- Meteor showers are beautiful to watch from a distance.
- Neptun too will pass close to the sun and will be unobservable for weeks.
- An astronomy rarity is going to grace the sky on May 29th.
2020 was a year full of roller coaster rides. Everyone is indeed glad that it ended and is positively looking forward to 2021. While life was not at all normal in 2020, that didn’t mean things completely stopped happening around us. A lot of scientific discoveries such as finding phosphine on venus, water on the moon in many places, receiving a mysterious signal from Proxima Centauri, etc.
Many interesting things happened last year, which makes us wonder what 2021 holds for us from an astronomical point of view? Well, there are several events expected to take place in the first half of 2021. Here are the Major astronomical events that will occur in 2021.
January 2: Earth at perihelion
We observed perihelion on 2nd January 2021. But what does perihelion mean? It is that point in the orbit of a planet. Asteroid or comet at which it is the closest to the sun. It is also said that at perihelion, the said body is traveling at its highest velocity and also is the most effective as well as the efficient moment that can alter the object’s orbital trajectory. It means that if you wish to alter the orbital course, you can do so at perihelion by making small changes.
January 4: Quadrantids meteor shower, Isaac newton’s birthday
Meteor showers are beautiful to watch from a distance. On January 4th, we observed one of the best annual meteor showers where it peaks up to almost 120 meteors per hour. It is known as the Quadrantids meteor shower. They are active towards the end of December and till the second week of January, peaking up around the first week of January. They are also unusual because their peak tends to stay for only a few hours, unlike other meteor showers that stay for 2 days.
Also, this day celebrates the birthday of one of the greatest scientists of all time Sir Issac Newton.
January 10: Triple conjunction
We saw the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction. Now, on 10th January, brace yourself for triple conjunction as Jupiter, Saturn and Mercury will appear close to each other in the evening sky
January 24: Saturn at solar conjunction
Solar conjunction refers to the phenomenon that takes place when a planet or other solar system object is on the opposite side of the sun, as seen from earth. The sun will pass between the earth and the object, from the earth’s point of view. This limits communication with any spacecraft as the sun interferes with radio transmissions. Similarly, Saturn will pass close to the sun and hence be unobservable for the weeks to come.
January 29: Jupiter at solar conjunction
Once Saturn has passed close to the sun, Jupiter will also have the same fate and will be unobservable for weeks.
March 11: Neptune at solar conjunction
Neptun too will pass close to the sun and will be unobservable for weeks. Also, here’s an interesting fact bout Neptune. If you stood on it, you would easily sink. It is because its gravitational force is about 0.17 times stronger than earth’s gravity. Although, since it is a ball of gas and ice sinking by standing on its surface seems highly unlikely.
March 20: Spring equinox, buzz aldrin’s birthday
Equinox has been derived from medieval Latin Equinoxium which means the time of equal days and nights. When at equinox, the sun is directly over the equator. On March 20th, which is also the first day of spring in the north and autumn in the south, we will observe the spring equinox.
This day also marks the birthday of one of the most known astronauts of our time: Buzz Aldrin. If he doesn’t ring any bells, he was in apollo 11 mission with Neil Armstrong. That spacecraft was launched to the moon on 16 July 1969 and they landed near the edge of mare tranquilities on 20th July 1969. Their mission was to gather rock samples, take pictures, and also set up scientific equipment for test i.e., overall excursion of the lunar surface that lasted 2 hours. The mission was over by 24th July 1969.
March 28: first supermoon
March 28 will observe the first supermoon of 2021. This term was coined in 1979 by astronomers to describe a perigean full moon. It occurs when the moon is at the closest point in its orbit around the earth. It also looks bigger and brighter than it usually does.
March 29: Venus at its brightest
Venus will appear at its brightest on March 29th. It will also be a good chance to see it in the evening sky. It has an average magnitude of -4.7 at that point. While it doesn’t shine, as planets don’t have their light source, sometimes the surface of a planetoid might reflect light from a close star. That is why it shines like the moon.
April 17: lunar occultation of mars
Occultation is referred to as the phenomenon of one celestial body passing in front of another. Occultations happen quite frequently in the solar system. However, lunar occultations of the stars happen more frequently because of the large size of the moon and its rapid movement. Earlier these occultations were used as a measure of comparing the moon’s positions and stars, but now they are only an interesting spectacle for someone interested in the workings of the solar system.
Mars will likely disappear behind the mood on 17 April 2021.
May 6: eta-acquarid meteor shower
People who enjoy watching meteor showers shouldn’t miss the Eta-aquarid meteor shower that is supposed to take place on 6th May. Just drive to an area with a clear sky and you’ll be able to see the shower. These meteors are from Halley’s comet and go up to 40 meteors per hour.
Video on ETA Acquarid Meteor Shower:
May 26: total lunar eclipse
A lunar eclipse happens every once in a while. However, 2021’s first lunar eclipse is set to happen on may 26 and will be observed in certain regions namely Oceania, America & eastern and southeast Asia.
A lunar eclipse happens on a full moon night when the sun, earth, and moon come in a straight line in space. Those residing in the night-side of the earth at the time of the eclipse will be able to see it.
May 29: Venus and mercury
An astronomy rarity is going to grace the sky on May 29th. Venus and Mercury will appear in a close pair and will create the closest planet conjunction in 2021. It will also be one of the easiest times to observe mercury. On this day, these planets will pass within 0 degrees 24 minutes of each other and will be quite close.
June 10: annular solar eclipse
Solar eclipses are also quite common. The first one is 2021 will happen on June 10 and will be visible from Canada, Greenland, the USA, Europe, and also Russia. A solar eclipse happens when the moon comes in front of the sun’s center that only leaves its outer edges visible and looks like a ring of fire or annulus.
June 21: Summer solstice
Known as the longest day of the year, June 21 is called a Summer solstice. The sun shines directly over the tropic of cancer. The calendar may say June 1 is the official start of the summer season but astronomers believe it starts after the summer solstice as meteorologists divide the year into fours season based on weather patterns.