As someone who loves watching the sky but doesn’t really know much about it apart from what I learned in high school, I always find myself googling celestial phenomena. And sometimes, I’m disappointed to find that a major occurrence just happened and I missed it. So this year I’ve come prepared and compiled a list of many cool things that are happening in the sky in 2018.
I intend not to miss them, and you don’t want to either because we may never see some of them again.
On January 31st we witnessed a supermoon, a blue moon and a total lunar eclipse all at the same time! The last time this happened was almost 150 years ago.
But what does it mean? A blue moon is when a full moon comes up twice in one month, which is not as rare as it seems. And no, the moon isn’t actually blue. A supermoon occurs when the satellite is at its closest point to Earth, therefore appearing larger than usual. And a lunar eclipse means that the Earth stands between the moon and the sun, preventing the star’s rays from reflecting onto the moon.
In their continuous journey around the sun, the planets of Saturn, Mars, and Jupiter are on their way to aligning – and it’ll happen March 7th or 8th.
Through late February and early March, they will find themselves in a line. It is only in movies and prophecies that all the planets in our solar system align and create the end of the world as we know it – this is the closest we get in real life. The alignment will be even more beautiful on March 8th because the moon will position itself between Mars and Jupiter.
On July 15, the crescent moon will appear incredibly close to Venus. The phenomenon will be best observed from North America, so if you happen to be there, make sure you take lots of pictures for the rest of the world. Venus, named after the Roman goddess of love and beauty, is the second brightest natural object in the night sky, always visible to the naked eye, rarely even during the day.
Since the moon will be extremely thin on July 15, it will be easy to spot and recognize Venus next to it.
For the second time in 2018, the Moon will go dark on July 27th, and it’s going to be at its darkest and smallest, as the eclipse will happen when the Moon is its farthest point from Earth and traveling through the darkest part of Earth’s shadow. Because of the Moon being so dark, Mars will be extremely visible. It will be at opposition, looking like a very bright orange star in the sky.
After opposition, Mars will also be the closest to us it’s been in 15 years. We won’t see it as big and close until 2035.
At sunrise on August 11, the North Hemisphere will witness a partial solar eclipse. The moon will stand in the sun’s way, obscuring some of its light. Partial solar eclipses can only happen at the new moon when the sun and the moon are in a conjunction known as the syzygy.
The Perseid Meteor shower graces our summer night sky every year during mid-August. We’ll be wishing upon a lot of shooting stars this year, as possibly 60-70 an hour will be very visible on August 12, on a moonless sky.
The Perseid Meteor shower is caused every year by the Earth rotating through the dust and debris left behind by the Comet Swift-Tuttle, the largest object to repeatedly pass by Earth. Even though the last time Swift-Tuttle passed by was in 1992, it caused enough commotion in space that we see those meteors in the same spot every year. The next time the comet will come close in its trip around the sun will be in 2126.
On December 16th, the small comet 46P/ Wirtanen will be spotted as it comes the closest it’s ever been to our planet, passing by 7 million miles of Earth. Optimistically, it will be visible for weeks starting from mid-December, since this will be its brightest pass. In other words, it might not exactly be a shooting star, but you can wish on this one too if you can spot it.
And last but not least, there’s a new star in the sky. It’s called the Humanity Star, and humans put it there so we aren’t as excited about it. We already have enough beautiful, natural events to look forward to that adding a man-made ones don’t quite cut it.
If you too love the sky, make sure to check out all these phenomena and to document the experience; take pictures and, years from now, you will be able to say you were there when they happened.