2018 will have plenty of notable celestial events for even the most casual observer.
The following listings are meant for observers in North America, particularly the USA, thus there won’t be any listings for events that are not visible from the continent.
Mars/Jupiter Conjunction – January 6-7
Mars and Jupiter will align and be so close together that you can view both of them at the same time through a telescope!
This will be easily visible in the south east, during the dark early morning hours before dawn.
It will also occur over the weekend! Best case scenario is you can view the event and then go back to bed and sleep in!
Super Blue Moon Total Lunar Eclipse – January 30-31
This will be a particularly interesting Full Moon. First, it’s a “Super Moon” where a full moon is at its closest point in orbit around Earth and thus appears brighter and slightly larger. Second, it’s a “Blue Moon”, the second full moon in a month, which is also rare and created the phrase, “once in a blue moon.” Third, there will also be a Lunar Eclipse!
The “Super Blue Moon” can be viewed all night, but the Lunar Eclipse portion won’t happen until the early morning hours before sunrise on January 31.
This eclipse will favor only those who live in Western North America. Those who live in the Mid-West will see the moon set during total phase, and those living on the East Coast will only be able to see a partial eclipse as the moon sets.
While lunar eclipses happen almost every year and are much more widely visible, the fact that it’s also a “Super Moon” and “blue Moon” makes this a rare event indeed!
Triple Planetary Alignment – March 7-8
Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn will be visible in the southeastern sky before dawn, and they will appear to hover near each other in a straight line. The moon will also join the group, and be the fourth object in this celestial conga line!
Mars – Saturn Conjunction Dance – April 1-7
Mars and Saturn are going to be in a close dance from April 1-7.
On April 2, Mars will be a degree south of Saturn. In other words, the two will appear so close you can cover both of them with your thumb at arms length! Wide field views through a telescope will show both planets at the same time. You’ll be able to see this conjunction in the early morning skies before dawn.
On April 7, the Moon will join the fray and form a close triangle!
Jupiter Opposition and Closest Approach – May 9-10
The best time to view Jupiter through a telescope will be around this time of the year. Jupiter will be visible all night, and be at its closest to Earth, thus be at its biggest and brightest through a telescope, making the cloud bands and Galilean Moons easier to see!
Saturn Opposition – June 27
Just like Jupiter’s opposition in May, the same will apply for Saturn on June 27. This will be the best time to see Saturn’s rings and even a few of its brighter moons.
Venus Meets the Crescent Moon – July 15
The Star and Crescent symbol for many cultures past and present is directly inspired by this celestial sight, where the bright planet Venus gets close to the Crescent Moon.
You can see this picturesque sight in the western sky just after sunset!
Mars at its Biggest and Brightest – July 27
At 35.8 million miles away. Mars will have its closest approach to Earth since 2003, and will not be this close again until 2035. It will look like a bright orange-red star in the southern sky, and It will outshine Jupiter in brightness. Through a telescope, it will be easy to see surface details such as polar ice caps and some darker volcanic plains.
This will definitely be a great opportunity to see the red planet up close!
Perseids Meteor Shower – August 12-13
While last year’s shower was hindered by a nearly full moon in the sky, the moon will not be a factor for 2018’s Perseid Shower throughout the night, and if you watch the shower from start to finish, you’ll see hundreds of meteors streak through the sky during the night!
This will be a great warm summer night to be away from the city lights, set up your chairs or blankets, and gaze up as anywhere between 60-100 meteors per hour will shoot across the sky during peak hours, with plenty of chances for small bursts.
Geminids Meteor Shower – December 13-14
The Geminids usually rival the Perseids in being consistently the year’s best Meteor Shower, sometimes outperforming them at 120 meteors per hour during peak hours.
This year’s shower will have a first quarter moon washing out the faint meteors, but once the moon sets around midnight, just in time for peak hours, you’ll be in for a treat as usual!
The only con is it being on a December night, meaning a big chance of cold temperatures affecting your enjoyment. So bring warm clothing, plenty of blankets, and possibly a thermos for hot drinks during the show.
These are just a few eye catching events. Perhaps there will be more, and if there are, you will definitely hear it from Orion Bear Astronomy.