Get our your planners, folks because here are your celestial dates 2019.
June 10 – Jupiter at Opposition
The largest planet in our solar system will be at its closest approach to Earth with its face fully illuminated by the Sun. This means it will be brighter than any other time of the year and will be visible all night long. Time to get out your cameras as this will be the best time to get a photograph of the giant. According to seasky.org “a medium-sized telescope should be able to show you some of the details in Jupiter’s cloud bands. A good pair of binoculars should allow you to see Jupiter’s four largest moons, appearing as bright dots on either side of the planet.”
June 17 – Full Strawberry Moon
This month’s full moon is known as the Full Strawberry Moon in Native American cultures, as it signifies the beginning of the strawberry ripening season. We suggest making moon cakes for dinner — pancakes dotted with cut-up strawberries for the moon’s craters and shadows!
June 21 – June Solstice
The longest day of the year for the Northern Hemisphere and the first official day of summer, while in the Southern Hemisphere it will be the shortest day of the year and the beginning of winter. Why is this, you ask? Earth’s northern pole will be tilted toward the Sun, reaching its northernmost point in the sky.
June 23 – Mercury at Greatest Eastern Elongation
Tonight is one of the best time’s to spot Mercury as it reaches its greatest eastern elongation of 25.2 degrees from the Sun and will be at its highest point above the horizon in the evening sky. Look for the planet low in the western sky just after sunset. This happens a few times this year, check seasky.org for later dates.
July 2 – Total Solar Eclipse
A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon completely blocks the Sun, revealing the Sun’s beautiful outer atmosphere known as the corona. Unfortunately, those of us in the UK won’t be able to see the eclipse but we look forward to seeing the photos from other astronomers (NASA Interactive Google Map).
July 9 – Saturn at Opposition
Like Jupiter last month, Saturn will be at its closest approach to Earth with its face fully illuminated by the Sun. It will be brighter than any other time of the year and will be visible all night long. This is the best time to view and photograph Saturn and its moons. If you have a medium-sized or larger telescope handy, you should be able to spot Saturn’s rings and a few of its brightest moons.
July 16 – Partial Lunar Eclipse
A partial lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes through the Earth’s partial shadow (penumbra) and only a portion of it passes through the darkest shadow (umbra). During a partial eclipse a section of the Moon will darken as it moves through the Earth’s shadow. In the UK we may only be able to see part of this eclipse at moonrise. Check the link here: NASA Map and Eclipse Information
July 28, 29 – Delta Aquarids Meteor Shower
The Delta Aquarids is an average shower, running annually from July 12 to August 23. It can produce up to 20 meteors per hour at its peak which happens to be on the night of July 28 and morning of July 29 this year. The skies should be dark enough for what could be a good show and the best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight.
August 9 – Mercury at Greatest Western Elongation
Mercury has been busy and zipped over to its greatest western elongation of 19.0 degrees from the Sun. This is the best time to view Mercury since it will be at its highest point above the horizon in the morning sky. Look for the planet low in the eastern sky just before sunrise. This happens a few times this year, check seasky.org for later dates.
August 12, 13 – Perseids Meteor Shower
One of our favourite meteor showers, the Perseids produces up to 60 meteors per hour at its peak. It is produced by comet Swift-Tuttle, which was discovered in 1862. The Perseids are famous for producing a large number of bright meteors. Running annually from July 17 to August 24, it peaks this year on the night of August 12 and the morning of August 13. The nearly full moon will block out most of the fainter meteors this year, but the Perseids are so bright and numerous that it could still be a good show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Perseus, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
September 9 – Neptune at Opposition
You might have to squint, but now is the best time to spot the blue giant while it’s at its closest approach to Earth with its face fully illuminated by the Sun. It will be brighter than any other time of the year and will be visible all night long. However, due to its extreme distance from Earth, it will only appear as a tiny blue dot in all but the most powerful telescopes. Maybe leave this one to the experts…
September 23 – September Equinox
Uh oh, summer’s over. With equal amounts of day and night throughout the world, this marks a change in season. Autumn for the Northern Hemisphere and spring for the Southern Hemisphere.
October 8 – Draconids Meteor Shower
The Draconids — a minor shower producing only about 10 meteors per hour — is an unusual shower in that the best viewing is in the early evening instead of early morning like most other showers. The shower runs annually from October 6-10 and peaks this year on the the night of the 8th. Best viewing will be in the early evening from a dark location far away from city lights. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Draco, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
October 21, 22 – Orionids Meteor Shower
The shower made up of dust grains from Halley’s comet is an average shower producing up to 20 meteors per hour at its peak. The moon will block some of the fainter meteors this year, but the Orionids are usually quite bright we could be in for a good show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight.
October 27 – Uranus at Opposition
Another one for the experts, Uranus will be at its closest approach to Earth but it will only appear as a tiny blue-green dot in all but the most powerful telescopes.
November 11 – Rare Transit of Mercury Across the Sun
Arguably this year’s celestial highlight is tonight with a chance to see Mercury moving directly between the Earth and the Sun. Viewers with telescopes and approved solar filters will be able to observe the dark disk of the planet Mercury moving across the face of the Sun. This is an extremely rare event that occurs only once every few years. The next transit of Mercury will not take place until 2039. Check this map to see its transit and the visibilty where you live: Transit Visibility Map and Information. The Society for Popular Astronomy has useful information on how to safely observe the transit: popastro.com/main_spa1/transit-of-mercury-2019.
November 24 – Conjunction of Venus and Jupiter
A conjunction of Venus and Jupiter will be visible on November 24. The two bright planets will be visible within 1.4 degrees of each other in the evening sky. Keep your eyes peeled for the duo in the western sky just after sunset.
December 13, 14 – Geminids Meteor Shower
Considered by many to be the best shower in the heavens, the Geminids produces up to 120 multicolored meteors per hour at its peak. However, the nearly full moon will block out many of the meteors this year, but the Geminids are so bright and numerous that it could still be a good show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Gemini, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
December 26 – 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. We won’t be able to see this eclipse in the UK, but be sure to look up photos other astronomers take. (NASA Map and Eclipse Information) (NASA Interactive Google Map)
Interested in learning about the history of telescopes and stargazing? Why not do Activity 1.4 The Starry Messengers from the Deep Space Diary?