Astro Cat’s Excellent Astro Events of 2017!
Good day, intrepid explorers of the solar system and beyond! Welcome to my quick round up of the astronomical events that should be noted down in any stargazer’s diary for the next year. 2016 saw gloomy skies and full moons blocking out some of its most spectacular displays, but not to worry – 2017 has plenty to look forward to! Here are 5 events that Felicity, Astro Mouse and I cannot wait for this year…
February 11: A Partial Lunar Eclipse and a Comet!
That’s right, depending where you are in the world, February 11th could hold two amazing celestial events. First up, most of Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas will be able to watch the Moon appear to become dimmer, as the Earth passes between it and the Sun. This lunar eclipse is known as ‘partial’, as the shadow of the Earth only brushes it, and won’t block its light completely.
Secondly, Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova (gadzooks, that’s a name!) will appear in the dawn sky as a fuzzy ball, on its way back to the outer solar system after a close approach to the Sun.
February 26th: An Annular Solar Eclipse
For those lucky stargazers in the Southern Hemisphere (specifically the South Pacific, South America and Africa), a “ring of fire” solar eclipse will take place in late February. This breathtaking event occurs when the Moon passes between the Earth and Sun, but is too far away from Earth (therefore appearing too small) to cover the Sun’s light completely – resulting in an amazing glowing effect around the pitch black Moon! Other regions of the Earth will see a partial eclipse too.
May to August: Summer Meteor Showers
Summer is a great time for meteor showers in the Northern Hemisphere: the night of the 6/7th May sees the peak of the Eta Aquarids, the 28/29th of July sees the Delta Aquarids, and August the 12th and 13th welcome the Perseids! Meteor showers tend to be named after the constellation they appear to travel outwards from, but they can be seen all over the sky when conditions are right. The best way to see these showers is to find a dark, rural area with as little light pollution as possible. Be prepared to wait around 20 minutes for your eyes to be able to see the stars clearly, and then watch for at least an hour – meteor showers can be sporadic and seemingly random, but they will always reward the patient stargazer with bursts of activity!
August 21st: Another Solar Eclipse!
A treat for North America (the first since 1979) arrives late August, with a stunning total solar eclipse that will conceal the Sun so completely that only its beautiful corona is visible. The corona is a vast halo of plasma that surrounds the Sun, so this chance to see it could be once-in-a-lifetime!
December 13th/14th: The Geminid Meteor Shower
This annual event often proves the most impressive of the yearly meteor showers, as there can be 60-120 meteors visible every hour (and higher rates have been recorded). This year, clear skies permitting, there should be plenty of opportunity to watch these celestial fireworks! No full moon means the ideal dark skies – so I’ll be wrapped up warm and watching with a tin of sardines handy for a midnight snack!
Phew, and these amazing events are just the beginning! There are other meteors, comets, planetary alignments and more to watch out for in the new year, so get the binoculars ready… And if you’re still looking up in confusion, wondering which planet is which and what they’re really like, try my solar system app right here!