars. Look for the pair above the western horizon after sunset.

April 21-22: The Lyrid meteor shower, which is active April 16-30, peaks overnight.

April 26: The full moon of April, known as the Full Pink Moon, arrives at 11:32 p.m. EDT (0332 April 27 GMT). Because the moon will also be near perigee, or its closest point to Earth, this will also be a so-called “supermoon.”

May 

May 4-5: The Eta Aquarid meteor shower, which is active from mid-April to the end of May, peaks overnight.

May 26: The full moon of May, known as the Full Flower Moon, arrives at 7:14 a.m. EDT (1114 GMT). It will also be the closest “supermoon” of the year. That night, a total lunar eclipse, also known as a “Blood Moon,” will be visible from Australia, parts of the western United States, western South America and Southeast Asia.

June 

June 10: An annular solar eclipse, also known as a “ring of fire” eclipse, will be visible from parts of Russia, Greenland and and northern Canada. Skywatchers in Northern Asia, Europe and the United States will see a partial eclipse.

June 20: The solstice arrives at 11:16 p.m. EDT (0316 June 21 GMT), marking the first day of summer in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of winter in the Southern Hemisphere.

June 24: The full moon of June, known as the Full Strawberry Moon, arrives at 2:40 p.m. EDT (1940 GMT).

July 

July 5: Happy aphelion day! Earth is farthest from the sun today.

July 23: The full moon of July, known as the Full Buck Moon, arrives at 10:37 p.m. EDT (1437 GMT).

August

Aug. 2: Saturn at opposition. The ringed planet will be directly opposite the sun in Earth’s sky around the same time that it makes its closest approach to Earth all year. This means it will appear at its biggest and brightest of the year. Saturn will reach its highest point in the night sky around midnight.

Aug. 11-12: The annual Perseid meteor shower, which is active from mid-July to the end of August, peaks overnight.

Aug. 19: Jupiter at opposition. The gas giant will be directly opposite the sun in Earth’s sky around the same time that it makes its closest approach to Earth of the year. The planet will shine at its biggest and brightest tonight and will be visible all night long.

Aug. 22: The full moon of August, known as the Full Sturgeon Moon, occurs at 8:02 a.m. EDT (1202 GMT). This will also be a so-called “Blue Moon” because it is the third full moon in a season that has four full moons.

Uranus can be glimpsed as a naked-eye object by people who are blessed with good eyesight and a clear, dark sky, as well as a forehand knowledge of exactly where to look for it. It shines at magnitude +5.7 and can be readily identified with good binoculars. A small telescope may reveal its tiny, greenish disk.

All year long, the planet will be in the constellation of Aries the Ram.  Evenings from January 1 to April 12; mornings from May 16 to November 3; evenings again from November 4 to December 31.

Brightest in 2021:  August 28 to December 31. Uranus will arrive at opposition to the Sun on November 4.

September

Sept. 14: Neptune at opposition. The gas giant will appear at its biggest and brightest of the year, shining at magnitude 7.8. (You’ll need a telescope to see it.)

Sept. 18: Conjunction of the moon and Jupiter. The waxing gibbous moon will swing about 4 degrees to the south of Jupiter in the evening sky.

Sept. 20: The full moon of September, known as the Full Harvest Moon, occurs at 7:54 p.m. EDT (2354 GMT).

Sept. 22: The equinox arrives at 3:21 p.m. EDT (1921 GMT), marking the first day of autumn in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of spring in the Southern Hemisphere.

Sept. 24: The waning gibbous moon and Uranus will make a close approach, passing within 1.3 degrees of each other. Shining at magnitude 5.7, Uranus may be bright enough to spot with the naked eye under dark skies.

October

Oct. 8: The Draconid meteor shower, which is active Oct. 6-10, will peak overnight.

Oct. 14: Conjunction of the moon and Saturn. The waxing gibbous moon will swing about 4 degrees to the south of Saturn in the evening sky.

Oct. 20: The full moon of October, known at the Full Hunter’s Moon, occurs at 10:57 a.m. EDT (1457 GMT).

Oct. 21-22: The annual Orionid meteor shower, which is active all month long, peaks overnight.

November

Nov. 2-3: The annual South Taurid meteor shower peaks overnight. Active from mid-September to mid-November, the Southern Taurids rarely produce more than five visible meteors per hour, but the nearly-new moon should make them easier to spot against a dark sky.

Set your clocks back one hour at 2 a.m. local time.

Nov. 11-12: The annual North Taurid meteor shower peaks overnight. The shower, which is active from late October to mid-December, is not expected to produce more than a handful of visible “shooting stars” per hour.

Nov. 16-17: One of the most anticipated meteor showers of the year, the Leonid meteor shower peaks overnight. The Leonids are expected to produce about 15 meteors per hour on the night of the peak, but the shower is active all month long.

Nov. 19: The full moon of November, known as the Full Beaver Moon, occurs at 3:58 a.m. EST (0858 GMT).

Nov. 19: partial lunar eclipse will be visible from North and South America, Australia, and parts of Europe and Asia. The moon will enter Earth’s faint outer shadow, known as the penumbra, at 1:02 a.m. EDT (0602 GMT). The partial eclipse, when the moon will darken more noticeably, begins at 2:18 a.m. EDT (0718 GMT). Maximum eclipse occurs at 4:02 a.m. EDT (0902 GMT). The entire event will last about six hours.

December

Dec. 4: The only total solar eclipse of the year (and the last total solar eclipse until 2023) will be visible from Antarctica. Skywatchers in South Africa, Namibia, the southern tip of South America and some islands in the South Atlantic will be able to see at least a partial solar eclipse, with the moon blocking a portion of the sun from view.

Dec. 13-14: The annual Geminid meteor shower, one of the best meteor showers of the year, peaks overnight. The Geminids are active Dec. 4-17 often produce up to 50 visible meteors per hours, but this year the 78% full moon will outshine the fainter meteors.

Dec. 18: The full moon of December, known as the Full Cold Moon, occurs at 11:37 p.m. EST (0437 Dec. 19 GMT).

Dec. 21: The solstice arrives at 10:59 a.m. EST (1559 GMT), marking the first day of winter in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of summer in the Southern Hemisphere.

Dec. 21-22: The annual Ursid meteor shower peaks overnight. Typically active around Dec. 17-26, the Ursids produce about five to 10 visible meteors per hour on the morning of the peak.

NASA

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