There’s a lot happening on Earth as the COVID-19 vaccinations begin to be rolled out worldwide and life slowly resumes, but in the all the hustle and bustle, it’s well worth taking some time out to look up at the sky, because there’s an equal amount of cool stuff happening up there, too.
Here are some of the astronomy events you can look forward to throughout the year in 2021.
Quadrantids Meteor Shower
This is set to be one of the best solar events of the year, and it’s happening right at the beginning of the year – what a great way to welcome 2021! The Quadrantids meteor shower is set to happen between the 3rd and 4th January and will see up to 200 Quadrantid meteors from the 2003 EH1 asteroid shower the night sky. What makes this such a special meteor shower is that it’s made from an asteroid, whereas other meteor showers are made up of comets.
April New Moon
The new moon for April is expected to make its debut on Monday 12th which means over a billion Muslims worldwide are set to commence the holy month of Ramadan on this day in accordance with the lunar calendar (which sets the timetable for Ramadan).
Lyrids Meteor Shower
Following the Quadrantids meteor shower at the start of the year, the next notable meteor shower is the Lyrids shower. This is a notable event because it’s one of the oldest observed meteor showers of all, with records dating back over 2,700 years ago. The Lyrid meteor shower originates from the C/1861 G1 Thatcher comet. The meteors are exceptionally bright and fast moving, but their trails remain visible for a few seconds. You can watch this iconic solar event between the 22nd and the 23rd April.
On 27th April, the full moon will be at its closest point to the Earth (known as the perigee) which will make it look both bigger and brighter in the sky. Generally speaking, supermoon look approximately 15% brighter and around 7% bigger than normal full moon’s, although you would be forgiven for not noticing the difference. April’s full moon is sometimes called the pink moon, but it doesn’t actually look pink which is rather disappointing.
Keep your eyes peeled on May 26th for the total lunar eclipse. On this day, the sun and the moon will be aligned … on different sides of the Earth. That might not sound particularly exciting, but this perfect alignment results in a beautifully red moon. This is because light from the sun goes through the Earth, with a small fraction making it through the Earth’s atmosphere and illuminating the moon. As sunlight passes through the Earth’s atmosphere, blue light is filtered out which means the light that reaches the moon is mostly red, hence why the moon looks a rusty shade.
The lunar eclipse is cool, but the solar eclipse is what most people look forward to. Opposite to a lunar eclipse, a solar eclipse occurs when the sun and moon align and cross paths, but without the Earth in between. June 10th is when people in the northern parts of Canada, Greenland and Russia can expect to see the fiery ring of the sun surrounding the spherical outline of the moon.
Widely regarded as the best meteor shower of the year, the Perseid meteors leave bright and colorful trails behind them which are expected to peak between the 12th and 13th August. The nights will be warm at this time of year which will make observing the Perseids from the Swift-Tuttle comet all the more comfortable and enjoyable.
Geminids Meteor Shower
The year will start with an impressive meteor shower and it will end with one, too, as Geminids from the 3200 Phaethon asteroid shoot across the night sky between the 13th and 14th December. Hailed by NASA as one of the most major meteor showers of the year, over 120 meteors can be seen every hour (weather permitting). What a great way to round off the year!
Will you be watching any of these notable solar events?