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Must-See Stargazing Events of 2013
Look up into the sky!
Another new year brings with it many opportunities to take a peek at the wonders of our universe. There are are thirteen major events this year, each one offers a unique chance to view natural wonders that might not be around again for a long time. Between the stars, planets, eclipses, meteorites, and comets, 2013 has the potential to be one of the greatest years for star-gazers in a long time. Whether you are into star-gazing, celestial photography, or just want to take a peek out your window and be inspired by nature, there are plenty of opportunities this year to get your fix!
January 21 - Very close moon & Jupiter conjunction
During this exciting event, a 78% illuminated waxing gibbous moon will come within one degree of the largest planet in our solar system - Jupiter. This event will be easy to see for those living in North America, even if your in a city or other well lit area. Over the course of the Jupiter conjunction, the big blue planet will cruise right past the large moon, offering a wonderful photo opportunity to any lucky onlookers.
February 8 - Best viewing of Mercury
This we will get a special glimpse at our solar systems inter-most planet, Mercury. This is special because rarely does this planet escape the glare of the sun long enough for us to get a good view. On this day, Mercury will come within .4 degrees of the planet Mars for what should be a spectacularly rare viewing of the two planets side by side.
March 12 - The comet PANSTARRS
The comet known as "PANSTARRS" was discovered in 2011 by the Pan-STARRS 1 Telescope at Haleakala, Hawaii. At the time it was a very dimly lit comet, but over the last year it has brightened steadily. Currently it is on course to come very close to our sun (and earth) on this evening in March. PANSTARRS comet will be accompanied by a very thin moon which should make for quite a sight!
April 25 - Partial lunar eclipse
This lunar event will not be visible from North America, but it should be a pretty nice little lunar eclipse for those of you in the Eastern Hemisphere. In eclipse terms this one falls short of grand, only approximately 2% of the moon's diameter will be contained inside the shadow of the earth on this day.
May 9 - "Ring of Fire" eclipse
This solar eclipse will be a wonderful sight to behold.. just try not to look directly at the sun! On this day in May, the moon will pass directly in front of the sun, creating a "ring of fire" effect as a result of the larger disk of the sun being blocked by the smaller moon. This solar/lunar event will last for around 6 minutes and will be visible to those of us in the Western Hemisphere, particularly South America and Australia. The ring of fire is truly a sight to behold.
May 24 through 30 - Dance of the planets
On this day, Jupiter, Venus, and Mercury will provide a wonderful show for those of us lucky enough to be watching the skies. Two of these planets (Venus & Jupiter) are the brightest in our galaxy which should make for great photos when these three elusive planets hit the dance floor over the course of a week in late May.
June 23 - Largest full moon of 2013
This Supermoon will be quite the spectacle and the item of a photograph or two when it rises to greet us in the early summer. On this night, the full moon will be at its closest point to the earth of the whole year. Pay attention to the ocean tides in the adjacent days as they should be rising and falling at an increased rate.Truly a supermoon.
August 12 - The Perseid meteor shower
This great annual meteor shower is arguably the best of the year. For one night the sky will light up with up to 90 meteorites per minute! And unlike in recent years, the moon on this night should be out of the way leaving deep dark space as a perfect backdrop to this natural wonder. Star-gazers and photographers unite, this will be a great time to look upwards toward the heavens.
October 18 - Penumbral eclipse of the moon
During this lunar event, the moon will be partially covered up by the earth's penumbral shadow. The darkened portion will be around 75% of the moons total disk. From Africa, Europe, and Asia this should be quite a show. For the rest of us, a slightly lighter "Hunters moon" will appear which will still undoubtedly make for some great pictures.
November 3 - Hybrid eclipse of the sun
This Hybrid Eclipse of the sun will be a wonderful phenomenon to behold - although much of the action will take place in Africa and Asia. This is called a hybrid eclipse because during its route the sun will go from an annular to a total eclipse. The total eclipse should be viewable for around 100 seconds, this is called the Great Eclipse. Again, this will only be partially seen in North America and much of the Western Hemisphere.
November through December - The comet ISON
During late November and December, the comet ISON will be passing within 175,000 miles of the surface of the sun. This fact makes ISON what is known as a "Sun Grazer". Around the beginning of December, this large comet will be clearly visible during the day from the Northern Hemisphere. This will be a wonderful sight. And because of its extremely viewable positioning along the early morning and evening skyline, it will be possible for many many people to enjoy its travel through our solar system, coming within 40 million miles of the earth.
December - Dazzling Venus
In the month of December we are in for a holiday treat. Along with the ISON comet, the very bright planet Venus will be putting on quite a show. During this month, the planet Venus, in all her glory, will be the brightest she'll be until 2021! Her surface will look similar to that of the moon through a telescope, but without its trademark valleys and craters. This bright blue gem will delight stargazers world wide while providing a spectacular photo shoot to many photographers around the world. Look for Venus to be shining her brightest in the early morning and evening hours.
December 13 through 14 - Geminid meteor shower
This is one of, and arguably the most, beautiful meteor showers we will have a chance to view in 2013. Some say even better than the Perseids in August! This year, the moon will be out and about for most of the show, but if you have a chance, beginning at approximately 4:30 am there will be an hour of darkened viewing time to observe some wonderful meteor action. There will be as many as 120 sightings per hour! This is just an incredible rate.