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Astronomy 2021: Top Events for the Coming Year

Eclipses, meteor showers, occultations and more in shop for the next year of astronomy 2021.

Ready for another interesting year of skywatching? 2020 produced numerous unforgettable huge events, consisting of a surprise naked eye comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE, the foolproof Geminid meteors, and a fine, when in a life time close pairing of Jupiter and Saturn completing the year.

The Sun likewise woke up from its rest, as Solar Cycle #25 (lastly) got underway in earnest, with the last half of 2020 producing a few of the most huge sunspots of current years. Expect more of the very same in 2021, in addition to increased aurora activity, as we head towards the peak of the 11-year solar optimum in mid-2025.

A dawn sunspot in late 2020 … more of the very same in shop for 2021? Credit: Dave Dickinson

Top 10 Astronomical Events for 2021

First, here is a distilled list including the really the ‘best of the best’ events for the coming year, in sequential order:

Starting in January: shared eclipse season for Jupiter’s moons.

April 17 th: An occultation of Mars by the Moon.

May 26 th: An overall lunar eclipse.

June 10 th: An annular solar eclipse.

June 23 rd: Mars crosses the Beehive cluster (M44).

August 12 th: The Perseid meteors peak.

August 18 th: A close combination of Mars and Mercury.

October 10 th: Taurid fireball season peaks.

November 19 th: A partial lunar eclipse.

December 4 th: An overall solar eclipse.

So what can you anticipate in 2021? Here’s our yearly take a look at top skywatching events, concerning a sky near you:

Eclipse Action in 2021

2021 includes the minimum variety of eclipses that can happen in a fiscal year with 4: 2 solar and 2 lunar.

Lunar eclipse phases. Credit: Dave Dickinson.

Lunar eclipses consist of: An overall lunar eclipse on May 26th, with an optimum period 15 minutes fixated the Pacific Rim area, and a deep (97% umbral) partial lunar eclipse on November 19 th, preferring the Americas, Northern Europe, Eastern Asia, Australia and the Pacific.

The just overall solar eclipse for 2021. Credit: NASA/GSFC/A. T. Sinclair.

Solar eclipses in 2021 consist of: an annular solar eclipse on June 10 th, with an optimum period of 3 minutes and 51 seconds crossing the Arctic, and an overall solar eclipse on December fourth, with an optimum period for totality of 1 minute and 54 seconds crossing the Antarctic.

The Sun and Moon in 2021

Either equinox marks the peak of aurora season, along with the period of geostationary satellite eclipse and flare season, as far-off satellites reach complete lighting quickly prior to and after entering and out of the Earth’s shadow. Equinox season is likewise a fun time to spy the evasive zodiacal light at dawn or sunset. In contrast, the solstices mark a duration near which the International Space Station gets in a period of complete lighting, with June preferring the northern hemisphere for numerous sightings in one night, and December preferring the southern.

Here are those seasonal start dates for 2021:

January 2 nd: Earth is at perihelion

March 20 th: northward equinox

June 21 st: northward solstice

July 5 th: Earth is at aphelion

September 22 nd: southward equinox

December 21 st: southward solstice

2021 likewise continues to be an ‘ecliptic-like’ year in regards to the Moon’s course versus the ecliptic airplane, as we head towards the ‘hilly years’ mid-decade around 2025. In 2021, the ‘Supermoon’ or the Full Moon nearby perigee (plus an overall lunar eclipse) takes place on May 26 th, and the ‘Minimoon’ with Full Moon nearby apogee takes place on December 19 th A Blue Moon likewise takes place on August 22 nd, in the old timey antiquated sense ofthe 3rd in a season with 4

Occultations in 2021

It’s constantly enjoyable to see the Moon cover a brilliant star or world while it weaves its regular monthly flight ’round the ecliptic airplane. The Moon occults 3 worlds 7 times in 2021: Mercury two times, Venus two times, and Mars 3 times:

April 17th: Mars versus a 26% lit up, waxing crescent Moon for southeast Asia.

The Moon occults Mars for SEAsia Credit: Occult 4.2.

May 12th: Venus versus a 1% lit up, thin waxing crescent Moon for the South Pacific.

November 3rd: Mercury versus a 2% lit up subsiding crescent Moon for northeastern North America.

November 8th: Venus versus a 20% lit up waxing crescent Moon for the northwestern Pacific area.

December 3rd: Mars versus a 1% lit up subsiding crescent Moon, for northeast Asia.

December fourth: Mercury versus a 1% lit up waxing crescent Moon for South Africa.

Dec coal 31 s t: Mars versus a 6% lit up subsiding crescent Moon for SE Asia.

The Moon does not handle to occult a +1 st magnitude star in 2021, however does go to +3.1 magnitude Mebsuta (Epsilon Geminorum), +2.6 magnitude Acrab (Beta Scorpii), +2.8 magnitude Lambda Sagittarii, and +2.1 magnitude Sigma Sagittarii in 2021.

Highlighted events for occultations of these stars in 2021 consist of:

Jan uary 26 th: Epsilon Geminorum for Southeast Asia (96% lit up, waxing gibbous Moon).

Feb ruary 5 th: Beta Scorpii for India (38% lit up, subsiding crescent Moon).

Apr il 3 rd: Lambda Sagittarii for Australia and Southeast Asia (60% lit up, subsiding gibbous Moon).

April 28 th: Beta Scorpii for South Africa (97% lit up, subsiding gibbous Moon).

May 28 th: Sigma Sagittarii for North Africa and the Middle East (94% lit up, subsiding gibbous Moon).

June 24 th: Lambda Sagittarii for South Africa (99% lit up Moon near Full).

June 25 th: Sigma Sagittarii for North America (99% lit up Moon near Full).

July 22 nd: Sigma Sagittarii for North Africa and southwest Asia (91% lit up, waxing gibbous Moon).

Aug ust 19 th: Sigma Sagittarii southern North America (89% lit up, waxing gibbous Moon).

Sept coal 2 nd: Epsilon Geminorum for Europe (21% lit up, subsiding crescent Moon).

Occultations: Asteroids versus Stars

Tiny asteroids can, on celebration, pass in front of far-off stars, briefly exposing their shape as their ‘shadow’ sweeps throughout the surface area of the Earth, and over any persistent observer that occurs to be viewing along their course. On any given year, numerousasteroid occultations are predicted

In 2021, the brightest star occulted by an asteroid takes place on September 20 th, as 762 Pulcova occults a +7.1 magnitude star for Mexico and the southeastern United States.

The Planets in 2021

The dance of the worlds throughout the sky continues in 2021. The worlds Mercury and Venus are interior to the orbit of the Earth, and constantly appear in the dawn or sunset sky, racing backward and forward aroundthe Sun The best time to capture either world is when they’re near biggest elongation, or at their farthest angle versus the Sun as seen from Earth.

Greatest elongations for Mercury and Venus in 2021 are:

January 23rd: Mercury is 19 degrees east of the Sun at sunset.

March sixth: Mercury is 27 degrees west of the Sun at dawn.

May 17th: Mercury is 22 degrees east of the Sun at sunset.

July fourth: Mercury is 22 degrees west of the Sun at dawn.

September 14th: Mercury 27 degrees east of the Sun at sunset.

October 25th: Mercury is 18 degrees west of the Sun at dawn.

October 29th: Venus is 47 degrees east of the Sun at sunset.

Also, take a look at Venus on June 4 th, when it passes in front of the open cluster Messier 35 at sunset 18 degrees east of the Sun, and goes after Mars throughout the Beehive Cluster (Messier 44) on July 3 rd, 26 degrees east of the Sun at sunset. Mars crosses M44 on June 23 rd into June 24 th

Mars crossesthe Beehive Cluster Credit:Stellarium

Outer worlds orbiting the Sun outside to the Earth can reach opposition, increasing opposite to the settingSun This is the finest time to observe a provided world, as it remains above the horizon the whole night. On most years, each of the external worlds can reach opposition. Only quick Mars can avoid on rotating years … and 2021 is simply such a year.

March 4 th: 4 Vesta reaches opposition, at +6 th magnitude in the constellation Leo.

Jul y 17 th: Pluto reaches opposition, at +14 th magnitude in the constellation Sagittarius.

Aug ust 2 nd: Saturn reaches opposition at magnitude +0.2 in the constellation Capricornus.

Aug 20 th: Jupiter reaches opposition, at magnitude -2.9 on the Capricornus-Aquarius border.

Sep tember 14 th: Neptune reaches opposition, at +7.8 magnitude in the constellation Aquarius.

Nov coal 4 th: Uranus reaches opposition at magnitude +5.7 in the constellation Aries.

November 27 th: 1 Ceres reaches opposition at +7 magnitude in the constellation Taurus.

Mutual eclipse season for Jupiter’s significant moons starts in early 2021, as the 4 significant Galilean moons pass in front of one another, casting shadows and occulting each other in their intricate orbital dance. Innermost Io is in fact signed up with by a ‘faux moon’ on April 2 nd, as the +5.9 magnitude star 44 Capricorni passes simply 0.5″ from the moon around ~ 6:20 EDT/10:20 UT.

Varieties of transits and eclipses of Jupiter’s moons. Credit: Dave Dickinson

Saturn’s rings are tipped around 18 degrees open relative to our view in 2021 with the world’s north pole presently tipped sunward, and this tilt is narrowing towards edge-on in 2025.

The Best Conjunctions in 2021

The ‘Grand Conjunction’ of Jupiter and Saturn on December 21 st, 2020 was one for the ages. And hey, great deals of planetary combinations occur every year, supplying significant celestial pairings as the clockwork planetary system turns. We state ‘conjunction’ when it’s a twosome pairing, and ‘grouping’ when it’s 3 or more.

Some of the best celestial meet-ups to see for in 2021 are:

Mar ch 5 th: Mercury-Jupiter 21′ apart at dawn, 27 degrees from the Sun.

March 10 th: Mercury, Jupiter, Saturn and the subsiding crescent Moon form a 14 degree circle at dawn, 14 degrees from the Sun.

Looking eastward at occur to the early morning of March 10th. Credit: Stellarium.

April 25 th: Mercury-Venus are one degree apart at sunset, simply 7 degrees from the Sun.

May 12 th: Venus and the slim waxing crescent Moon are simply one degree apart at sunset, 12 degrees from the Sun.

July 11th: Venus, Mars, and the waxing crescent Moon fit in a 3 degree circle, 29 degrees from the Sun in the sunset sky.

Looking westward on the night of July 11th. Credit:Stellarium

Jul y 30 th: Mars-Regulus are 36′ apart, 23 degrees east of the Sun in the sunset sky.

Aug ust 18 th: Mercury and Mars are 4′ apart, 17 degrees east of the Sun in the sunset sky. This is the finest combination for 2021.

Comets at Perihelion

Every year, comets reoccur. While the majority of the significant routine comets follow popular orbits, brand-new comets on orbital courses determined in the thousands or countless year might appear without caution. Will 2021 host a ‘Great Comet?’ No one understands for sure … however for now, here’s the list of foolproof phantoms of recognized comets to see for the coming year:

May 26 th: Comet 7/P Pons-Winnecke reaches perihelion, shining at +8 th magnitude in the constellation Aquarius.

July 13 th: Comet 15P/Finlay reaches perihelion, shining at +9 th magnitude in the constellation Taurus.

August 21 st: Comet 8P/Tuttle reaches perihelion, shining at +9 th magnitude in the constellation Cancer.

September 17 th: Comet 6P/d’Arrest reaches perihelion, shining at +9 th magnitude in Sagittarius.

November 3 rd: Comet 67/P Churyumov-Gerasimenko reaches perihelion, shining at +9 th magnitude in the constellation Gemini.

Meteor S howers in 2021

2021 is an ‘off year’ for lots of significant showers, consisting of the Geminids, Leonids and the Quadrantids, owing to the interfering stage ofthe Moon Your best option in 2021 are the faithful August Perseids, with the waxing crescent Moon securely out of view:

May sixth: The Eta Aquariids peak with a Zenithal Hourly Rate (ZHR) of 50, throughout a 23% lit up, subsiding crescent Moon.

June 7th: The daytime Arietids peak with a ZHR of 30, throughout a 7% lit up, subsiding crescent Moon.

Aug ust 12 th: The Perseids peak with a ZHR of 100, throughout a 18% lit up, waxing crescent Moon.

October 10th: The Taurids peak with a ZHR of 10, throughout a 22% lit up, waxing crescent Moon (Note: the source comet 2P/Encke simply reached perihelion in 2020).

Dec coal 3 rd: The Andromedids peak with a ZHR of 20, throughout a slim 1% lit up, subsiding crescent Moon.

That’s what we can anticipate in the great year of astronomy turning up in 2021. Watch this area: we’ll be blogging about these events and more in the year to come.

Lead image credit: Comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE overKitt Peak Image credit and copyright: Robert Sparks.

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