The cosmos are always moving, changing, and making way for awe-inspiring astronomical phenomena. These are the best, most exciting events to watch for in the coming weeks and months.
Orionid meteor shower (Sept. 26 – Nov. 22)The Orionid meteor shower, caused by Halley’s Comet, runs for three months but will peak in the pre-dawn hours of Oct. 21, when viewers will be able to see a maximum of 20 “shooting stars,” according to the American Meteor Society. The Orionids are named for their proximity to the constellation Orion.
Those looking for a great show should find an early-morning location “away from light pollution,” per Forbes. This is because “a near-First Quarter Moon will make the pre-midnight night sky bright,” though the “moon will set in the early hours.”
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Geminid meteor shower (Nov. 19 – Dec. 24)One of the last meteor showers of the year, the Geminids will fill the sky with 120 meteors per hour at its peak, which is expected on Dec. 14, according to EarthSky. The meteors travel at 78,000 miles per hour on average and tend to be yellow in color. NASA calls this “one of the best and most reliable annual meteor showers.”
Unlike the aforementioned meteor showers, the Geminids come from an asteroid called Phaethon rather than a comet. The asteroid is only about three miles in length but produces a surprising amount of debris. The shower can be seen all over the world and starts around 9 or 10 p.m. but is best viewed right before dawn.
Penumbral lunar eclipse (March 25, 2024)The moon is going to pass through the Earth’s shadow in March, creating a penumbral eclipse. Unlike other eclipses, “they are extremely subtle events to observe,” per Inthesky.org. “In a penumbral eclipse the Moon passes through an outer region of the Earth’s shadow called the penumbra,” and in turn “the Earth appears to cover part of the Sun’s disk, but not all of it,” and “the Moon’s brightness will be reduced.”
The phenomenon is difficult to see without “very astute vision, or in carefully controlled photographs.” However, “the whole of the Moon’s face will pass within the Earth’s penumbra, and so the reduction of the Moon’s brightness will be more perceptible than usual.” The eclipse will be visible all through North America.
Total solar eclipse (April 8, 2024)A total solar eclipse will be making an appearance over North America in April 2024, and another “won’t be visible across the contiguous U.S. again until August 2044,” CNN reported.
During the eclipse, the moon will completely cover the sun, causing the sky to briefly become darker as the moon passes through. In addition, “bright stars or planets may shine in the dark sky, and the air temperature will drop as the sun disappears,” CNN continued. Viewers should not look at the eclipse directly, especially when any amount of sunlight is visible.
The last total solar eclipse occurred in August 2017 and was known as the “Great American Eclipse.”
Update Nov. 18, 2023: This article has been updated throughout.
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