10 Must-See Astronomical Events In 2021

The Mars Generation_Top Astronomical Events in 2021

Human beings have always been fascinated by looking up at the stars, and it’s not hard to see why! Outerspace can put on quite the show; from eclipses to meteor showers and more, these events remind humans just how beautiful and incredible our universe really is. These events also help remind us that While some astronomical events happen monthly (like the phases of the Moon) or annually (like certain meteor showers), there are others that are once-in-a-lifetime occurrences,  so you’ll definitely want to check them out when you have the chance! They are a must-see! Keep reading to learn more about the astronomical events you should keep an eye out for in 2021.

Astronomical Events
Photo Credit: Darcy O’Shea

1. February 11, 2021: Venus and Jupiter Conjunction – Annual

A conjunction occurs when two or more astronomical objects appear close together in the sky. You may remember back in December 2020 when the world came together to look at the “Great Conjunction,” the closest visible meeting of Jupiter and Saturn in 800 years.

Now, there’s another conjunction coming up! Venus and Jupiter will appear close in the sky on February 11th, 2021. The last time a conjunction between these two planets occurred was January 22nd, 2019!

How can you see it?

To catch this event, look towards the eastern sky, about a half-hour before sunrise, just barely above the horizon. Your best bet will be to find a spot with an unobstructed view – that means no trees and buildings blocking the horizon.

What will it look like?

In this conjunction, Jupiter will appear above and to the left, and Venus will be below and to the right, relative to each other.

 

2. March 9-10, 2021: Quadruple Conjunction – Rare

While two astronomical objects near one another  is pretty cool, what do you think about four?! On March 9th and 10th, Mercury, Saturn, and Jupiter will line up, and the Moon will sneak its way in just below. Venus may even make an appearance a bit later, but it’s view is likely to be obstructed by the Sun. This sounds like one NOT-socially distanced planet party!

How can you see it?

Look to the southeastern sky a half-hour before sunrise, and you may be able to catch this show with your naked eye! For those in the Southern Hemisphere, you’ll only have 15 minutes to catch a glimpse of the group together, so be sure to get out quick!

What will it look like?

From left to right, Mercury, Jupiter, and Saturn will form a diagonal line. Mercury will be at the bottom of this line, and Jupiter will be at the top. The crescent moon will be below and to the right of this line, closest to Jupiter.

 

Supermoon

Photo Credit: NASA

3. March 28, April 27, May 26, June 24, 2021: Supermoons – Quarterly

A supermoon is a spectacle that occurs when a full moon is at perigee, the point where the Moon is closest to Earth during its orbit. At this point, the Moon will appear 14% larger and cast nearly 30% more light. (Beware of the super-werewolves on this date!)

This year, there will be four supermoons (which is the typical annual amount). They will occur on March 28th, April 27th, May 26th, June 24th, with the moon on May 26th appearing to be the biggest and the brightest.

How can you see it?

Because it is so bright, a supermoon won’t be too hard to spot! Keep your eyes near the horizon, and you’re sure to be blown away.

What will it look like?

You can’t miss it! A supermoon is an incredibly bright, full moon illuminating the night sky and everything beneath it!

 

Total Lunar Eclipse

Photo Credit: NASA

4. May 26, 2021: Total Lunar Eclipse – Rarer!

The May 26th supermoon is also going to be a total lunar eclipse! A lunar eclipse and a supermoon? Talk about a double whammy! A total lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth, Sun, and a full moon line up perfectly, and the Moon moves into the Earth’s shadow. Some total lunar eclipses can last up to 2 hours, and they only occur every 2.5 years!

How can you see it?

Step outside just before sunrise and look towards the horizon to catch a glimpse. This lunar eclipse will only last about 14 minutes, so make sure you get out there! It is important to note: lunar eclipses are safe to view without eye protection.

What will it look like?

The Moon will turn reddish in color, giving it the nickname the “Blood Moon”.  (Twilight book title or astronomical event? You be the judge!)

 

Hinode

Photo Credit: NASA/Hinode/XRT

5. June 10, 2021: Annular Solar Eclipse –  Once a Year

A solar eclipse occurs when the new moon passes in front of the Sun, casting a shadow on Earth. There are four types: total, partial, annual and hybrid. This year, the first solar eclipse will be an annular, occurring on June 10th. An annular solar eclipse happens when the Moon doesn’t completely cover the Sun, even if it’s centered in front of it. Keep reading to find when the total solar eclipse will occur!

How can you see it?

To spot this solar eclipse, you’re going to need to get out before sunrise. The eclipse will look fullest in regions near Canada and Greenland.

What will it look like?

A ring of fire! When the Moon passes in front of the Sun, the rays of the Sun’s corona become visible. When looking, it is important to wear eye protection so that the radiation from the Sun doesn’t damage your retinas. You will want to use a projector, solar filter, or eclipse glasses as eye protection – not sunglasses. These devices will project or filter the Sun’s rays so they don’t damage your eyes. You can purchase protection equipment here.

 

Moon_Venus_Mars Conjunction

Photo Credit: Dylan O’Donnell

6. July 12, 2021: Venus and Mars Conjunction – Every Two Years

Didn’t get to see the first 2 conjunctions? Don’t worry, you’ll have another chance on July 12th with the Venus Mars conjunction! The Moon may also make an appearance, making this show a must see!

How can you see it?

This conjunction will appear in the southwestern sky just after sunrise. Make sure you have an unobstructed view for the best chances of seeing it!

What will it look like?

Mars will be on the left, and Venus will be on the right. Venus will be brighter than Mars, but you may be able to make out Mars’ orange color, which is pretty cool! The crescent moon will be above and to the left of this duo.

 

Perseid Meteor Shower

Photo Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

7. August 11-12, 2021: Perseid Meteor Shower – Annual

Meteors are leftover bits and pieces of broken comets and asteroids. When the comet passes by the sun, it leaves behind a trail of debris. When Earth passes through these trails, the debris collides with our atmosphere and disintegrates, putting on quite the show!

The Perseids are one of the brightest and most plentiful meteor showers! They soar across the sky annually, peaking in mid-August. One of their defining features are their fireballs, which explosions of light and color that last longer than a typical meteor streak.

How can you see it?

This year, the Perseids will peak the night of August 11th into the 12th. They are best viewed in the northern hemisphere, and with the warm, summertime sky, waiting out shouldn’t be too uncomfortable!

What will it look like?

Between 50 to 100 meteors can be seen every hour, appearing as streaks of light. The Perseids will fly by at speeds up to 37 miles per second, so be sure to keep an eye out!

 

Partial Lunar Eclipse

Photo credit: NASA Goddard

8. November 19, 2021: Partial Lunar Eclipse – Bi-Annual

As we discussed earlier, a lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes through the Earth’s shadow, but what is a partial lunar eclipse? A partial lunar eclipse occurs when the Sun, Moon, and Earth aren’t perfectly aligned. Due to this, the Moon only passes through some of the Earth’s umbral shadow.

How can you see it?

A partial lunar eclipse occurs about once every two years, and this year, it will appear on November 19th. It’s maximum will be around 4:00AM, so set your alarms! (Or stay up late if you’re a night owl!)

What will it look like?

During this eclipse, the Moon appears to be partially red (only partially, because it doesn’t totally pass through Earth’s shadow).

 

Total Solar Eclipse

Photo Credit: NASA/MSFC/Joseph Matus

9. December 4, 2021: Total Solar Eclipse – Once Every 18 Months

While in June there will be an annular solar eclipse, come December 4th there will be a total solar eclipse. What’s the difference? In a total solar eclipse, the Sun is completely blocked out by the Moon. All that is visible is the Sun’s atmosphere, or it’s corona. A total solar eclipse occurs roughly every 18 months somewhere on Earth. However, it takes about a century before this eclipse is visible in the same place twice.

How can you see it?

Unfortunately, this year, the totality of this solar eclipse can only be seen in Antarctica – and only for 1 minute and 54 seconds (field trip, anyone?). Check back in in 18 months, and maybe the total solar eclipse will appear closer to your location!

What will it look like?

The Moon will completely block out the Sun, so things will go dark! White rays will appear around the Moon – these are the wispy rays of the Sun’s corona.

 

Geminid Meteor Shower

Photo Credit: NASA

10. December 13-14, 2021: Geminid Meteor Shower – Annual

This annual meteor shower is considered to be one of the best! The Geminids light up the sky each mid-December, and, in perfect conditions, roughly 120 meteors can be seen in an hour. They are yellow in color and soar by at roughly 22 miles per second.

The Geminids are unique because, unlike most meteor showers, they originate from an asteroid (others originate from a comet). Asteroids are made up of metals and were formed closer to the Sun. On the other hand, comets have a more icy composition and were formed farther out in the solar system. The particular asteroid the Geminids originate from is called 3200 Phaethon, which earned its name due to its close pass by the sun.

How can you see it?

Step outside around 9:00 pm to 10:00 pm on December 13th and 14th to catch a glimpse. This shower, in particular, is great because it is not too late at night!

What will it look like?

Unfortunately, the show might be spoiled by the bright light of the waxing gibbous moon this year, but you may still be able to see 20 to 40 flashes of light every hour!

You Won’t Want to Miss This!

2021 is set to put on quite the astronomical show! Keep your eyes to the sky (using protection when needed!), and you’ll be blown away by the numerous conjunctions, eclipses, and meteor showers.

Follow The Mars Generation on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn, and sign up for our email list so you don’t miss any of the exciting astronomical events in 2021! Many of these events won’t appear again for years – you don’t want to miss them!

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