Know about this year's glorious meteor showers and super moon events and how to view them
From the visit of the magnificent comet Neowise to the great Saturn-Jupiter conjunction, 2020 was an exciting year for stargazers worldwide. Although last year seemed like a striking year with rare stargazing events, the year 2021 is most likely to take over that title, with its array of splendid super moon events, solar and lunar eclipses, and breath-taking meteor showers.
Here's a list of this year's much anticipated astronomical events, and a complete guide to when, where and how to watch them.
Total Lunar Eclipse, Blood Moon - May 26
This year's total lunar eclipse accompanies the closest approach of the moon to the earth. This event is worth noting down because this would be the largest moon to appear in 2021. A lunar eclipse occurs when the moon, sun and the earth align themselves in a line, with the latter being in the middle. The moon would appear unusually red and wide during the eclipse, calling it the Super Blood Moon of 2021.
The eclipse will be visible on May 26 from the Asian continental parts during the moon-rise in the evening time. The eclipse can last for as long as five hours during nighttime, giving us enough time to savour it and click a picture or two.
Annual Solar Eclipse, Strawberry Moon - June 10 and June 24
The annular solar eclipse is occurring on June 10, with the moon overshadowing the sun. During the eclipse, the moon would show up as if it has a bright ring around itself, known as the Ring of Fire. A solar eclipse occurs when the sun, moon and earth are aligned such that the moon covers up the sun to cause a shadow on the planet.
June also brings another spectacular moon event called the Strawberry Moon. This type of super moon will appear like a great golden ball, following the sunset on the evening of June 24, Thursday. The full moon will be visible in the southeast sky near the horizon at 2:40 P.M Eastern Time.
Delta Aquarids meteor shower - July 28
Delta Aquarids meteor shower is a prominent meteor shower that streaks through the clear dark skies in the southern hemisphere. Apart from being faint meteors in the summer sky, stargazers can only expect about 15 to 20 of these in an hour, given that the atmospheric conditions are satisfactory. The shower peaks around July 27-30, although it will linger till the early weeks of August. The best time to view Delta Aquarids shower would be in the early mornings of late July, a few hours before sunrise.
Perseids meteor shower - August 11-12
This meteor shower is by far one of the most glorious night-sky events every year. Perseids meteor shower offers the most bright, stable and numerous meteors that flash across the northern hemisphere skies. On a clear night sky with lower light pollution, one can see more than 80 strikes in one hour with the naked eye. Like the Delta Aquarids, the best time to catch a glimpse of the Perseids is right before sunrise, in early August.
Although the meteor shower peaks on August 11 to 12, it is best to view it two days before, during and after the peak shower. Remember that the time you choose to observe the meteor shower doesn't involve the rising moon and its brightness to cast over the night sky. There is no particular region in the sky that you want to focus on to view the Perseids shower as the meteors will be streaking across the sky in all directions.
Partial Lunar Eclipse, Leonids meteor shower - November 17-19
The month of November offers us two stargazing events: a meteor shower and a lunar eclipse. The second lunar eclipse occurring this year on November 19 is a partial lunar eclipse. The moon will seem darker, and the eclipse will be visible to most of the eastern Pacific Ocean, Central America and North America.
The Leonids shower is another mediocre meteor shower that occurs during November 6-30 every year. It produces up to 15 streaks per hour at its peak. The best time to observe the event would be the night of November 17 to the pre-dawn hours of November 18. Although the peak nights coincide with a bright full moon, watch out for meteors in the night sky in the following days after the peak.
Total Solar Eclipse, Geminids meteor shower - December 4-17
Another solar eclipse is happening this year on December 4. The moon completely covers the sun by casting a shadow on the earth, making it a total solar eclipse.
The Geminids meteor shower is one of the most beloved meteor showers by stargazers across the world. This shower produces up to 120 meteors per hour during its peak. Not only does it offer bright and numerous meteors, but they are also occasionally multicoloured! This year, it peaks during December 13-14, with the most number of streaks in the after-hours of midnight. The meteors emerge from the Gemini constellation, but one can find them almost anywhere in the sky.
Tips to observe meteor showers most effectively:
One of the most important things to look out for a productive stargazing experience is to find a spot where the interference of light is minimum. Select areas that are free of light pollution and offers clear dark skies. Another significant factor to consider is the duration of the meteor showers. Don't just pay attention to the peak durations of such events, and look out for any activity in the night sky in the following few days. Most meteor showers can be viewed with the naked eye and don't require binoculars or telescopes to observe.
Also, remember to adjust your eyes to the darkness before actually stargazing. This technique will allow your eyes to catch on fainter streaks much easily. Finally, get your stargazer gang for a camp-out at night because you don't want to be doing this all alone!