Watch the night sky for these celestial events in 2023
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Stunning meteor showers, full moons and eclipses will light up the skies in 2023.
The year is sure to be a delight for astronomers with many celestial events on the calendar.
A comet discovered in March 2022 will make its closest approach to the sun on January 12, according to NASA. The comet, spotted by astronomers using the Zwicky Transient Facility at the Palomar Observatory in San Diego County, California, is named C/2022 E3 (ZTF) and will make its closest pass to Earth on February 2.
The comet should be visible through binoculars in the morning sky to northern hemisphere skywatchers for most of January and those in the southern hemisphere in early February, according to NASA.
INTERACTIVE: The best space photos of 2022
Every day there is always a good chance that the International Space Station will fly overhead. And if you ever want to know which planets are visible in the morning or evening sky, check out The Old Farmer’s Almanac’s calculator.
Here are the rest of the best celestial events of 2023, so you can get your binoculars and telescope ready.
Most years there are 12 full moons – one for each month. But in 2023, there will be 13 full moons, including two in August.
The second full moon in a month is known as a blue moon, like the phrase « once in a blue moon, » according to NASA. Typically, full moons occur every 29 days, whereas most months in our calendar are 30 or 31 days long, so the months and moon phases don’t always line up. This translates to a blue moon roughly every 2.5 years.
August’s two full moons can also be considered supermoons, according to EarthSky. Definitions of a supermoon can vary, but the term generally refers to a full moon that is brighter and closer to Earth than normal and therefore appears larger in the night sky.
Some astronomers say the phenomenon occurs when the moon is less than 90% of perigee – its closest approach to Earth in orbit. Under this definition, the July full moon will also be considered a supermoon event, according to EarthSky.
Here is the list of full moons for 2023, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac:
- January 6: Wolf Moon
- February 5: Snow Moon
- March 7: Worm Moon
- April 6: Pink Moon
- May 5: Flower Moon
- June 3: Strawberry Moon
- July 3: Buckmoon
- August 1: Sturgeon Moon
- August 30: Blue Moon
- September 29: Harvest Moon
- October 28: Hunter’s Moon
- November 27: Beaver Moon
- December 26: Cold Moon
Although these are the popularized names associated with the monthly full moon, each has its own meaning in Native American tribes (many also being referred to by different names).
There will be two solar eclipses and two lunar eclipses in 2023.
A total solar eclipse will occur on April 20, visible to those in Australia, Southeast Asia and Antarctica. This kind of event occurs when the moon moves between the sun and the Earth, blocking the sun.
And for some skywatchers in Indonesia, parts of Australia and Papua New Guinea, it will actually be a hybrid solar eclipse. The curvature of the Earth’s surface can cause some eclipses to switch between total and annular as the moon’s shadow moves across the globe, according to NASA.
Like a total solar eclipse, the moon passes between the sun and Earth during an annular eclipse — but this happens when the moon is at or near its furthest point from Earth, according to NASA. This makes the moon appear smaller than the sun so it doesn’t completely block our star and creates a bright ring around the moon.
An annular solar eclipse sweeping across the Western Hemisphere will occur on October 14 and will be visible across North, Central and South America.
Be sure to wear appropriate eclipse glasses to safely view solar eclipses, as sunlight can damage the eyes.
Meanwhile, a lunar eclipse can only occur during a full moon when the sun, earth, and moon align and the moon passes into the earth’s shadow. When this happens, the Earth casts two shadows on the Moon during the eclipse. The partial outer shade is called the penumbra; the full, dark shadow is the shadow.
As the full moon moves into Earth’s shadow, it will darken, but it will not disappear. Instead, sunlight passing through Earth’s atmosphere brightens the moon dramatically, turning it red – which is why the event is often called a « blood moon. »
Depending on the weather conditions in your area, it may be a rusty red or a brick color. This happens because blue light experiences stronger atmospheric scattering, so red light will be the most dominant color brought out when sunlight passes through our atmosphere and shines onto the moon.
A penumbral lunar eclipse will occur on May 5 for those in Africa, Asia, and Australia. This less dramatic version of a lunar eclipse occurs when the moon passes through the penumbra, or the faint outer part of Earth’s shadow.
A partial lunar eclipse on October 28 will be visible to those in Europe, Asia, Australia, Africa, parts of North America, and much of South America. Partial eclipses occur when the Sun, Earth, and Moon are not completely aligned, so only part of the Moon passes into shadow.
The new year kicks off with the Quadrantid meteor shower, which is expected to peak on the night of January 3-4 for those in North America, according to the American Meteor Society.
It is the first of 12 meteor showers throughout the year, although the next one, the Lyrid meteor shower, does not peak until April.
Here are the peak dates for other showers to watch for in 2023:
- Lyrids: April 22-23
- Eta Aquariids: May 5-6
- Southern Delta Aquarids: July 30-31
- Alpha Capricornids: July 30-31
- Perseids: August 12-13
- Orionids: October 20-21
- Southern Taurids: November 4-5
- Northern Taurids: November 11-12
- Leonids: November 17-18
- Geminids: December 13-14
- Ursids: December 21-22
If you live in an urban area, you might want to drive to a place that isn’t littered with city lights. If you manage to find an area unaffected by light pollution, meteors could be visible every two minutes from late evening until dawn.
Find an open area with a wide view of the sky. Make sure you have a chair or blanket so you can look up. And give your eyes about 20-30 minutes to adjust to the dark, without looking at your phone! — to make meteors easier to spot.