Jupiter and the southern Milky Way rising over the Tasman Sea, at Cape Conran, on the Gippsland … [+]
Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Will 2020 be the year you start stargazing? You’ve picked a great time to start. Here are the celestial highlights of the next 12 months:
The ‘Solstice Ring Of Fire Eclipse’
An annular Solar Eclipse is observed on May 21, 2012 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Masashi Hara/Getty … [+]
Earth just had one on Christmas Day, but an annular solar eclipse is coming in 2020 that’s extra special.
Although it will have to be viewed through solar eclipse glasses, the sight of a bright circle around the moon well, on June 21, 2020—the date of the solstice—bring fading light levels and possibly a view of the solar corona to intrepid eclipse-chasers.
They will gather in Ethiopia, Oman and Tibet for a super-short eclipse lasting as little as 23 seconds.
Nature’s grandest spectacle: total solar eclipse
A total solar eclipse in Grand Teton National Park on August 21, 2017 outside Jackson, Wyoming. … [+]
If you’ve never seen the famous “hole in the sky“—one of nature’s greatest displays—another chance will come on December 14, 2020 when the Moon’s central shadow will take just 24 minutes to cross Chile and Argentina. Observers on the centerline of the path of totality in southern Chile’s beautiful Lake District and Argentina’s region of Patagonia will experience 2 minutes 9 seconds totality.
Four lunar eclipses
There will be four penumbral lunar eclipses in 2020. These are not dramatic events, but the sight of a light grey and easy to look at full moon is still a strange sight to experienced moon-gazers. Such eclipses are caused when the Sun, Earth, and the Moon are almost, but not quite aligned, and our satellite drifts into Earth’s shadow for a few hours. Here’s when they’re happening, and who on the Earth’s night-side will see them:
- January 10, 2020: Wolf Moon Eclipse (Asia, Australia, Europe, and Africa). Note: occurs two weeks after the “Christmas Eclipse” and is the deepest, and so the most impressive, penumbral lunar eclipse of 2020.
- June 5, 2020: Strawberry Moon Eclipse (Asia, Africa and Australia). Note: occurs two weeks before an annular solar eclipse.
- July 5, 2020: Thunder Moon Eclipse (South America, North America and Africa). Note: occurs two weeks after an annular solar eclipse.
- November 29-30, 2020: Frosty Moon Eclipse (North and South America, Australia and East Asia). Note: occurs two weeks before a total solar eclipse in South America.
This photograph shows a full moon during the peak of the penumbral eclipse seen from Pakistan’s … [+]
AFP via Getty Images
Defined as less than 223,694 miles from the center of Earth, supermoon full moons will occur three times in 2020. If you want to appreciate their larger apparent size, always look east at moonrise or west at moonset. Only when they are close to the horizon can you appreciate their extra size and brightness.
- March 9: Super Worm Moon
- April 8: Super Pink Moon
- May 7: Super Flower Moon
BEIJING, CHINA – MARCH 21: A super moon, announcing the end of the winter season, rises behind the … [+]
Visual China Group via Getty Images
‘Giant planet week’
Since Earth is an inner planet, on one day each year it gets between the Sun and each outer planet. On that day that planet is at its brightest as seen from Earth. In 2020, both Saturn and Jupiter go into so-called “opposition” in the same week. A small telescope will get your awesome views of Jupiter’s cloud bands and Saturn’s rings.
- July 14: Jupiter at opposition
- July 20: Saturn at opposition
The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope reveals the intricate, detailed beauty of Jupiterâs clouds in … [+]
NASA, ESA, A. Simon (Goddard Spa
Three promising meteor showers
2019 wasn’t a particularly good year for shooting stars, with many of the years major meteor showers marred by bright moonlight. It gets a little easier in 2020, with the moon staying out of the way of these displays, though August’s Perseids meteor shower is again a casualty of our satellite. Here are the three to plan for:
- April 21-22: Lyrids meteor shower (moon is 1% illuminated)
- November 16-17: Leonids meteor shower (moon is 5% illuminated)
- December 13-14: Geminids meteor shower (moon is 1% illuminated)
TRONA, CALIFORNIA – AUGUST 02 — View of meteorite streaking over Trona Pinnacles near Death … [+]
A ‘Great Solstice Appulse’
Here’s something that’s not happened since the year 2000 and won’t happen again until 2040. On December 21, 2020—the exact date of the solstice—Saturn and Jupiter will appear incredibly close together (just 0.06º apart) right after sunset. Astronomer’s call this an “appulse”or a “great conjunction.” It will all be a matter of perspective; Jupiter and Saturn will actually be 733 million miles from each other, as well as being 887 million miles and 1620 million miles from Earth, respectively. However, from Earth, the giant gas planets will appear almost as one.
Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes