The night sky is looking bright in 2014-literally! Stargazers unite, because there’s a lot in store when it comes to celestial showdowns, including eclipses, meteor showers and more. Here’s a taste of some of the biggest sky events to expect this year.
Total Lunar Eclipse
Mark your calendar’s for Tuesday, April 15 and Wednesday, October 8, because it’s eclipse time…total lunar eclipse that is, when the moon will be slowly engulfed by the creeping shadow of the earth as it moves between the sun and moon. The total eclipse is one of the most widely shared sky spectaculars around the world for star gazers, and this year, there are two to feast your eyes on.
The first total lunar eclipse of the year will begin at 7:06am GMT (3:06am EST) and will be visible form the entire Western Hemisphere. The second eclipse will be visible from the Pacific Ocean, with only the northwest of North America, New Zealand and parts of Australia getting to enjoy the entire show.
Triple Moon Conjunction
Sounds fancy, right? If you’re a sky lover, then prepare yourself for some breathtaking sky formations, caused by two triple moon conjunctions this year.
Saturday, July 5 will mark the night of the waxing gibbous moon as it clusters together with the bluish colored star Spica and separates from Mars in the southwest sky. On July 6 and 7 the planets and moon will seem to push together even more than usual in the southern hemisphere for a truly unique observation.
The second triple moon conjunction will take place on Sunday, August 31, with the moon, Mars and Saturn forming a stunning triangular pattern at dusk. With all three planetary bodies so close together, it will be a cinch to view them all at once with binoculars.
The biggest full moon of the year is set to take over the night sky Aug. 10, and the moon will turn full at 2:09pm EDT as it arrives at its closest point to Earth. Known as a super moon, because the orbit of this celestial body is not perfect, the close knit proximity to earth is called a perigee. At this point, the moon appears 14 percent larger and 30 percent brighter.
Comet LINEAR Meteor Shower
It’s not a definite yet, but if we get lucky we may witness one incredibly powerful meteor shower on May 23 and 24. Sky gazers have been keeping an eye on Comet209/LINEAR, which has been leaving a dusty trail of space debris for over the past two decades. Experts are predicting that 2014 is the year that earth will work its way through that dusty comet trail, resulting in prime meteor watching opportunities–100 to 400 per hour!
Jupiter Venus Conjunction
You’re gonna have to get up and moving early for this spectacular sight, which will take place Aug. 18 and 19 in the Southern Hemisphere. Sky gazers will get the opportunity to watch as two brilliant planets- Venus and Jupiter- experience a close encounter with each other, making for a bright and beautiful night sky display.