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Home » Santa Clarita News » Astronomical Events Of 2012

Astronomical Events Of 2012

AstronomyTake your family outside and make a wish upon some of the impressive star, asteroid, and planet sightings that will be taking place this year.  Many of our planets will be making appearances and a host of meteor showers will provide impressive displays of shooting stars.  Below are some of the major astronomical events of 2012.

February 20-March 12 – Best Chance to see Mercury. The planet Mercury will be far enough from the Sun’s glare to be visible shortly after sunset. Mercury will reach greatest elongation from the Sun on March 5, reaching a relatively bright magnitude. This will be your best chance to see the planet this year.

 


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March 3 — Mars at Opposition. The red planet will be at its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. This is the best time to view and photograph Mars.

March 14 — Conjunction of Venus and Jupiter. The two brightest planets in the sky will be within 3 degrees of each other in the evening sky. On March 25, the crescent Moon will be near the two planets, creating a dazzling evening spectacle.

April 15 — Saturn at Opposition. The ringed planet will be at its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. This is the best time to view and photograph Saturn and its moons.

April 21, 22 — Lyrids Meteor Shower. The Lyrids are an average shower, usually producing about 20 meteors per hour at their peak. These meteors can produce bright dust trails that last for several seconds. The shower usually peaks on April 21 and 22, although some meteors can be visible from April 16 – 25. With no moon to get in the way this year, this really should be a good show. Look for meteors radiating from the constellation of Lyra after midnight.

May 5, 6 — Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower. The Eta Aquarids are a light shower, usually producing about 10 meteors per hour at their peak. The shower’s peak usually occurs on May 5 and 6, however viewing should be good on any morning from May 4 – 7. The full moon will probably ruin the show this year, washing out all but the brightest meteors with its glare. The radiant point for this shower will be in the constellation Aquarius. Best viewing is usually to the east after midnight, far from city lights.

May 20 — Annular Solar Eclipse. The path of annularity will begin in southern China and move east through Japan, the northern Pacific Ocean, and into the western United States. A partial eclipse will be visible throughout parts of eastern Asia and most of North America.

June 4 — Partial Lunar Eclipse. The eclipse will be visible throughout most of Asia, Australia, the Pacific Ocean, and the Americas.

June 5, 6 — Transit of Venus Across the Sun. This extremely rare event will be entirely visible throughout most of eastern Asia, eastern Australia, and Alaska. A partial transit can be seen in progress at sunrise throughout Europe, western Asia, and eastern Africa. A partial transit can be seen in progress at sunset throughout most of North America, Central America, and western South America. The next transit will not take place until the year 2117.

July 28, 29 — Southern Delta Aquarids Meteor Shower. The Delta Aquarids can produce about 20 meteors per hour at their peak. The shower usually peaks on July 28 and 29, but some meteors can also be seen from July 18 – August 18. The radiant point for this shower will be in the constellation Aquarius. The near first quarter moon will set shortly after midnight, leaving dark skies for what should be a good show. Best viewing is usually to the east after midnight.

August 12, 13 — Perseids Meteor Shower. The Perseids is one of the best meteor showers to observe, producing up to 60 meteors per hour at their peak. The shower’s peak usually occurs on August 13 and 14, but you may be able to see some meteors any time from July 23 – August 22. The radiant point for this shower will be in the constellation Perseus. The near last quarter moon will be hanging around for the show, but shouldn’t be too much of a problem for a shower with up to 60 meteors per hour. Find a location far from city lights and look to the northeast after midnight.

August 24Neptune at Opposition. The blue planet will be at its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. This is the best time to view Neptune. Due to its distance, it will only appear as a tiny blue dot in all but the most powerful telescopes.

September 29 — Uranus at Opposition. The blue-green planet will be at its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. This is the best time to view Uranus. Due to its distance, it will only appear as a tiny blue-green dot in all but the most powerful telescopes.

October 21, 22 — Orionids Meteor Shower. The Orionids is an average shower producing about 20 meteors per hour at their peak. This shower usually peaks on the 21st, but it is highly irregular. A good show could be experienced on any morning from October 20 – 24, and some meteors may be seen any time from October 17 – 25. The first quarter moon will set by midnight, leaving a dark sky for what should be a good show. Best viewing will be to the east after midnight. Be sure to find a dark location far from city lights.

November 17, 18 — Leonids Meteor Shower. The Leonids is one of the better meteor showers to observe, producing an average of 40 meteors per hour at their peak. The shower itself has a cyclic peak year every 33 years where hundreds of meteors can be seen each hour. The last of these occurred in 2001. The shower usually peaks on November 17 and 18, but you may see some meteors from November 13 – 20. The crescent moon will set early in the evening leaving dark skies for what should be an excellent show. Look for the shower radiating from the constellation Leo after midnight, and be sure to find a dark location for viewing.

November 27 — Conjunction of Venus and Saturn. These two bright planets will be within 1 degree of each other in the morning sky. Look to the east around sunrise.

November 28 — Penumbral Lunar Eclipse. The eclipse will be visible throughout most of Europe, eastern Africa, Asia, Australia, the Pacific Ocean, and North America.

December 3 — Jupiter at Opposition. The giant planet will be at its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. This is the best time to view and photograph Jupiter and its moons.

December 13, 14 — Geminids Meteor Shower. Considered by many to be the best meteor shower in the heavens, the Geminids are known for producing up to 60 multicolored meteors per hour at their peak. The peak of the shower usually occurs around December 13 and 14, although some meteors should be visible from December 6 – 19. The radiant point for this shower will be in the constellation Gemini. This year the new moon will guarantee a dark sky for what should be an awesome show. Best viewing is usually to the east after midnight from a dark location.

While the above events will make visible changes in the sky, here are some other interesting facts about astronomical events that will be going on unseen.

March 20 – March Equinox. The March equinox occurs at 05:14 UTC. The Sun will shine directly on the equator and there will be nearly equal amounts of day and night throughout the world. This is also the first day of spring (vernal equinox) in the northern hemisphere and the first day of fall (autumnal equinox) in the southern hemisphere.

June 20 – June Solstice. The June solstice occurs at 23:09 UTC. The North Pole of the earth will be tilted toward the Sun, which will have reached its northernmost position in the sky and will be directly over the Tropic of Cancer at 23.44 degrees north latitude. This is the first day of summer (summer solstice) in the northern hemisphere and the first day of winter (winter solstice) in the southern hemisphere.

August 6 – Curiosity Rover at Mars. NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) is scheduled to land on the red planet between August 6 and August 20, 2012. Officially named Curiosity, it is an autonomous rover similar to the Spirit and Opportunity rovers that previously visited Mars. This much larger rover will carry many more instruments and experiments than its previous cousins. Curiosity’s high definition color cameras will photograph the Martian surface while a host of instruments will sample the soil and air and search for organic compounds.

August 31 – Blue Moon. The Moon will be directly opposite the Earth from the Sun and will be fully illuminated as seen from Earth. This phase occurs at 13:58 UTC. Since this is the second full moon in the same month, it is known as a blue moon. This rare calendar event only happens once every few years, giving rise to the term, “once in a blue moon.”

September 22 – September Equinox. The September equinox occurs at 14:49 UTC. The Sun will shine directly on the equator and there will be nearly equal amounts of day and night throughout the world. This is also the first day of fall (autumnal equinox) in the northern hemisphere and the first day of spring (vernal equinox) in the southern hemisphere.

December 21 – December Solstice. The December solstice occurs at 11:12 UTC. The South Pole of the earth will be tilted toward the Sun, which will have reached its southernmost position in the sky and will be directly over the Tropic of Capricorn at 23.44 degrees south latitude. This is the first day of winter (winter solstice) in the northern hemisphere and the first day of summer (summer solstice) in the southern hemisphere.

This and other information about astronomy events occurring in 2012 can be found at these sites:

http://www.seasky.org/astronomy/astronomy-calendar-2012.html

http://www.go-astronomy.com/solar-system/event-calendar.htm

http://www.universetoday.com/92045/top-astronomy-events-coming-up-in-2012/

 

 

 

Astronomical Events Of 2012

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