Eclipses, Meteors, the Dance of the Planets and More in Store for 2014
Three Supermoons, the prospect of a rogue meteor shower, and some spectacular planetary canoodling are what the sky-eyed among us will be ogling in 2014. Throw in no fewer than four eclipses—two lunar and two solar—and you’ve got one action-packed year.
In the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it department, on January 15–16 we already have the smallest full moon of the year—super-unsized, as it were—and it’s even tinier than the micro moon we had in December. In Eastern Standard Time, this happens at exactly 11:52 p.m. on Wednesday January 15.
In the realm of the offbeat, an extremely rare astronomical event will take place on March 20, when the star Regulus will disappear for 12 seconds as asteroid 163 Erigone crosses exactly in front of it. Regulus, in the constellation we know today as Leo, is one of the sky’s brightest lights. But Erigone will snuff it out briefly along a 45-mile-wide path that crosses southeast to northwest from New York City, through New York State and into Ontario, Canada, according to the website Seasky.org.
The real fun begins in spring, though, when on Tax Day, April 15, the first of four eclipses for the year will happen. This one is a total lunar eclipse, with the full effect being visible over much of Turtle Island, according to NASA’s eclipse site. This is when Mother Earth, passing between the sun and moon, obscures the latter with her shadow, rendering it rust-red at maximum eclipse. The time of greatest eclipse will happen at 4:07 p.m. Eastern time. Those on the East Coast will get a partial eclipse, while elsewhere on Turtle Island observers will get the full deal.
The Lyrid meteor shower will swing by on April 22 and 23, though moonlight might interfere a bit. At the end of the month, on April 29, an annular solar eclipse will be visible from Australia and the southern Indian Ocean, according to Universetoday.com. That will happen at 6:05 Universal Time.
“This is a unique, non-central antumbral eclipse!” Universetoday.com exclaims. We have no idea what that means, but it sounds exciting!
Actually the term makes it a hybrid, meaning that some people will see the “ring of fire” type of eclipse while others will be treated to full totality.
A few weeks later is the year’s second meteor shower of note—the first being the Quadrantids, which ushered in 2014 during early January. Peaking overnight on May 6 and 7 are the Eta Aquariids peaking, best observed from the Atlantic region, with the moon just seven days old and thus not bright enough to interfere.
Earth dwellers could be in for a treat on May 24, with the potential for a “brief but intense” shower, Seasky.org says. It’s just an astronomical hunch of what might happen when Earth passes through the debris field of comet P/209 LINEAR.
“Nothing is certain, but many mathematical models are predicting that this could be the most intense meteor shower in more than a decade,” the website said.
Fast forward to July, when the first full Super Moon of 2014 hits us on the 12th. Twenty-one hours later the moon will reach perigee, its closest approach to the earth, making for some saucy tides. On July 30 the Southern Delta Aquarid meteors peak. Here, again, the moon will be a mere crescent, not likely to interfere with the view.
August brings us, in quick succession, super moon number two (August 10), the Perseid meteor shower (August 13) and a spectacular conjunction of Venus and Jupiter, the closest that two naked-eye planets will come to one another for the whole year.
The year’s third super moon wows us on September 8.
October 8 gives us a total lunar eclipse, the second of the year, at least partially visible throughout most of North America, South America, eastern Asia and Australia. The west will see a total eclipse. Also in October, two meteor showers—the Draconids on October 8 and 9, and the Orionids on October 22—pay their annual visits. For the Orionids especially, a fading moon will afford a decently dark sky, in contrast with the Orionids of 2013.
This is followed soon after by the second solar eclipse of the year, a partial that will be visible from western Turtle Island on October 23. The greatest degree of eclipse will occur in Nunavut, according to NASA’s eclipse site. The Eastern half of the U.S. and Canada (except for the far, far northeast) will be treated to a sunset version, NASA said.
Jumping ahead about a month, the Leonid meteors will peak on November 18, again with the best viewing along the Atlantic. And 2014 viewing is considered optimal, with the moon at its waning crescent phase, unlike its 2013 show.
For the next sky party we have to wait until the holidays (already?!) kick off in mid-December, with the Geminid meteors. This year those shooting stars will have an even tougher time with the moon than they did in 2013.
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