September 21, 2017

Top Astronomy Events for 2010.

(Photo credit: Art Explosion).

(Photo credit: Art Explosion).

Ah, it’s that most hallowed time of year yet again; a time to look ahead at what astro- wonders await in 2010. Here’s a quick month-by-month rundown of the curious, unique and bizarre coming to a sky near you. Like last year, rather than bore you with a laundry list of every obscure wide conjunction and moon phase, we distilled ‘em down to the best of the best. Just think, we here at Astroguyz sift through the tedious piles of almanacs and data for fun, so you don’t have to! Expect weekly expanded posts on each as the time draws neigh. So, without further hype, here’s our sure-fire night (at sometimes day) sky picks for 2010;

Mars in 03' (Photo by Author).

Mars in 03' (Photo by Author).

January: The month kicks off with the Earth at perihelion, or its closest approach to the sun on the 2nd. For New England-bound observers, an occultation of the bright star Antares will be in the offing on the 11th. The big ticket item, however, will be the annular solar eclipse of the sun on the 15th, one of two big solar eclipses of the year. Visibility we be centered on the Indian Ocean, and clocking in at a maximum “annularity” of 11 minutes and 8 seconds, this will be the longest annular until 3043 A.D! Rounding out the month, Mars will be at opposition on the 29th and appear at or around 14.1” arc seconds in diameter for the season…OK, but not spectacular or a repeat of the oppositions we’ve been accustomed to over the last decade, as Mars is also very near aphelion, or its most distant point from the sun in its elliptical orbit. Paradoxically, the full moon on the 30th is also the closest and therefore largest of the year.

February: An interesting but little publicized event occurs on the 9th…the close approach of asteroid 2009 UN3. At just under a kilometer in size, 2009 UN3 will shine at +12 in the Lepus-Columba border and present a good target for moderate sized telescopes. Views favor the southern hemisphere, and the tiny space rock should have an apparent movement of 50” arc seconds a minute, nearly fast enough to be visually apparent! Closest approach will be about 14.3 Earth-Moon distances.

March: Ye ole’ daylight savings time resumes on the 14th as does spring in the form of the vernal equinox on the 20th at 17:32 UT.

April: An offbeat astronomical event is in the works for viewers on the US West Coast; an occultation of a bright star by the asteroid Anastasia on the 6th. This represents probably one of the best asteroid occultations of the year, and with the star at magnitude +2.5, may well be visible to the naked eye! The event occurs at 10:34-44 UT. The Lyrid meteor shower also occurs a day after the 1st quarter moon on the 21st affording dark skies and a zenithal hourly rate (ZHR) of up to 20 per hour. This is one of the first notable meteor showers of the season.

Always a pretty pairing; Venus & the crescent Moon. (photo by author).

Always a pretty pairing; Venus & the crescent Moon. (photo by author).

May: One of the better occultations of a bright planet happens on the 16th, with a midday occultation of Venus by the two day old moon. The event itself will be visible from north Africa through the Middle East and on through India and southeast Asia; the rest of us will see a close pairing in the dusk skies.

June: The summer solstice happens right on schedule on the 21st at 11:28 UT. Days later, a partial eclipse of the Moon occurs on the 26th, about 53% partial and centered on the Pacific Rim.

July: Earth reaches aphelion on the 6th, but this month will see what’s sure to be the big ticket event of the year; a total solar eclipse of the sun on the 11th. Its rare that an eclipse occurs somewhere warm and sunny, as opposed to the wind-swept Arctic tundra, and this one shouldn’t be missed. Landfall of the moon’s shadow across the south Pacific is meager; it skims the Cook Islands, crosses Easter Island (think of the photo ops!) and comes tantalizingly close to Tahiti. Several cruise lines based out of Papeete are hedging their bets on clear skies for this one. Maximum totality is 5 minutes 20 seconds, and this is the only total solar eclipse of the year.

August: Late summer brings with it the most dependable meteor shower of the year; the Perseids. The anticipated peak is on the 12th, with the moon being only two days past new. The moon then slides by both Venus and Mars on the 13th, making for a pretty trio at dusk. Venus itself is at greatest eastern elongation for the year on the 19th, and at closest conjunction with the red planet on the 23rd at 2.5 degrees. Also, in news of the bizarre, Neptune will have completed exactly one orbit since its discovery 1846, covering one 164+ Earth year solar orbit! The most distant full moon of the year occurs on the 24th.

This space available...(Credit: Art Explosion).

This space available...(Credit: Art Explosion).

September: This month may well see one of the defining dates in the American space program; the final shuttle flight STS-134 scheduled for takeoff on the 16th. The orbiter will be the Discovery, and it will bring to close a 30+ year era of shuttles as the primary flagships of the manned space program. It’s strange to think that we’ve been flying shuttles longer than we’ve had anything! The other two orbiters will have their respective final flights, with Atlantis on May 14th and Endeavour on July 29th… definitely try to spot these grand ol’ gals in orbit one last time before they become museum pieces! The autumnal equinox also occurs on the 23rd at 03:09 UT.

A low altitude conjunction...(Credit: Stellarium).

A low altitude conjunction...(Credit: Stellarium).

October: The 8th sees one of the closest planetary conjunctions of the year, a tough but not impossible pairing of Saturn & Mercury low in the dawn sky. At 0.6 degrees of separation, you may well be able to place both in the same low power telescopic field of view. On the same morning, the elusive Giacobinids meteor shower peaks. This one is always a total wild card, usually faint but known for its occasional outbursts, most recently in 1998. this year, the moon is well placed at only a day past new.

November: The month opens with a challenging photographic pairing, a close 0.2 degree conjunction between Venus and the Moon, on the 5th. This will be very low in the dawn sky only a day before new moon. This could provide an opportunity to break any personal “old moon” records, as Venus could serve as a handy guide post to the slender crescent. Later, on the 17th, another shower that always deserves close monitoring peaks; the Leonids. This is followed by a full “blue moon” on the 21st, as practiced by the die hard followers of ye ole’ Maine Farmer’s Almanac who thus state, “Thou shalt only consider the third full moon of a seasonal cycle (of which possesseth four) as blue…yargh, and a bottle of Blue Moon ale, matey!”

A total lunar eclipse in 2004. (Photo by Author).

A total lunar eclipse in 2004. (Photo by Author).

December: The year is capped off with another unique event… a Total Lunar Eclipse on the 21st, on the same day as the winter solstice which occurs at 23;38 UT. Of course, this is a consequence of the aforementioned ‘four full moons in a season…’ this eclipse is nicely centered for North America and Astroguyz HQ (for a change!) and will no doubt be the astro-event of the year for us unwashed millions…

So there you have it; an astro-planner for the great events happening in the sky somewhere on our humble home world in this year of our lord 2010 A.D. Print em’, hang ‘em on the fridge, college dorm bulletin board, friendly biker bar men’s room, but above all, don’t forget to simply step out the next clear night and look… the greatest show of all, the universe, is waiting!

The sky awaits! (Photo by author).

The sky awaits! (Photo by author).

Comments

  1. Mark says:

    Regarding Neptune, it was discovered on 23 Sept 1846, according to http://www.nasa.gov/worldbook/neptune_worldbook.html

    It has an sidereal orbital period of 164.9 years, 60189 days according to http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/planetary/factsheet/neptunefact.html

    Plugging those dates into AppBox Pro yields 9th July 2011 (I did the same thing with excel, that gave me 10th July 2011)

    The tropical orbital period gives 15th June 2010.

  2. David Dickinson says:

    Mark,
    Thanks for the calculations & clarification; I placed a rough date in August based on Neptune’s solar longitude along the ecliptic versus its similiarity to its position during discovery… doubtless, several dates could be arrived at versus how the calculations are setup.

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  3. [...] Top Astronomy Events for 2010. : AstroGuyz.com14 hours ago by webmaster  February: An interesting but little publicized event occurs on the 9thâ?¦the close approach of asteroid 2009 UN3. At just under a kilometer in size, 2009 UN3 will shine at +12 in the Lepus-Columba border and present a good target for … [...]

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  5. [...] Set your alarm clocks; one of the closest but most challenging planetary pairings of the year happens this week in the early dawn skies. Mercury and Saturn will be within 1° [...]

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