Space has been the fascination of humans since the dawn of man. For thousands of years, we’ve looked up at the sky, asked questions, created mythoi, and yearned to explore beyond the boundaries of our sky. As time passed, humanity has come closer and closer to the stars to the point where a livable base on the moon or a manned mission to mars will certainly happen within our lifetime.
While not all of us will have the ultimate luxury of stepping foot on another celestial body, we can enjoy the cosmos from our own backyard at home with our own eyes or a low-powered telescope. Here are some notable astronomical events in 2023 you should look to the sky for.
Notable Meteor Showers in 2023
Some of the best astronomical events in 2023 will be meteor showers. A meteor shower is when meteoroids enter Earth’s atmosphere at extremely high speeds and burn up on entry. They appear at one point in the sky and can last for hours or even days, depending on the shower. The best way to view a meteor shower is to head to a place with as little light pollution as possible. If you live in a city and want to view some of these, your best bet is taking a camping trip in the countryside or even just a nighttime drive to a vista.
Lyrids Meteor Shower
The Lyrids meteor shower will take place overnight from April 22nd to April 23rd. These meteors are actually the remnants of Comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher, a comet that comes only once every 415 years. Unlike the comet, this meteor shower is a yearly event, and you can best see it by looking toward the Lyra constellation. You can expect about 20 meteors per hour at its peak.
Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower
The Eta Aquarids meteor shower will produce almost three times as many meteors as the Lyrids meteor shower. You can expect about 60 meteors per hour if you’re in the southern hemisphere, while only about 30 meteors per hour in the northern hemisphere. You can view this shower on the night of May 6th until the next morning. For best results, head out at midnight and look towards the Aquarius constellation. These meteors are dust particles from the famous Halley’s comet.
Perseid Meteor Shower
The Perseids meteor shower is a great one, thanks to its bright meteors and warm August weather. It runs overnight on August 12th and can be best viewed after midnight in the direction of the Perseus constellation. These meteors are remnants of the Swift-Tuttle comet, which passes every 133 years, with the last pass being in 1992. These meteors are remnants of its tail and can be seen every year.
Geminids Meteor Shower
When it comes to astronomical events in 2023, this is the Cadillac. If you can only see one meteor shower this year, the Geminids shower is the one to see. This is a premium meteor shower with over one hundred meteors darting across the sky per hour at its peak. It’ll peak overnight on December 13th-14th, and this year will be better than usual, thanks to the fact that there’s a new moon on the 12th, which means the sky will be darker than usual. You’ll be able to see meteors almost anywhere in the sky, but you’re better off looking toward the Gemini constellation after midnight.
Notable Eclipses in 2023
Eclipses are when one celestial body passes in front of another, blocking it from view. The two main eclipses you can view on earth are solar eclipses and lunar eclipses. A solar eclipse is when the moon passes between the earth and the sun, completely obscuring the sun. A lunar eclipse is when the earth is between the sun and the moon, darkening the moon and giving it a red tint.
Partial Lunar Eclipse
This year we won’t have a complete lunar eclipse, but we will have a partial lunar eclipse on October 28th in some parts of the world. The moon won’t completely darken, but it will partially darken for all of Europe, Asia, Africa, and Western Australia.
Hybrid Solar Eclipse
A hybrid solar eclipse is when the moon is too close to the earth to completely block out the sun. Instead, some parts of the earth will have a total eclipse, while others will have an annular solar eclipse. An annular eclipse is when the moon covers the center of the sun and leaves a bright ring of fire around the outside. On April 20th, you should be able to see a total eclipse across parts of Western Australia and Southern Indonesia. An annular eclipse will be visible in the rest of Indonesia and Australia.
Annular Solar Eclipse
As mentioned above, an annular solar eclipse is when the moon doesn’t fully block out the sun and instead leaves a ring of fire on the outside. You’ll be able to see this annular solar eclipse on October 14th across Western Canada, the Southwestern United States, Central America, Colombia, and Brazil. If you’re not in these areas but close, you may see a partial eclipse instead.
Notable Lunar Events in 2023
Besides lunar and solar eclipses, the moon has its own events too that you should keep an eye out for. While they’re not necessarily as cool as a complete eclipse, they are still interesting and can safely be viewed from almost anywhere– even large cities.
While supermoons aren’t the coolest astronomical events in 2023, they can be viewed from anywhere with the naked eye. There will be four supermoons this year. A supermoon is a full moon or new moon that is at its closest point to the earth. A super new moon isn’t as interesting as a full moon since there’s nothing to see in the night sky. A super full moon will look brighter and larger in the sky than a regular moon. The supermoons this year are on July 3rd, August 1st, and September 29th.
Super Blue Moon
Remember how we said there would be four supermoons? Well, one of them is so special it deserves its own category on our list of astronomical events in 2023– a Super Blue Moon. Ever wonder where the phrase “once in a blue moon” comes from? Sadly, it has nothing to do with the moon’s color and instead refers to the second full month within the same month. The Moon could be blue due to atmospheric conditions on Earth, but unless there’s a volcanic eruption on August 31st, it’ll be white.
How rare is a blue moon? About 3% of all full Moons are Blue Moons. Well, then how rare is a supermoon? Supermoons happen about 3-4 times a year, so roughly 25% of all full Moons are supermoons. So this begs the question of how rare a Super Blue Moon is. If we do some quick math, about 1 in 134 full moons will be a super Blue Moon. It’s not the rarest event, but it’s still cool to say you saw it.
Remember, the best way to view astronomical events is in areas with the least amount of light pollution. Meteor showers are best viewed at night, usually after midnight. Camping in the woods watching the stars and a meteor shower might just be the best summer trip you take. If you’re in the path of any of the solar eclipses, remember the sun is still there. It shouldn’t have to be said, but don’t stare directly at the sun– it’s still bright enough to damage your eyes. With that said, mark your calendars with the above astronomical events and get ready to have some fun.