Things are happening in space in 2023. The new year promises a grab-bag of celestial happenings, from perfect meteor-shower-viewing conditions, to solar eclipses, to missions to the moon and distant planets.
Below are my highlights of the star-gazing year, so lock in your temporal coordinates and get ready to stare into the vast emptiness of og the Milky Way.
January: Meteors, comets and planets
January 22-25: Planet-palooza. Four of earth’s visible-with-the-naked-eye planets will be hanging out, being all visible, in January. A great night for planet peeping is likely to be Jan. 22, when you should be able to see Venus soon after sunset in the west-southwest sky, with Saturn close by to its upper right. On Jan. 25, Jupiter (where boys go to get more stupider) will be right near the crescent moon. As always, Mars will be around too.
February and March: A prehistoric comet returns; Jupiter and Venus dance
Feb. 1-5: Return of Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF). You might be able to see Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) in the beginning of February. It will be near Polaris, the North Star, on Jan. 30 and move to within 1.5 degrees of the star Capella on Feb. 5. It’s going to be dim—if visible at all—but the last time it was seen on earth was in the Upper Paleolithic period, so you could share a human experience with Neanderthals from the ice age. We don’t really know how visible it will be—none of the cavemen mentioned it— but if you have some binoculars and/or a telescope, you’ll have a better chance of seeing comet, and you might even see its dust tail.
March: Venus and Jupiter’s dance. Venus and Jupiter have a crush on each other in February and March. Beginning on Feb. 1, both planets will be bright and visible on the in the west-southwest sky, and each subsequent evening, they will get closer together until March 1, when they will be only a moon-width apart not long after sunset. (They’re totally going to kiss.)
April: Mercury, a hybrid eclipse, and a moon landing
April 5-6: Spy Mercury late at night. Early April should bring a nice view of elusive planet Mercury. After the sun sets, Mercury should appear near the horizon to the west beginning in late March. April 5–6, viewing will be optimal for about an hour and half after sunset.
April 20: A hybrid solar eclipse in the Southern Hemisphere. If you want the best view of the first solar eclipse of 2023, you’ll have to be in Indonesia, Australia, or in a boat in the middle of the Indian Ocean, but all that traveling will be rewarded with a look at a rare hybrid solar eclipse—that’s an eclipse that appears as either a total eclipse or a annular eclipse (where the moon appears to cover the center of the sun), depending on your position relative to the moon. The best viewing area? The Timor Sea, just south of Timor-Leste, in Southeast Asia. But if you can’t make it, don’t worry: There will be a more convenient-to-America solar eclipse in October.
Late April: Japan’s lunar landing. There are a number of planned moon missions that could happen in 2023, but only Japan’s lunar landing is definitely going down this year. You can’t see it, but right now, the HAKUTO-R M1 lander is making a leisurely trip to the moon. Sometime in April, the unmanned ship will touch down in Atlas Crater at Mare Frigoris to the far north of the moon, where it will deploy a lunar rover and deliver payloads for the UAE-based Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre, and commercial firms in Japan and Canada (provided it doesn’t malfunction and crash to the surface to serve as an eternal reminder of man’s hubris.)
May: It’s all about Venus
May 21-30: Venus stays up late. Beginning in the third week of May, Venus will be seen later and later at night. By the third week in May, it might even be up past midnight in some places, a rare occurrence for this famously early-bird planet.
May: A satellite heads to Venus. Speaking of Venus, New Zealand’s Rocket Lab, an adorably small rocket company, plans to launch its Photon satellite to orbit the planet in May. The plan is to deploy a small probe to study the planet’s atmosphere. The mission may be delayed, as is the nature of sending ships to distant planets.
July: Return of the space-brothers
July 12: UFO fleet land on earth. I have it on good authority that an armada of thousands of glowing, silver space-seeds will descend upon earth on July 12 to transport deserving humans to our forever-paradise on the far side of the planet Saturn. See you suckers later!
August: All hail the Supermoon and Perseid meteor shower
Aug. 12: Perseid meteor shower: Summer is going out with some sizzle in 2023 as the Perseid meteor shower lights up the sky in mid-August. Many people are saying that the annual Perseid is the hugest meteor shower of all, with its bright, frequent shooting stars and warm evenings to enjoy it. Optimum night: Aug. 12. The moon will be nearly dark, and you might see up to 90 meteors an hours, unless it’s cloudy, of course. Look to the north east, although they’re likely to appear anywhere.
Aug. 30: Supermoon, ahoy! I, for one, am tired of the regular Moon and will only turn my head toward the sky for a Supermoon. That’s why I’m excited for Aug. 30. At around 9:30 p.m. eastern time, the biggest, brightest moon of the year will be visible. Expect higher and lower than average tides to go with it, as the angry sea rages against its eternal enemy, Supermoon.
October: Eclipse in the west
Oct. 14: annular solar eclipse: Mid-October will bring views of an annular solar eclipse to the western parts of the U.S. That means the Moon will appear to cover only part of the Sun, leading to a cool “ring of fire” effect for some. According to Space.com, cities that will experience the ring of fire include, Eugene, Oregon; Winnemucca, Nevada; Albuquerque, New Mexico; and San Antonio and Corpus Christi in Texas.
December: Peak meteor shower viewing
Dec. 13: Geminid meteor shower: There’s no denying it; 2022’s Geminid meteor shower was weak. The moon was super bright, so only the brightest meteors could be seen. This year’s Geminid shower should be spectacular, however. On calendar Dec. 13–14, the moon will be new, so you might see a meteor or two every minute, and they’re bright, slow ones as well. You could probably catch a fireball too.
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