April 17, 2014

The Top Astronomy Events for 2013.

It has arrived. Welcome to our official guide to the fascinating, the unique, and the down right bizarre in the realm of astronomy coming to a sky near you in 2013. As always, we strive to make this almanac a monument not only to the most awesome astronomical spectacles in 2013 but a conglomeration of some little known but also fascinating sights. Some events you’ll only find gathered here on these pages, and we pride ourselves on ferreting out these events over the year. Hey, it’s what you’ve come to expect, right? We then take our list, check it twice, and distill it down to the “best of the best”ť in handy bullet point format. What this isn’t is just another standard droll listing of equinoxes and moon phases that you’ll see adorning so many “other”ť sites. Put it on your fridge, hang it in your observatory or favorite the page, and be sure to return to Astroguyz and/or follow us on Twitter as we further expound on the astronomical significance of these events as they approach in the year to come!

But first, some caveats are in order;

The time given for conjunctions & occultations is geocentric, meaning that times will be offset based on your location. The links provided expand on the actual local circumstances.

The orbit of the ISS evolves with time. The predictions for full orbital illumination of the International Space Station should be considered approximate. This occurs near each respective solstice.

Note that neither Mars nor Jupiter reach opposition in 2013; Pluto also doesn’t reach solar conjunction in 2013. This a product of its 246 year orbit. The last “miss year”ť was 1767; this phenomenon occurs every quarter millennium.

Solar Cycle #24 will peak towards the end of 2013; expect more sunspots, solar flares and aurorae. However, this cycle has thus far been an “under performer“ť and there is some discussion that solar cycle #24 may be a fizzle and #25 may be absent all together.

There are 5 eclipses for 2013, three lunar and two solar. There isn’t a total lunar eclipse in 2013, and solar totality will only occur during the November 3rd hybrid eclipse along a portion of the track.

Our best bets? Well, there’s a chance that we’ll have no less than three comets breech naked eye visibility in 2013. Keep in mind, however, that comets are fickle beasts. The year also kicks off with some fine occultations of the planet Jupiter, and the occultations of Spica by the Moon get better as the year wears on. Both solar eclipses should also be fine sights worth making the journey to. And Mercury occulting a star? Now, that’s just plain weird!

Again, follow this site (and our flagship on Twitter) for expanded posts on each and every event!


02- The Earth reaches perihelion or its closest approach to the Sun at ~05:00 UTC.

02- The ISS is fully illuminated throughout the length of its orbit for a continuous period of four days; sightings favor the southern hemisphere.

03- Quadrantid meteor shower peaks at 13:00 UTC with a ZHR of 120, favoring the Pacific region.

05- The Moon occults Spica at 20:00 UTC for New Zealand & Australia, the first in 12 occultations of the star in 2013.

09- The Moon reaches its most southern point (-20.8) of the year. 2013 finds the Moon’s path very shallow relative to the ecliptic.

16- One of the best lunar librations (9.2°) of the year occurs (with the Seleno region tipped forward at S39° E102°); the Moon will be 22% illuminated.

22- The Moon occults Jupiter at 03:00 UTC for South America, one of the best planetary occultations by the Moon of 2013.

23- The Moon reaches its most northern point (+20.8) for 2013.

The February 8th Mercury-Mars conjunction at dusk. (Created by the author in Starry Night).


02- The Moon occults Spica at 02:00 UTC for South Africa & the Indian Ocean.

08- Mercury passes 0.3° degrees north of Mars. Both are about 15° degrees east of the Sun at dusk. This is the closest naked eye planetary conjunction of 2013.

15- NEO asteroid 2012 DA14 makes a close (19,000 mi) pass of the Earth.

16- Mercury reaches greatest eastern (dusk) elongation of 18.1° degrees.

18- The Moon occults Jupiter at 12:00 UTC for Tasmania and southern Australia.

22- Asteroid 469 Argentina occults a +6.8 magnitude star at ~2:13 UTC for eastern North America & South America.

The projected March passage of Comet C/2011 L4 PANSTARRS. (Created by the author in Starry Night).


01- The Moon occults Spica at 07:00 UTC for South America.

04- Comet C/2012 F6 Lemmon may reach naked eye visibility.

05- Comet C/2011 L4 (PANSTARRS) passes within 1.1 AU of the Earth and may become a naked eye object over the next few weeks.

10- Comet C/2011 L4 (PANSTARRS) reaches perihelion, 0.3 AU from the Sun.

22- Mars passes very close to Uranus; The closest 2x planet conjunction of the year. Both are only 6° degrees from the Sun and less than 1′ minute apart worldwide.

24- Asteroid 375 Ursula occults a +8.3 magnitude star at ~9:54 UTC for Chile & Argentina.

28- The Moon occults Spica at 15:00 UTC for the South Pacific.

30- Asteroid 41 Daphne occults a +4.8 magnitude star at ~18:33 UTC for Indonesia; The brightest star occulted by an asteroid for 2013.

31- Mercury reaches greatest western (dawn) elongation of 27.8° degrees, its greatest & best morning apparition for the southern hemisphere in 2013.


07- Venus passes within 0.6° degrees of Mars.

15- Asteroid 6 Hebe occults a +10th magnitude star for Europe & the Middle East. (Asteroid may have an unconfirmed moon).

22- The Lyrid meteors peak with a ZHR=18 at 12:00 UTC favoring the Pacific region.

25- A partial lunar eclipse occurs for observers in the Indian Ocean region with less than 2% of the Moon entering the Earth’s umbra.

25- The Moon occults Spica for South Africa at 00:01 UTC.

28- Saturn reaches opposition. The rings are currently tipped 19° degrees open to the Earth and widening.

The path of the May 10th annular eclipse. (Credit: Fred Espenak, NASA/GSFC).


01- Asteroid 476 Hedwig occults a +7.0 magnitude star at ~21:10 UTC for Southeast Asia.

07- Eta Aquarid meteors peak with a projected ZHR=55 at 14:00 UTC favoring the Far East.

08- Mercury passes 0.5° degrees from Mars.

10- An annular solar eclipse crosses Australia, the Solomon Islands and the Pacific from 22:40-2:20 UTC.

22- The Moon occults Spica at 11:00UTC for the South Pacific.

25- A penumbral lunar eclipse occurs visible from South & North America around 4:11 UTC.

26- A tri-conjunction of Mercury, Venus & Jupiter within a 3° degree circle about 17 degrees from the Sun low in the dusk.

28- Venus passes within 1° degree of Jupiter.


02- The ISS is fully illuminated throughout the length of its orbit for a continuous period of four days, sightings favor the northern hemisphere.

10- Asteroid 407 Arachne occults a +8.0 magnitude star at ~15:30 UTC for New Zealand & Australia.

12- Mercury reaches a greatest eastern (dusk) elongation of 24.3° degrees. The best dusk apparition of Mercury in 2013 for the northern hemisphere.

18- The Moon occults Spica at 20:00 UTC for South Africa.

23- The Closest (and visually largest) Full Moon of the Year. This is also the most southern Full Moon of 2013, with a declination of -19.4° degrees.


05- Earth reaches aphelion or its farthest point from the Sun at ~15:00 UTC.

07- Asteroid 449 Hamburgia occults a +7.1 magnitude star at ~17:52 UTC for the Pacific region.

10- Asteroid 238 Hypatia occults a +7.4 magnitude star at ~10:31 UTC for the Gulf of Mexico region.

14- Mercury occults the +5.9 star SAO 96407 ~7:11 UTC for the South Atlantic; will look like Mercury has a “moon”ť worldwide!

16- The Moon occults Spica at 04:00 UTC for Hawaii and the Pacific.

16- Mars is 20′ from M35 at ~21:00 UTC, only 23° degrees from the Sun.

19- Saturn’s moons are in 1-8 order from 12:38-12:53 UTC.

22- Mars passes just 0.8° degrees north of Jupiter.

22- Venus passes just 1.1° degrees north of Regulus.

26- Asteroid 576 Emanuela occults a +6.4 magnitude star at ~8:47 UTC for Argentina & New Zealand.

28- The Southern Delta Aquarid meteors peak with a ZHR=18 at ~19:00 UTC favoring the Far East.

30- Mercury reaches greatest western (dawn) elongation of 19.6° degrees. The best dawn apparition of 2013 for the northern hemisphere.


12- The Moon occults Spica at 09:00 UTC for the Far East. The beginning of a cycle of 4 excellent occultations of the star by the Moon for the northern hemisphere.

12- The Perseid meteors peak with a ZHR of 80 per hour from 13:00 UTC on the 12th to 02:00 UTC on the 13th.

21- A Blue Moon occurs, as reckoned as the “3rd in an astronomical season with 4″.ť

26- Neptune reaches opposition.


04- Asteroid 511 Davida occults a +8.9 magnitude star at ~16:02 UTC for New Guinea.

08- The Moon occults Spica at 15:00 UTC for Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.

08- The Moon occults Venus from southern South America at 21:00 UTC.

11- Asteroid 196 Philomela occults a +7.6 magnitude star at ~1:16 UTC for South America & North Africa.

15- Comet C/2012 S1 ISON may reach naked eye visibility.

28- Jupiter’s moons appear in 1-thru-4 configuration from 06:33-21:56 UTC.


03- Uranus reaches opposition.

05- Asteroid 128 Nemesis occults a +8.9 magnitude star at ~16:13 UTC for Southeast Asia.

09- Mercury reaches greatest eastern (dusk) elongation of 25.3° degrees, The best dusk apparition of 2013 for the southern hemisphere.

13- Asteroid 94 Aurora occults a +8.9 magnitude star at ~6:56 UTC for South America.

17- Comet Encke passes 0.48 A.U. from Earth.

18- A Penumbral lunar eclipse visible from Africa and Europe occurs around 23:51 UTC.

22- The Orionid meteors peak with a ZHR=25 at 3:00 UTC Favoring European longitudes.

22- Asteroid 1021 Flammario occults a +8.1 magnitude star at 1:13 UTC for Russia and Scandinavia.

25- Asteroid 41 Daphne occults a +6.7 magnitude star at ~12:31 UTC for Russia.

25- Asteroid 1 Ceres occults a 10.0 magnitude star at ~9:43 UTC for Africa (daytime=unobservable).

The daytime occultation of Spica on November 29th for North America. (Credit: Occult 4.0).


1-Venus reaches a greatest eastern (dusk) elongation of 47.1° degrees.

2-The Moon occults Spica at 07:00 UTC for Central Asia.

3- A hybrid solar eclipse occurs crossing the Atlantic into central Africa from 11:05 to 14:27 UTC.

3-The Moon occults Mercury, which is unobservable with both only ~3° degrees from the Sun.

14- Asteroid 8 Flora occults a +7.2 magnitude star at ~19:40 UTC for Africa.

17- The Leonid meteors peak with a ZHR=20 at 10:00 UTC favoring North America.

18- Mercury reaches greatest western elongation (dawn) of 19.5° degrees.

24- Comet ISON just 5 degrees from Saturn & Mercury & a degree from Comet Encke in the dawn sky.

26-Mercury passes 0.4° degrees from Saturn.

28- Comet C/2012 S1 ISON reaches perihelion at 0.012 A.U. from the Sun.

29- The Moon occults Spica in the daytime at 17:00 UTC for North America.

The path of Comet C/2012 S1 ISON post perihelion. (Created by the Author in Starry Night).


06- Venus reaches greatest brilliancy.

13- The Geminid meteors peak with a ZHR=120 per hour from 13:00 UTC to 10:00 UTC on the 14th.

17-The farthest (and visually smallest) Full Moon of the Year. Also the most northern Full Moon at +18.7.

27- The Moon occults Spica for the final time in 2013 at 03:00 UTC for northern Asia.

29- The Moon occults Saturn at 01:00 UTC for Antarctica.

31- The ISS is fully illuminated throughout the length of its orbit for a continuous period of four days, sightings favor the northern hemisphere.

Note that Mars also begins approaching NGC 4684 in December, and will be within 1.3′ of the 11.5 galaxy on January 4th, 2014.

Did we miss YOUR favorite 2013 event? Drop us a line and let us know… Our thanks also goes out to Ed Kotapish who endured a flurry of e-mails about the coming year and made several suggestions to the list above. Thanks also to anyone who engaged us on all things astronomical in 2012; its conversations with the fans of the sky that make this list come together! Also, thanks to Guy Ottewell and his 2013 Astronomical Calendar, which arrived in our hands as the final hours of 2012 came to pass. If you aren’t yet addicted to this indispensable astronomical resource, it’s not too late to grab your fix at Sky & Telescope’s store!

Oh yeah, and don’t forget that 2013 is the year in science fiction history that The Postman delivers… a great time for a re-screening of the 1997 classic!



  1. Jean Meeus says:

    Why do you use “UTC” instead of simply UT (Universal Time)?
    Yes, I know, the radio time signals are giving time in the UTC scale,
    but UTC is only an approximation of UT, but the difference between
    the two is always less than 0.9 second.
    Because the times given in your list are rounded to the nearest minute,
    it looks odd to “insist” that they are given in UTC and not in UT.

  2. David Dickinson says:

    Thanks; we were going for consistency throughout the post, rather than flipping between the terms UTC/UT/GMT. We’ve actually had readers insist on using the term GMT, along with debates on quoting things in local vs Universal Time… and we also once had a lengthy discussion while in the US Air Force trying to explain that GMT & Zulu are the same thing! But yes, we actually prefer simply using UT, esp. on Twitter, as its the least amount of characters.

  3. Terry Moseley says:

    Hi David,

    Could you please explain what the following means?

    “A Blue Moon, reckoned as the 3rd in a season with 4″. If a ‘season’ means winter, spring, summer, etc, what’s so special about the 3rd full moon in a season? And if the 3rd is ‘blue’, wehat coloir are the others?

    I thought that all this nonsense about ‘blue moons’ had been laid to rest when S&T finally published a retraction on its orginal article saying that a Blue Moon was the second Full Moon in a month!

    Let’s make it clear once and for all: A Blue Moon means either
    (1) An occasion when the Moon does actually turn blue due to particles in the upper atmosphere, or
    (2) as in ‘Once in a Blue Moon’ meaning an extremely rare occurrance of any sort.

    Terry Moseley

  4. David Dickinson says:

    Hi Terry,
    Sure; those are all valid; the version of a “Blue Moon” occurring in 2013 (and discussed in the S&T article) was as reckoned in the Old Maine Farmer’s Almanac as the 3rd in a Season with 4, an old archaic form of calculating a “Blue Moon” which has (thankfully) fallen out of general use. Seasons in this sense are from Solstice to Equinox and vice versa. I think that culturally, we’re stuck for better or worse with the Blue Moon=2 Fulls in one month, but hey, its a teachable moment and gets folks looking at the sky… our Table of Moons Black & Blue for the remainder of the decade;


    Thanks for the commentary!

    Dave Dickinson


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