Astronomy 2021: Top Events for the Coming Year – Universe Today

Eclipses, meteor showers, occultations and extra in retailer for the subsequent 12 months of astronomy 2021.
Ready for one other thrilling 12 months of skywatching? 2020 produced a number of memorable astronomical occasions, together with a shock bare eye comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE, the positive-hearth Geminid meteors, and a positive, as soon as in a lifetime shut pairing of Jupiter and Saturn rounding out the 12 months.
The Sun additionally awoke from its slumber, as Solar Cycle #25 (lastly) acquired underway in earnest, with the final half of 2020 producing a few of the most large sunspots of current years. Expect extra of the similar in 2021, together with elevated aurora exercise, as we head in the direction of the peak of the 11-year photo voltaic most in mid-2025.

A dawn sunspot in late 2020… extra of the similar in retailer for 2021? Credit: Dave DickinsonTop 10 Astronomical Events for 2021
First, here’s a distilled record that includes the very the ‘best of the best’ occasions for the coming 12 months, in chronological order:
Starting in January: mutual eclipse season for Jupiter’s moons.
April 17th: An occultation of Mars by the Moon.
May 26th: A complete lunar eclipse.
June 10th: An annular photo voltaic eclipse.
June 23rd: Mars crosses the Beehive cluster (M44).
August 12th: The Perseid meteors peak.
August 18th: A detailed conjunction of Mars and Mercury.
October 10th: Taurid fireball season peaks.
November 19th: A partial lunar eclipse.
December 4th: A complete photo voltaic eclipse.
So what are you able to sit up for in 2021? Here’s our annual take a look at high skywatching occasions, coming to a sky close to you:
Eclipse Action in 2021
2021 incorporates the minimal variety of eclipses that may happen in a calendar 12 months with 4: two photo voltaic and two lunar.
Lunar eclipse levels. Credit: Dave Dickinson.Lunar eclipses embody: A complete lunar eclipse on May 26th, with a most period 15 minutes centered on the Pacific Rim area, and a deep (97% umbral) partial lunar eclipse on November 19th, favoring the Americas, Northern Europe, Eastern Asia, Australia and the Pacific.
The solely complete photo voltaic eclipse for 2021. Credit: NASA/GSFC/A.T. Sinclair.Solar eclipses in 2021 embody: an annular photo voltaic eclipse on June 10th, with a most period of three minutes and 51 seconds crossing the Arctic, and a complete photo voltaic eclipse on December 4th, with a most period for totality of 1 minute and 54 seconds crossing the Antarctic.
The Sun and Moon in 2021
Either equinox marks the peak of aurora season, in addition to the span of geostationary satellite tv for pc eclipse and flare season, as distant satellites attain full illumination shortly earlier than and after passing into and out of the Earth’s shadow. Equinox season can be a good time to spy the elusive zodiacal gentle at daybreak or nightfall. In distinction, the solstices mark a interval close to which the International Space Station enters a span of full illumination, with June favoring the northern hemisphere for a number of sightings in a single evening, and December favoring the southern.
Here are these seasonal begin dates for 2021:
January 2nd: Earth is at perihelion
March 20th: northward equinox
June 21st: northward solstice
July fifth: Earth is at aphelion
September 22nd: southward equinox
December 21st: southward solstice
2021 additionally continues to be an ‘ecliptic-like’ 12 months by way of the Moon’s path versus the ecliptic aircraft, as we head in the direction of the ‘hilly years’ mid-decade round 2025. In 2021, the ‘Supermoon’ or the Full Moon nearest perigee (plus a complete lunar eclipse) happens on May 26th, and the ‘Minimoon’ with Full Moon nearest apogee happens on December 19th. A Blue Moon additionally happens on August 22nd, in the previous timey archaic sense of the third in a season with 4.

Occultations in 2021
It’s at all times enjoyable to observe the Moon cowl up a vibrant star or planet whereas it weaves its month-to-month flight ‘spherical the ecliptic aircraft. The Moon occults three planets seven occasions in 2021: Mercury twice, Venus twice, and Mars thrice:
April 17th: Mars versus a 26% illuminated, waxing crescent Moon for southeast Asia.
The Moon occults Mars for SE Asia. Credit: Occult 4.2. May 12th: Venus versus a 1% illuminated, skinny waxing crescent Moon for the South Pacific.
November third: Mercury versus a 2% illuminated waning crescent Moon for northeastern North America.
November eighth: Venus versus a 20% illuminated waxing crescent Moon for the northwestern Pacific area.
December third: Mars versus a 1% illuminated waning crescent Moon, for northeast Asia.
December 4th: Mercury versus a 1% illuminated waxing crescent Moon for South Africa.
December 31st: Mars versus a 6% illuminated waning crescent Moon for SE Asia.
The Moon doesn’t handle to occult a +1st magnitude star in 2021, however does go to +3.1 magnitude Mebsuta (Epsilon Geminorum), +2.6 magnitude Acrab (Beta Scorpii), +2.eight magnitude Lambda Sagittarii, and +2.1 magnitude Sigma Sagittarii in 2021.
Highlighted occasions for occultations of those stars in 2021 embody:
January 26th: Epsilon Geminorum for Southeast Asia (96% illuminated, waxing gibbous Moon).
February fifth: Beta Scorpii for India (38% illuminated, waning crescent Moon).
April third: Lambda Sagittarii for Australia and Southeast Asia (60% illuminated, waning gibbous Moon).
April 28th: Beta Scorpii for South Africa (97% illuminated, waning gibbous Moon).
May 28th: Sigma Sagittarii for North Africa and the Middle East (94% illuminated, waning gibbous Moon).
June 24th: Lambda Sagittarii for South Africa (99% illuminated Moon close to Full).
June 25th: Sigma Sagittarii for North America (99% illuminated Moon close to Full).
July 22nd: Sigma Sagittarii for North Africa and southwest Asia (91% illuminated, waxing gibbous Moon).
August 19th: Sigma Sagittarii southern North America (89% illuminated, waxing gibbous Moon).
September 2nd: Epsilon Geminorum for Europe (21% illuminated, waning crescent Moon).
Occultations: Asteroids versus Stars
Tiny asteroids can, now and again, cross in entrance of distant stars, briefly revealing their form as their ‘shadow’ flits throughout the floor of the Earth, and over any diligent observer that occurs to be watching alongside their path. On any given 12 months, tons of of asteroid occultations are predicted.
In 2021, the brightest star occulted by an asteroid happens on September 20th, as 762 Pulcova occults a +7.1 magnitude star for Mexico and the southeastern United States.
The Planets in 2021
The dance of the planets throughout the sky continues in 2021. The worlds Mercury and Venus are inside to the orbit of the Earth, and at all times seem in the daybreak or nightfall sky, racing forwards and backwards round the Sun. The best possible time to catch both world is once they’re close to biggest elongation, or at their farthest angle versus the Sun as seen from Earth.
Greatest elongations for Mercury and Venus in 2021 are:
January 23rd: Mercury is 19 levels east of the Sun at nightfall.
March sixth: Mercury is 27 levels west of the Sun at daybreak.
May 17th: Mercury is 22 levels east of the Sun at nightfall.
July 4th: Mercury is 22 levels west of the Sun at daybreak.
September 14th: Mercury 27 levels east of the Sun at nightfall.
October 25th: Mercury is 18 levels west of the Sun at daybreak.
October 29th: Venus is 47 levels east of the Sun at nightfall.
Also, take a look at Venus on June 4th, when it passes in entrance of the open cluster Messier 35 at nightfall 18 levels east of the Sun, and chases Mars throughout the Beehive Cluster (Messier 44) on July third, 26 levels east of the Sun at nightfall. Mars crosses M44 on June 23rd into June 24th.
Mars crosses the Beehive Cluster. Credit: Stellarium. Outer planets orbiting the Sun exterior to the Earth can attain opposition, rising reverse to the setting Sun. This is the finest time to watch a given planet, because it stays above the horizon the complete evening. On most years, every of the outer planets can attain opposition. Only speedy Mars can skip on alternating years… and 2021 is simply such a 12 months.
March 4th: 4 Vesta reaches opposition, at +sixth magnitude in the constellation Leo.
July 17th: Pluto reaches opposition, at +14th magnitude in the constellation Sagittarius.
August 2nd: Saturn reaches opposition at magnitude +0.2 in the constellation Capricornus.
Aug 20th: Jupiter reaches opposition, at magnitude -2.9 on the Capricornus-Aquarius border.
September 14th: Neptune reaches opposition, at +7.eight magnitude in the constellation Aquarius.
November 4th: Uranus reaches opposition at magnitude +5.7 in the constellation Aries.
November 27th: 1 Ceres reaches opposition at +7 magnitude in the constellation Taurus.
Mutual eclipse season for Jupiter’s main moons begins in early 2021, as the 4 main Galilean moons cross in entrance of each other, casting shadows and occulting one another of their complicated orbital dance. Innermost Io is definitely joined by a ‘faux moon’ on April 2nd, as the +5.9 magnitude star 44 Capricorni passes simply 0.5” from the moon round ~6:20 EDT/10:20 UT.
Varieties of transits and eclipses of Jupiter’s moons. Credit: Dave DickinsonSaturn’s rings are tipped round 18 levels open relative to our view in 2021 with the planet’s north pole presently tipped sunward, and this tilt is narrowing in the direction of edge-on in 2025.
The Best Conjunctions in 2021
The ‘Grand Conjunction’ of Jupiter and Saturn on December 21st, 2020 was one for the ages. And hey, a number of planetary conjunctions occur yearly, offering dramatic celestial pairings as the clockwork photo voltaic system turns. We say ‘conjunction’ when it’s a twosome pairing, and ‘grouping’ when it’s three or extra.
Some of the best possible celestial meet-ups to observe for in 2021 are:
March fifth: Mercury-Jupiter 21’ aside at daybreak, 27 levels from the Sun.
March 10th: Mercury, Jupiter, Saturn and the waning crescent Moon type a 14 diploma circle at daybreak, 14 levels from the Sun.
Looking eastward at daybreak on the morning of March 10th. Credit: Stellarium.April 25th: Mercury-Venus are one diploma aside at nightfall, simply seven levels from the Sun.
May 12th: Venus and the slim waxing crescent Moon are only one diploma aside at nightfall, 12 levels from the Sun.
July 11th: Venus, Mars, and the waxing crescent Moon slot in a Three diploma circle, 29 levels from the Sun in the nightfall sky.
Looking westward on the night of July 11th. Credit: Stellarium. July 30th: Mars-Regulus are 36’ aside, 23 levels east of the Sun in the nightfall sky.
August 18th: Mercury and Mars are 4’ aside, 17 levels east of the Sun in the nightfall sky. This is the finest conjunction for 2021.
Comets at Perihelion
Every 12 months, comets come and go. While most of the notable periodic comets comply with nicely-identified orbits, new comets on orbital paths measured in the hundreds or hundreds of thousands of 12 months might seem with out warning. Will 2021 host a ‘Great Comet?’ No one is aware of for positive… however for now, right here’s the record of positive-hearth apparitions of identified comets to observe for the coming 12 months:
May 26th: Comet 7/P Pons-Winnecke reaches perihelion, shining at +eighth magnitude in the constellation Aquarius.
July 13th: Comet 15P/Finlay reaches perihelion, shining at +ninth magnitude in the constellation Taurus.
August 21st: Comet 8P/Tuttle reaches perihelion, shining at +ninth magnitude in the constellation Cancer.
September 17th: Comet 6P/d’Arrest reaches perihelion, shining at +ninth magnitude in Sagittarius.
November third: Comet 67/P Churyumov-Gerasimenko reaches perihelion, shining at +ninth magnitude in the constellation Gemini.
Meteor Showers in 2021
2021 is an ‘off year’ for many main showers, together with the Geminids, Leonids and the Quadrantids, owing to the interfering section of the Moon. Your finest wager in 2021 are the devoted August Perseids, with the waxing crescent Moon safely out of view:
May sixth: The Eta Aquariids peak with a Zenithal Hourly Rate (ZHR) of 50, throughout a 23% illuminated, waning crescent Moon.
June seventh: The daytime Arietids peak with a ZHR of 30, throughout a 7% illuminated, waning crescent Moon.
August 12th: The Perseids peak with a ZHR of 100, throughout a 18% illuminated, waxing crescent Moon.
October 10th: The Taurids peak with a ZHR of 10, throughout a 22% illuminated, waxing crescent Moon (Note: the supply comet 2P/Encke simply reached perihelion in 2020).
December third: The Andromedids peak with a ZHR of 20, throughout a slim 1% illuminated, waning crescent Moon.
That’s what we are able to sit up for in the positive 12 months of astronomy arising in 2021. Watch this house: we’ll be writing about these occasions and extra in the 12 months to come back.
Lead picture credit score: Comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE over Kitt Peak. Image credit score and copyright: Robert Sparks.
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