Celestial events 2021: New moons, super moons, meteor showers and more

Celestial events 2021: New moons, super moons, meteor showers and more

Looking out into the night sky and seeing a stunning scene of meteors or even just the craters of the moon is enough to spark that magical childlike curiosity inside of us all. 

Space is a vast completely silent abyss, it is forever changing and evolving.

Stars are being birthed and die just as we do with mighty supernovas occuring every 50 years in each galaxy. 

The awe-inspiring nature of astronomy treats us to spectacular sky shows each year.

Here are the upcoming celestial events taking place in 2021, according to SeaSky:

January 2: Earth’s Perihelion

At 13:50 the Earth will reach its perihelion—the point on its orbit that is closest to the Sun.

January 3-4: Quadrantids Meteor Shower 

The Quadrantids are usually active between the end of December and the start of January, peaking between around the third and fourth. 

Unlike other meteor showers which last a couple of days, the Quadrantids only last a few hours. 

January 13 – New Moon

The moon will be located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun and therefore will not be visible in the night sky. 

This phase occurs at 05:02 and this is the best time to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters.

January 24 – Mercury at Greatest Eastern Elongation

The rocky planet of Mercury, known as a terrestrial planet, reaches greatest eastern elongation of 18.6 degrees from the Sun.

This is the best time to view Mercury since it will be at its highest point above the horizon in the evening sky. Look for the planet low in the western sky just after sunset.

January 28 – Wolf Moon

The first full Moon of the year is lovingly referred to as the Wolf Moon by indigeneous peoples in America as this is the time of year hungry wolf packs would howl outside their camps.

The face of the Moon will be fully illuminated as it will appear directly opposite the Sun, on the other side of the Earth.

February 11 – New Moon 

The Moon will not be visible in the night sky. This phase occurs at 19:08. 

February 27 – Full Moon 

The Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be fully illuminated. 

This full moon was known by First Nation Americans as the Snow Moon because the heaviest snows usually fell during this time of the year.

March 6 – Mercury at Greatest Western Elongation

Mercury reaches greatest western elongation of 27.3 degrees from the Sun. This is a great time to view Mercury since it will be at its highest point above the horizon in the morning sky.

To see it look out for the planet low in the eastern sky just before sunrise.

March 13 – New Moon

The Moon will be located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun and will not be visible in the night sky. 

March 20 – March Equinox

Times Series:

The Sun will shine directly on the equator and there will be nearly equal amounts of day and night throughout the world.

This is also the first day of spring (vernal equinox) in the northern hemisphere and the first day of fall (autumnal equinox) in the southern hemisphere.

March 20 – Venus at Greatest Western Elongation 

Venus, the second planet from the sun, reaches greatest eastern elongation of 46.6 degrees from the Sun.

This is the best time to view Venus since it will be at its highest point above the horizon in the morning sky. 

March 28 – Full Moon

Times Series:

The Moon will be fully illuminated. 

This full moon was known by Indigenous Peoples as the Worm Moon because this was the time of year when the ground would begin to soften and the earthworms would reappear. 

April 12 – New Moon

The Moon will not be visible in the night sky. 

April 22, 23 – Lyrids Meteor Shower

The annual Lyrids Meteor Shower usually produces about 20 meteors per hour at its peak.

It is produced by dust particles left behind by comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher, which was discovered in 1861.

The shower runs annually from April 16-25.

It peaks this year on the night of the night of the 22nd and morning of the 23rd.

These meteors can sometimes produce bright dust trails that last for several seconds.

The nearly full moon will be a problem this year because its glare will block out all but the brightest meteors.

But if you are patient you may still be able to catch a few good ones.

Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Lyra, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

April 27 – Full Moon, Supermoon

The Moon will be fully illuminated. 

This full moon was known by Indigenous Peoples as the Pink Moon because it marked the appearance of the moss pink, or wild ground phlox, which is one of the first spring flowers.

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It is also the first of three supermoons for 2021. The Moon will be near its closest approach to the Earth and may look slightly larger and brighter than usual.

May 6, 7 – Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower

Times Series:

The Eta Aquarids is capable of producing up to 60 meteors per hour at its peak. However, most of the activity is seen in the Southern Hemisphere.

In the Northern Hemisphere, the rate can reach about 30 meteors per hour. The shower runs annually from April 19 to May 28. It peaks this year on the night of May 6 and the morning of the May 7.

The second quarter moon will block out some of the faintest meteors this year. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Aquarius, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

May 11 – New Moon

The Moon will be located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun and will not be visible in the night sky. 

May 17 – Mercury at Greatest Eastern Elongation

The planet Mercury reaches greatest eastern elongation of 22 degrees from the Sun. Look for the planet low in the western sky just after sunset.

May 26 – The Flower Moon – Full Moon, Supermoon

The Moon will be fully illuminated. 

This full moon was known by Indigenous Peoples as the Flower Moon because this was the time of year when spring flowers appeared in abundance. 

May 26 – Total Lunar Eclipse

Times Series:

A total lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes completely through the Earth’s dark shadow, or umbra.

During this type of eclipse, the Moon will gradually get darker and then take on a rusty or blood red color.

However, the eclipse will be visible throughout the Pacific Ocean and parts of eastern Asia, Japan, Australia, and western North America.

June 10 – New Moon 

The Moon will be located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun and will not be visible in the night sky. 

June 10 – Annular Solar Eclipse

An annular solar eclipse occurs when the Moon is too far away from the Earth to completely cover the Sun.

This results in a ring of light around the darkened Moon. The Sun’s corona is not visible during an annular eclipse.

The path of this eclipse will be confined to extreme eastern Russia, the Arctic Ocean, western Greenland, and Canada.

A partial eclipse will be visible in the northeastern United States, Europe, and most of Russia. 

June 21 – June Solstice or Summer Solstice

The North Pole of the earth will be tilted toward the Sun, which will have reached its northernmost position in the sky and will be directly over the Tropic of Cancer at 23.44 degrees north latitude.

This is the first day of summer, summer solstice, in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of winter, winter solstice, in the Southern Hemisphere.

June 24 – Full Moon, Supermoon

This is the last of three Supermoons for 2021. 

The Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be fully illuminated.

This full moon was known by Indigenous Peoples as the Strawberry Moon because it signaled the time of year to gather ripening fruit. It also coincides with the peak of the strawberry harvesting season. 

July 4 – Mercury at Greatest Western Elongation 

The planet Mercury reaches greatest western elongation of 21.6 degrees from the Sun. 

July 10 – New Moon

The Moon will not be visible in the night sky. 

July 24 – Full Moon

The Moon’s face will be fully illuminated. This phase occurs at 02:37 UTC. This full moon was known by Indigenous Peoples as the Buck Moon because the male buck deer would begin to grow their new antlers at this time of year. 

July 28, 29 – Delta Aquarids Meteor Shower

Times Series:

The Delta Aquarids can produce up to 20 meteors per hour at its peak.

It is produced by debris left behind by comets Marsden and Kracht. The shower runs annually from July 12 to August 23.

It peaks this year on the night of July 28 and morning of July 29.

The nearly full moon will be a problem this year because it’s glare will block most of the faintest meteors. 

Meteors will radiate from the constellation Aquarius, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

August 2 – Saturn at Opposition 

The ringed planet will be at its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. It will be brighter than any other time of the year and will be visible all night long.

This is the best time to view and photograph Saturn and its moons. A medium-sized or larger telescope will allow you to see Saturn’s rings and a few of its brightest moons.

August 8 – New Moon. 

The Moon will not be visible in the night sky. 

August 12, 13 – Perseids Meteor Shower

The Perseids is one of the best meteor showers to observe, producing up to 60 meteors per hour at its peak.

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It is produced by comet Swift-Tuttle, which was discovered in 1862.

The Perseids are famous for producing a large number of bright meteors. The shower runs annually from July 17 to August 24. 

The waxing crescent moon will set early on the evening of August 12, leaving dark skies for what should be an excellent show.

Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Perseus, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

August 19 – Jupiter at Opposition. 

Jupiter will be fully illuminated by the Sun. It will be brighter than any other time of the year and will be visible all night long.

This is the best time to view and photograph Jupiter and its moons.

A medium-sized telescope should be able to show you some of the details in Jupiter’s cloud bands. A good pair of binoculars should allow you to see Jupiter’s four largest moons, appearing as bright dots on either side of the planet.

August 22 – Full Moon, Blue Moon. 

Times Series:

Since this is the third of four full moons in this season, it is known as a blue moon.

This rare calendar event only happens once every few years, giving rise to the term, “once in a blue moon.” There are normally only three full moons in each season of the year. But since full moons occur every 29.53 days, occasionally a season will contain 4 full moons. The extra full moon of the season is known as a blue moon. Blue moons occur on average once every 2.7 years.

September 7 – New Moon

The Moon will not be visible in the night sky. 

September 14 – Neptune at Opposition 

The giant blue planet will be at its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. It will be brighter than any other time of the year and will be visible all night long.

This is the best time to view and photograph Neptune. Due to its extreme distance from Earth, it will only appear as a tiny blue dot and can only be viewed through a powerful telescope. 

September 14 – Mercury at Greatest Eastern Elongation

The planet Mercury reaches greatest eastern elongation of 26.8 degrees from the Sun. 

September 20 – Full Moon

The Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face  will be fully illuminated.

This moon is also known as the Harvest Moon. The Harvest Moon is the full moon that occurs closest to the September equinox each year.

September 22 – September Equinox

The Sun will shine directly on the equator and there will be nearly equal amounts of day and night throughout the world. This is also the first day of autumn, marking the autumnal equinox in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of spring -vernal equinox – in the Southern Hemisphere.

October 6 – New Moon

The Moon will be located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun and will not be visible in the night sky. 

October 7 – Draconids Meteor Shower

Times Series:

The Draconids is a minor meteor shower producing only about 10 meteors per hour. It is produced by dust grains left behind by comet 21P Giacobini-Zinner, which was first discovered in 1900.

The Draconids is an unusual shower in that the best viewing is in the early evening instead of early morning like most other showers.

The shower runs annually from October 6-10 and peaks this year on the night of the 7th.

This year, the nearly new moon will leave dark skies for what should be an excellent show. 

October 20 – Full Moon

The Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be fully illuminated.

This full moon was known by Indigenous Peoples as the Hunters Moon because at this time of year the leaves are falling and the game is fat and ready to hunt. 

October 21, 22 – Orionids Meteor Shower

The Orionids is an average shower producing up to 20 meteors per hour at its peak.

It is produced by dust grains left behind by comet Halley, which has been known and observed since ancient times.

Meteors will radiate from the constellation Orion, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

October 25 – Mercury at Greatest Western Elongation 

The planet Mercury reaches greatest western elongation of 18.4 degrees from the Sun. 

October 29 – Venus at Greatest Eastern Elongation

The planet Venus reaches greatest eastern elongation of 47 degrees from the Sun. 

November 4 – New Moon

The Moon will be located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun and will not be visible in the night sky.

November 4, 5 – Taurids Meteor Shower

The Taurids is a long-running minor meteor shower only producing only about 5-10 meteors per hour. It is unusual because it consists of two separate streams.

The first is produced by dust grains left behind by Asteroid 2004 TG10. The second stream is produced by debris left behind by Comet 2P Encke.

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The new moon will leave dark skies this year for what should be an excellent show. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Taurus, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

November 5 – Uranus at Opposition

The blue-green planet will be at its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. It will be brighter than any other time of the year and will be visible all night long. This is the best time to view Uranus. Due to its distance, it will only appear as a tiny blue-green dot in the most powerful telescopes.

November 17, 18 – Leonids Meteor Shower

Times Series:

The Leonids produces up to 15 meteors per hour at its peak. This shower is unique in that it has a cyclonic peak about every 33 years where hundreds of meteors per hour can be seen. The last of these occurred in 2001.

The Leonids is produced by dust grains left behind by comet Tempel-Tuttle, which was discovered in 1865.

Unfortunately the nearly full moon will dominate the sky this year, blocking all but the brightest meteors. But if you are patient, you should still be able to catch a few good ones.

Meteors will radiate from the constellation Leo, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

November 19 – Full Moon

The Moon will be fully illuminated.

This full moon was known by Indigenous Peoples as the Beaver Moon because this was the time of year to set the beaver traps before the swamps and rivers froze. It has also been known as the Frosty Moon and the Dark Moon.

November 19 – Partial Lunar Eclipse

A partial lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes through the Earth’s partial shadow, or penumbra, and only a portion of it passes through the darkest shadow, or umbra.

During this type of eclipse a part of the Moon will darken as it moves through the Earth’s shadow.

The eclipse will be visible throughout most of eastern Russia, Japan, the Pacific Ocean, North America, Mexico, Central America, and parts of western South America. 

December 4 – New Moon

The Moon will be located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun and will not be visible in the night sky. 

December 4- Total Solar Eclipse. 

A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon completely blocks the Sun, revealing the Sun’s outer atmosphere known as the corona.

The path of totality for this eclipse will be limited to Antarctica and the southern Atlantic Ocean.

A partial eclipse will be visible throughout much of South Africa.

December 13, 14 – Geminids Meteor Shower

Times Series:

The Geminids is the king of the meteor showers.

It is considered by many to be the best shower in the heavens, producing up to 120 multicolored meteors per hour at its peak.

It is produced by debris left behind by an asteroid known as 3200 Phaethon, which was discovered in 1982.

The waxing gibbous moon will block out most of the fainter meteors this year. But the Geminids are so numerous and bright that this could still be a good show. 

Meteors will radiate from the constellation Gemini, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

December 19 – Full Moon.

The Moon will be fully illuminated. 

This full moon was known by Indigenous Peoples as the Cold Moon because this is the time of year when the cold winter air settles in and the nights become long and dark. 

December 21 – December Solstice

The South Pole of the earth will be tilted toward the Sun, which will have reached its southernmost position in the sky and will be directly over the Tropic of Capricorn at 23.44 degrees south latitude.

This is the first day of winter, marking the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of summer – the summer solstice – in the Southern Hemisphere.

December 21, 22 – Ursids Meteor Shower

The Ursids is a minor meteor shower producing about 5-10 meteors per hour.

It is produced by dust grains left behind by comet Tuttle, which was first discovered in 1790.

The nearly full moon will be a problem this year, blocking all but the brightest meteors.

Meteors will radiate from the constellation Ursa Minor, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

Which celestial event are you most looking forward to? Let us know in the comments.

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