Melody Ables helpful information regarding 13 Stargazing Events for 2013 — Listed In Chronological Order:-
1) January 21 — Very Close Moon/Jupiter Conjunction
A waxing gibbous moon (78% illuminated) will pass within less than a degree to the south of Jupiter high in the evening sky. Your closed fist held out at arms length covers 10 degrees. These two wont get that close again until 2026.
2) February 2-23 — Best Evening View of Mercury
The planet Mercury will be far enough away from the glare of the Sun to be visible in the Western sky after sunset. It will be at its brightest on the 16th and dim quickly afterwards. On the 8th it will skim by the much dimmer planet Mars by about 0.4 degrees.
3) March 10-24 — Comet PANSTARRS at its best
First discovered in 2011, this comet should be coming back around for about 2 weeks. It will be visible low in the northwest sky after sunset. Here are some sources predicting what the comets may look like in the sky.
4) April 25 — Partial Lunar Eclipse
A very minor, partial lunar eclipse (not visible in North America) where only about 2 percent of the moon’s diameter will be inside the dark shadow of the Earth.
5) May 9 — Annular Eclipse of the Sun (“Ring of Fire” Eclipse)
It will be visible in Northern Australia and parts of Papua New Guinea but mostly within the Pacific Ocean. See all the solar eclipse paths for 2001-2020 here.
6) May 24-30 — Dance of the Planets
Mercury, Venus and Jupiter will seemingly dance between each other in the twilight sky just after sunset as they will change their positions from one evening to the next. Venus will be the brightest of all, six times brighter than Jupiter.
7) June 23 — Biggest Full Moon of 2013
It will be the biggest full moon because the moon will be the closest to the Earth at this time making it a ‘supermoon’ and the tides will be affected as well creating exceptionally high and low tides for the next few days.
8) August 12 — Perseid Meteor Shower
One of the best and most reliable meteor showers of the year producing upwards of 90 meteors per hour provided the sky is dark. This year the moon won’t be in the way as much as it will set during the evening leaving the rest of the night dark. Here is a useful dark-sky finder tool.
9) October 18 — Penumbral Eclipse of the Moon
Visible mostly in Asia, Europe and Africa, at this time the 76% of the moon will be covered by the penumbral shadow of the Earth.
10) November 3 — Hybrid Eclipse of the Sun
A Hybrid Eclipse meaning, along its path, the eclipse will turn from Annular to Total and in this case most of the path will appear to be Total as there will be a slight ring of sunlight visible near the beginning of the track. This one will begin in the Atlantic (near the East Coast of the U.S.) and travel through Africa. The greatest eclipse (with 100 seconds of totality) will appear in Liberia, near the West Coast of Africa.
11) Mid-November through December — Comet ISON
The second comet this year, ISON, could potentially be visible in broad daylight as it reaches its closest point to the Sun. It will reach that point on November 28 and it is close enough to the Sun to be categorized as a ‘Sungrazer’. Afterwards it will travel towards Earth (passing by within 40 million miles) a month later.
12) All of December — Dazzling Venus
The brightest planet of them all will shine a few hours after sundown in the Southwestern sky and for about 1.5 hours approaching New Years Eve. Around December 5th, a crescent moon will pass above the planet and the next night Venus will be at its brightest and wont be again until 2021.
13) December 13-14 — Geminid Meteor Shower
This is another great (if not the best) annual meteor shower. This year put on a show at about 120 meteors per hour and in 2013 it won’t be much different so expect another fantastic show. However, the moon - as it is a few days before full phase - will be in the way for most of the night obscuring some of the fainter meteors. You might have to stay up in the early morning hours (4am) to catch the all the meteors it has to offer.
4 Moons can be seen in the sky - Jup-Moon Conj
Comets are like cats; they have tails, and they do precisely what they want.
Look below for a month-by-month Comet PANSTARRS viewing guide.
Mid- to late February 2013. Comet PANSTARRS is now closer to the sun than Venus. By all reports, it’s on track to be visible to the eye in early March as expected. According to the website Spaceweather.com:
Solar heating is vaporizing the comet’s icy core and creating a wide, fan-shaped tail visible through binoculars in the southern hemisphere.
Comet PANSTARRS in early March 2013
March 5, 2013. Comet PANSTARRS passes closest to Earth at 1.10 Astronomical Units, (AU). One AU equals one Earth-sun distance, about 93 million miles or 150 million kilometers. In other words, this comet will pass slightly farther from us than our distance from the sun. No worries about it hitting us.
Starting about March 7, 2013. PANSTARRS will appear above the western horizon after sunset for Northern Hemisphere viewers. To see it, you will need an unobstructed, cloudless view of the west after sunset. It is best to pick a dark spot, away from streetlights. Look in the sunset direction, as soon as the sky darkens. The comet will be just above the horizon.
March 10. The comet passes closest to the sun – as close as our sun’s innermost planet, Mercury – at 0.30 AU – or about 28 million miles (45 million kilometers). Comets are typically brightest and most active around the time they are closest to the sun when solar heating vaporizes ice and dust from the comet’s outer crust. Not only will the comet quickly brighten, but it should also develop the long classic comet dust tail.
Around March 12 and 13. Moonlight will interfere with the darkness of the night sky, but there should be some wonderful photo opportunities as the young moon returns to the same part of the sky as the comet.
Comet PANSTARRS from mid- to late March 2013
Throughout March 2013. The comet could be visible in the Northern Hemisphere evening sky low in the west after sunset. It will move northward each evening during March 2013 as it moves from being in front of the constellation Pisces to being in front of the constellations Pegasus and Andromeda. At this time, the comet might have a bright dust tail, and perhaps visible to the unaided eye or binoculars. It should, at least, if it lives up to expectations. Remember to look for the comet in the vicinity of the waxing crescent moon on March 12,13 and 14. The comet swings above the star Algenib on March 17/18, and above the star Alpheratz on March 25/26.
Comet PANSTARRS in April 2013
April 2013. No matter how bright it gets in March, the comet will surely fade as April arrives, as it moves away from the sun and back out into the depths of space. But it will be located far to the north on the sky’s dome and will be circumpolar for northerly latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere. That means it might be visible somewhere in the northern sky throughout the night for northern observers. What’s more, the comet will be near in the sky to another beautiful and fuzzy object in our night sky, the Andromeda Galaxy (M31), the nearest large spiral galaxy to our Milky Way. If the comet truly is bright then, and if it still has a substantial tail, it’ll be an awesome photo opportunity!
The Pan-STARRS telescope in Hawaii discovered this comet in June 2011. Since comets carry the names of their discoverers, it has been designated C/2011 L4 (PANSTARRS). Only the largest telescopes on Earth could glimpse Comet PANSTARRS when it was first discovered, but amateurs telescopes began to pick it up by May 2012. By October 2012, its surrounding coma was seen to be large and fine at an estimated 75,000 miles (120,000 kilometers) wide.
By the way, Comet PANSTARRS is considered a non-periodic comet. It probably took millions of years to come from the great Oort comet cloud surrounding our solar system. Once it rounds the sun, experts say, its orbit will shorten to only 110,000 years. It is, for sure, a once-in-a-lifetime comet.
Bottom line: As 2013 begins, there are two comets to get excited about. One is Comet PANSTARRS, which will be brightest and visible to Northern Hemisphere observers in March 2013. Comet PANSTARRS viewing guide here. The other is Comet ISON, which might become a daylight comet in late 2013.
The big news in early March is Comet
In their outward order from the sun, the visible planets are Mercury, Venus, (Earth), Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.
Evening planets: Jupiter (evening dusk until around midnight) and Saturn (late evening until morning dawn)
The first “star” to pop out after sunset is the king planet Jupiter, to predominate over the evening sky all month long. At mid-northern latitudes, Jupiter stays out until roughly 1 a.m. local time in early March. By the month’s end, Jupiter sets in the west-northwest by around 11:30 p.m. local time (12:30 a.m. local daylight-saving time).
You’ll have absolutely no trouble spotting the dazzling planet Jupiter this month, which pops out high into the sky at evening dusk. The king planet ranks as the fourth-brightest celestial body to light up the heavens, after sun, moon and the planet Venus. However,Venus will be obscured in the glare of sun all this month. Look for the moon to pass close to Jupiter on March 16, 17 and 18.
By the way, March 2013 should be great for telescopic observations of Jupiter. With only a modest backyard telescope, you can easily see Jupiter’s four major moons – Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto – and Saturn’s gorgeous rings.
Morning planet: Saturn (late evening until morning dawn)
Jupiter comes out first thing after sunset, but you have to stay up late (or wake up early) to see Saturn, the sixth planet outward from the sun and the most distant world that you can easily see with the unaided eye. This planet is now coming into its time of easiest viewing for 2013. If you’re especially interested in viewing Saturn this year, also check out this post:Give me 5 minutes, I’ll give you Saturn in 2013
As seen from mid-northern latitudes in March 2013, Saturn rises into the east-southeast sky by around 11 p.m. local time in early March 2013. By the month’s end, however, Saturn will rise much earlier in the evening, at around 9 p.m. local time (10 p.m. local daylight-saving time). Saturn rises before Jupiter sets, so you can actually see both worlds in the same sky for a few hours, given an unobstructed horizon.
Saturn’s glorious rings are easy to see in a modest, backyard telescope. So if you have a telescope, be sure to check out Saturn’s rings. The rings are inclined by about 19ofrom edge-on in March 2013, showing us the north side of Saturn’s rings. The rings will be widest open in October 2017, displaying a maximum inclination of 27o.
In the year 2025, the rings will again be edge-on as seen from Earth. After that, we’ll begin to see the south side of Saturn’s rings, to increase to a maximum inclination of 27o by May 2032.
If you have a telescope, you can also seek for Saturn’s moons. Saturn’s largest and brightest moon Titan is fairly easy to observe in a small telescope.
Just as it did last year, Saturn is still shining relatively close to Spica, the brightest star in the constellation Virgo. You can distinguish Saturn from Spica by color. Saturn shines with a golden hue while Spica sparkles blue-white. Binoculars help to accentuate color if you have difficulty discerning color with the unaided eye. Better yet, view Saturn and its rings with the telescope!
Bottom line: March 2013 presents two of the five visible planets, Jupiter and Saturn, which are clearly visible all month long. Jupiter is out throughout the evening hours, while Saturn highlights the morning hours after midnight. For a few hours, though, Jupiter and Saturn share the same sky, with Jupiter sitting low in the west and Saturn shining low in the east. And if you live in the Southern Hemisphere, the second half March 2013 presents a grand time for catching Mercury, the solar system’s innermost planet, in the predawn and dawn sky!
How to spot the planets & constellations in the Nightsky!
Jupiter & Moon Aligned on Saint patricks day!!
Comet Pan-STARRS on March 2, 2013
Thank you these pictures are all so exquisite.......you have created a wonderful library here. Thank you so much. I love PanStarrs!!! And you!
Here is the Sun Sound Bath I promised you.....
This one explains how they were able to catch and record the generating energy of the Sun.
How to spot the asteroid 1998 QE2
Near Earth Asteroid (NEA) 285263 (1998 QE2) will pass 5.8 million kilometres from the Earth on Friday, May 31st at 20:59 Universal Time (UT) or 4:59PM EDT. Discovered in 1998 during the LIncoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) sky survey looking for such objects, 1998 QE2 will shine at magnitude +10 to +12 on closest approach. Estimates of its size vary from 1.3 to 2.9 kilometres, with observations by the Spitzer Space Telescope in 2010 placing the ballpark figure towards the high end of the scale at 2.7 kilometres in diameter.
1998 QE2 would fit nicely with room to spare in Oregon’s 8 kilometre-wide Crater Lake.
Though this passage is over 15 times as distant as the Earth’s Moon, the relative size of this space rock makes it of interest. This is the closest approach of 1998 QE2 for this century, and there are plans to study it with both the Arecibo and Goldstone radio telescopes to get a better description of its size and rotation as it sails by. Expect to see radar maps of 1998 QE2 by this weekend.
“Asteroid 1998 QE2 will be an outstanding radar imaging target… we expect to obtain a series of high-resolution images that could reveal a wealth of surface features,” said astronomer and principal JPL investigator Lance Benner.
An Amor-class asteroid, 1998 QE2 has an orbit of 3.77 years that takes it from the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter to just exterior of the Earth’s orbit. 1998 QE2 currently comes back around to our vicinity roughly every 15 years, completing about 4 orbits as it does so. Its perihelion exterior to our own makes it no threat to the Earth. This week’s passage is the closest for 1998 QE2 until a slightly closer pass on 0.038 Astronomical Units on May 27th, 2221. Note that on both years, the Earth is just over a month from aphelion (its farthest point from the Sun) which falls in early July.
Of course, the “QE2” designation has resulted in the inevitable comparisons to the size of the asteroid in relation to the Queen Elizabeth II cruise liner. Asteroid designations are derived from the sequence in which they were discovered in a given year. 1998 QE2 was the 55th asteroid discovered in the period running from August 1st to 16th 1998.
Perhaps we could start measuring asteroids in new and creative units, such as “Death Stars” or “Battlestars?”
But the good news is, you can search for 1998 QE2 starting tonight. The asteroid is currently at +12th magnitude in the constellation Centaurus and will be cruising through Hydra on its way north into Libra Friday on May 31st. You’ll need a telescope to track the asteroid as it will never top +10th magnitude, which is the general threshold for binocular viewing under dark skies. Its relative southern declination at closest approach means that 1998 QE2 will be best observed from northern latitudes of +35° southward. The farther south you are, the higher it will be placed in the sky after dusk.
Still, if you can spot the constellation Libra, it’s worth a try. Many observers in the southern U.S. fail to realize that southern hemisphere sites like Omega Centauri in the constellation Centaurus are visible in the evening low to the south at this time of year. Libra sits on the meridian at local midnight due south for northern hemisphere observers, making it a good time to try for the tiny asteroid.
Visually, 1998 QE2 will look like a tiny, star-like point in the eye-piece of a telescope. Use low power and sketch or photograph the field of view and compare the positions of objects about 10 minutes apart. Has anything moved? We caught sight of asteroid 4179 Toutatis last year using this method.
1998 QE2 will also pass near some interesting objects that will serve as good “guideposts” to track its progress.
We find the asteroid about 5° north of the bright +2.5 magnitude star Iota Centauri on the night of May 28th. It then crosses the border into the constellation Hydra about 6° south of the +3 magnitude star Gamma Hydrae (Star Trek fans will recall that this star lies in the Neutral Zone) on May 29th. Keep a careful eye on 1998 QE2 as it passes within 30’ (about the diameter of a Full Moon) of the +8th magnitude galaxy Messier 83 centered on May 28th at 19:00 UT/3:00 PM EDT. This will provide a fine opportunity to construct a stop-motion animated .gif of the asteroid passing by the galaxy.
Another good opportunity to pinpoint the asteroid comes on the night on Thursday, May 30th as it passes within 30’ of the +3.3 magnitude star Pi Hydrae.
From there, it’s on to closest approach day. 1998 QE2 crosses into the constellation Libra early on Friday May 31st. The Moon will be at Last Quarter phase and won’t rise until well past local midnight, aiding in your quest.
At its closest approach, 1998 QE2 have an apparent motion of about 1 angular degree every 3 hours, or about 2/3rds the diameter of a Full Moon every hour. This isn’t quite fast enough to see in real time like asteroid 2012 DA14 was earlier this year, but you should notice its motion after about 10 minutes at medium power. Passing at ~465 Earth diameters distant, 1998 QE2 will show a maximum parallax displacement of just a little over 7 arc minutes at closest approach.
For telescopes equipped with setting circles, knowing the asteroid’s precise position is crucial. This allows you to aim at a fixed position just ahead of its path and “ambush” it as it drifts by. For the most precise positions in right ascension and declination, be sure to check out JPL’s ephemeris generator for 1998 QE2.
After its closest passage, 1998 QE2 will pass between the +3.3 & +2.7 magnitude stars Brachium (Sigma Librae) and Zubenelgenubi (Alpha Librae) around 4:00 UT on June 1st. Dedicated observers can continue to follow its northeastward trek into early June.
Slooh will also be carrying the passage of 1998 QE2 on Friday, May 31st starting at 5:00 PM EDT/21:00 UT.
Of course, the hypothetical impact of a space rock the size of 1998 QE2 would spell a very bad day for the Earth. The Chicxulub impact basin off of the Yucatán Peninsula was formed by a 10 kilometre impactor about 4 times larger than 1998 QE2 about 65 million years ago. We can be thankful that 1998 QE2 isn’t headed our way as we watch it drift silently by this week. Hey, unlike the dinosaurs, WE have a space program… perhaps, to paraphrase science fiction author Larry Niven, we can hear the asteroid whisper as we track its progress across the night sky, asking humanity “How’s that space program coming along?”
This chart shows the best time to view planets!
The Summer Meteor Showers of 2013!