Astronomical Events for 2018

Blood Moon

Photo by Sara Faraj

by Suni Jo Roberts

Deputy Editor

Meteor showers

Also known as shooting stars, meteors in the night sky, are brief flashes of light caused by space dust or particles entering the Earth’s atmosphere at high speeds. There are two main types of small bodies in the solar system in which these meteors come from: asteroids and comets. Their differences lie in their compositions. Asteroids were formed closer to the sun so primarily contain metal and rock whereas comets were formed beyond the frost line, further away, so contain ice. Meteor showers occur when the Earth passes through a comet’s orbit and dust enters our atmosphere. These shows of trailing lights occur around the same time every year because of Earth’s yearly orbit around the sun.

Total lunar eclipse

Unlike the solar eclipse of 2017, the path of totality will be much larger for the total lunar eclipse this year, and will last about an hour. A total lunar eclipse is when the Earth is directly in between the sun and moon, and because the Earth is much bigger than the moon and is the body that casts a shadow on the moon, the geographical area in which to view the reddish moon is much larger than it was for the solar eclipse. The red color comes from the sun’s reflection. Imagine being on the moon and looking at the sun with the Earth in between. You would see a little light on either side, just like on a sunset and sunrise. The total lunar eclipse will be visible just before dawn.

Everyday sightings

Over millenia, gazing up into the night sky has sparked intrigue, adventure and scientific inquiry. There is not much else that has been such a large source of wonder for many people on Earth. It is easy to take the moon and stars for granted when you don’t know much about them, but consider that stars give us the opportunity to look back into the past, being that the light we see from stars is light that was emitted as a product of nuclear fusion many millions of years ago. If the scientific jargon is overwhelming, gaze anyway without the periodic table in mind, and take a note from Vincent Van Gogh who said, “looking at the stars always makes me dream.”

The brightest planets in the sky

Brighter than any star, Jupiter and Venus are the two brightest planets we see in the sky. On May, 9 Jupiter will be the closest to Earth and can be seen rising in the east with the sunset and setting in the west with the sunrise.

Astronomical calendar

  • Jan. 31 Total lunar eclipse
  • Feb. 15 Partial solar eclipse
  • March 20 Vernal equinox
  • April 22-23 Lyrids meteor shower
  • May 6-7 Eta Aquarids meteor shower
  • May 9 Jupiter will be at its closest approach to Earth
  • June 21 Summer solstice
  • July 28-29 Delta aquarids meteor shower
  • Aug. 11 Partial solar eclipse visible to most part of the world but most visible in Europe & Asia
  • Aug. 12-13 Perseids meteor shower
  • Oct. 8 Draconids meteor shower
  • Oct. 21-22 Orionids meteor shower
  • Nov. 5-6 Taurids meteor shower
  • Nov. 17-18 Leonids
  • Dec. 13-14 Geminids meteor shower
  • Dec. 21 Winter solstice
  • Dec. 21-22 Ursids meteor shower
  • Lyrids meteor shower Earth is passing through Thatcher’s Comet
  • Eta Aquarids meteor shower Earth is passing through Halley’s Comet
  • Perseids meteor shower Earth is passing through Swift-Tuttle’s Comet
  • Orionids meteor shower Earth is passing through Halley’s Comet
  • Taurids meteor shower Earth is passing through Encke’s Comet
  • Leonids meteor shower Earth is passing through Tempel-Tuttle’s Comet
  • Germinids meteor shower Earth is passing through Phaeton’s Comet
  • Ursids meteor shower Earth is passing through Tuttle’s Comet

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