A 2002 Penumbral. Photo by Author.
The International year of Astronomy presents several outstanding viewing opportunities for 2009. Here is the Astroguyz short list of highlights for the year. These are our personal +12 best, must see events; we thought that rather than laundry list moons phases and solstices, we would narrow in on some of the best upcoming opportunities;
A homemade Partial Eclipse viewer! (Photo & shadow by Author).
January- 26th, An Annular Eclipse: The end of the first month of the year kicks off with an annular eclipse of the Sun. Totality will be visible from Borneo and across the mid-Indian Ocean while partial phases will be visible from a swath north and south of the line…an annular eclipse can occur when the Earth is near perigee, such as this particular month, but the Moon is at or around apogee. This causes the shrunken Moon to not quite cover the Sun, resulting in a bright ring or annulus. Hence, the Full Moon on January 10th will be near perigee, and the largest of the year. The best new moon sighting chance of the year for the south eastern US arrives a day after the eclipse, on Jan 27th.
The Moon and Venus at sunset. (Credit: Stellarium).
February-27th Venus-Moon Conjunction-Occultation: This is one of the top conjunctions/ occultations of the year. The few scattered souls off of Terra Del Fuego will see an actual occultation of the planet; the rest of us will see a very tight pairing at dusk with a 3 day old Moon. A cool photo op! Also, if Comet Lulin lives up to predictions, it may just reach +6 magnitude naked eye visibility this month, after its perihelion passage on January 10th.
March-20th The Spring Equinox: This year, the spring equinox occurs on this date at 7:44 AM…but that’s not the only reason you should be looking at the Sun. The long overdue solar cycle #24 should finally get into gear in 2009! The Sun has been eerily silent for the last few years; we Ha scope owners are eager for some action. Also, Venus is at inferior conjunction on March 27th… normally, this isn’t a big deal, but due to its 3.4 degree tilt to the ecliptic, northern hemisphere observers may have an unusual opportunity to spy it! More to come…
April-22-23rd The Moon, Venus, & Mars Meet up: On this date, Venus the Moon, Mars and even tiny Uranus will fill the span of only a few degrees in the dawn sky. Most of North America (excluding us East Coasters!) will see a midday occultation of Venus, tough to view, but not impossible!
Launch! (Credit: NASA).
May-12th STS-125 Launch: The big May event here at Astroguyz HQ will be the launch (finally!) of STS-125 to repair the Hubble one last time on the 12th; we still have our tickets in hand and promise to be blogging as live as possible from the Cape!
June-6th An Antares Occultation: The Moon occults the bright star Antares on the 6th, in a series of occultations that happen nearly every lunar cycle as the Moon passes through Scorpius this year. This is merely the best viewing opportunity from Florida and Astroguyz HQ… check out an occultation near you!
July-22nd A Total Solar Eclipse: This promises to be the big one of the year, period. The July 22nd Total Eclipse of the Sun will offer the longest totality of our lifetimes. If you have to take out your kids’ college fund to get there, so be it! Several ground based and sea based options exist along the path through the western pacific and on to south-east Asia. Will Astroguyz throw on our scope laden backpacks and attempt to make the journey? Stay tuned! Also, the smallest Full Moon of the year occurs on July 7th, and is penumbrally eclipsed as well…see the connection?
August-12th: The Perseids: This years’ most dependable shower is, of course, the August Perseids. Expect 60-100 meteors per hour in the early AM at the showers peak. This year the Moon phase is waning gibbous, not the greatest for meteor hunting. But give this shower a look none the less! Plus, does this shower have a September 9th component as well? This has been proposed recently by NASA astronomers…(see yesterdays’ News & Notes!)
The changing rings of Saturn. (Credit: Hubble/JPL).
September-9th Saturn’s rings are edge on: Anyone who has been watching the ringed planet lately knows that the rings have been presenting a knife edge appearance. This will continue through out the year, culminating with a vanishing, edge-on Saturn in the dusk sky in early September. The rings will be edge-on on September 9th, the first time in 14 years.
October-13th The conjunction of Venus and Saturn: Following the ringed planet a few weeks later brings it back around to dawn and a fine conjunction with Venus. Tiny Mercury will also be just below the pair, and all three will be joined by the Moon on the 16th.
November 17th- A Leonid Outburst? Their has been some talk that the normally feeble Leonids may produce an unexpected outburst in 2009. Last known for high activity in the 1998-2000 range, modeling shows that the 1466 stream may be posed to rain down on us. And unlike 2008, the Moon is favorably posed this year, at 1 day past new on the target date of the 17th!
A Partial Lunar eclipse. (Photo by Author).
December 31st-A partial Eclipse of the Blue Moon. The year rounds out with a very shallow partial eclipse during the last day of December. Astronomy extreme-o-philes will note that this eclipse also occurs during the 2nd Full Moon of the month, or a Blue Moon. Could this situation be considered “once in a very Blue Moon?” The eclipse itself will be visible from European latitudes.
As for 2010, how bout a Mars opposition? A Tahitian total solar eclipse? And a real North American based Total Lunar Eclipse? Stay tuned, and here’s meeting you under Dark Skies!