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Spectacular meteor showers, full moons and eclipses will light up the sky in 2023.
The year is sure to be a delight for sky lovers with plenty of celestial events on the calendar.
According to NASA, a comet discovered in March 2022 will make its closest approach to the Sun on January 12th. The comet, which astronomers spotted using the Zwicky Transit Facility at the Palomar Observatory in San Diego County, California, is called C/2022 E3 (ZTF) and will make its closest pass to Earth on February 2.
The comet should be visible through binoculars in the morning sky to skywatchers in the Northern Hemisphere during most of January and those in the Southern Hemisphere in early February, according to NASA.
Interactive: The best space photos of 2022
On any given day, there’s always a good chance that the International Space Station will be flying overhead. And if you want to know which planets are visible in the morning or evening sky, check out The Old Farmer’s Almanac.
Here are the rest of the sky events for 2023, so get your binoculars and telescope ready.
In most years, there are 12 full moons – one for each month. But in 2023, there will be 13 full moons, and two will happen in August.
The second full moon in a month is known as a blue moon, like the phrase “once in a blue moon,” according to NASA. Full moons usually occur every 29 days, while most months in our calendar last 30 or 31 days, so months and moon phases don’t always coincide. This results in a blue moon approximately every 2.5 years.
According to EarthSky, the two full moons in August can also be considered supermassive. Definitions of a supermoon can vary, but the term generally refers to a full moon that is much brighter and closer to Earth than usual, and thus appears larger in the night sky.
Some astronomers say this phenomenon occurs when the Moon is within 90% of its perigee – its closest approach to Earth in orbit. By this definition, the July full moon would also be considered a giant event, according to EarthSky.
Here is a list of the full moons for 2023, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac:
- January 6: Wolf Moon
- February 5th: Snow Moon
- March 7: Worm Moon
- April 6th: Pink Moon
- May 5: Flower Moon
- June 3: Strawberry Moon
- July 3: Pak Moon
- August 1: Sturgeon Moon
- August 30: Blue Moon
- September 29: Harvest Moon
- October 28: Hunter’s Moon
- November 27: Beaver Moon
- December 26th: Cold Moon
While these are the common names associated with the monthly moon, each name carried its own significance across Native American tribes (with many also being referred to by different names).
There will be two solar and two lunar eclipses in 2023.
A total solar eclipse will occur on April 20, visible to those in Australia, Southeast Asia, and Antarctica. This type of event occurs when the Moon moves between the Sun and the Earth, blocking the Sun.
And for some sky-watchers in Indonesia, parts of Australia and Papua New Guinea, it will actually be a hybrid solar eclipse. According to NASA, the curvature of the Earth’s surface can cause some of the ecliptic to shift between the totality and the annulus as the moon’s shadow moves across the globe.
Like a total solar eclipse, the moon passes between the sun and Earth during an annular eclipse — but it occurs when the moon is at or near its furthest point from Earth, according to NASA. This makes the moon appear smaller than the sun, so it doesn’t completely block out our star and creates a glowing ring around the moon.
A sweeping annular solar eclipse will occur in the Western Hemisphere on October 14 and will be visible across North, Central, and South America.
Be sure to wear appropriate eclipse glasses to view the solar eclipse safely, as sunlight can damage the eyes.
Meanwhile, lunar eclipses can only occur during a full moon when the sun, earth and moon are aligned and the moon passes into the earth’s shadow. When this happens, the Earth casts a shadow over the Moon during the eclipse. The partial outer shadow is called the umbra. A full dark shade is a shadow.
As the full moon moves into the earth’s shadow, it will darken, but it will not disappear. Instead, sunlight passing through Earth’s atmosphere illuminates the Moon in a dramatic way, turning it red – which is why the event is often referred to as a “blood moon.”
Depending on the weather in your area, it may be rusty red or brick in color. This happens because blue light is subject to stronger scattering in the atmosphere, so red light will be the most diffused color as sunlight passes through the atmosphere and is thrown onto the moon.
A penumbral lunar eclipse will occur on May 5 for those in Africa, Asia, and Australia. This less dramatic version of a lunar eclipse occurs when the moon moves through the umbra, or the faint outer part of Earth’s shadow.
A partial lunar eclipse on October 28 will be visible to those in Europe, Asia, Australia, Africa, parts of North America, and most of South America. A partial eclipse occurs when the Sun, Earth, and Moon are not perfectly aligned, so only part of the Moon passes into the shadow.
The new year kicks off with quadruple meteor showers, which are expected to peak in the overnight hours between January 3 and 4 for those in North America, according to the American Meteor Society.
It’s the first of 12 meteors throughout the year, though the next shower, the Lyrid meteor shower, doesn’t peak until April.
Here are other peak shower dates to watch in 2023:
- Lyrids: April 22-23
- ETA Aquarius: May 5-6
- Delta South: July 30-31
- Alpha Capricorn: July 30-31
- Perseids: August 12-13
- Orionids: October 20-21
- Southern Taurids: November 4-5
- North Torres: November 11-12
- Leonids: November 17-18
- Geminids: December 13-14
- Ursids: December 21-22
If you live in an urban area, you may want to drive somewhere that isn’t strewn with city lights. If you can find an area unaffected by light pollution, meteors can be seen every two minutes from late evening until dawn.
Find an open area with a wide view of the sky. Make sure you have a chair or blanket so you can look up straight. And give your eyes about 20 to 30 minutes to adjust to the dark – without looking at your phone! – So it will be easy to spot meteors.
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