All the prime times for stargazing
Do you have a telescope and a love for the beauty of the universe?
Well, Jim Failes of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada has all the best times that you should have your eye on the sky.
From meteor showers and eclipses, to sighting of planets and moons, here's what's happening up there:
Jupiter dominates the western portion of the evening sky as winter leads to early spring.
Good binoculars or a small telescope can show you the moons Galileo discovered more than 400 years ago, looking like little stars nestled close to the planet.
April brings a high-profile eclipse of the sun. The eclipse will be total for some of north America, but here in BC we’ll have no more than 1/5th of the sun’s disc blocked by the moon.
The maximum comes just before lunchtime on April 8.
CAUTION: You must never look directly at the sun. Use a filter approved for safe solar viewing. Pinhole projection is another safe technique. More here: https://eclipse.aas.org/eye-safety
Nights shorten as summer nears, so a meteor shower in early May means you have to stay up late.
But if you do – under dark skies – the Eta Aquariid shower can show you a good number of “shooting stars”.
The shower peaks on May 5. This is debris scattered from Halley’s Comet zipping into Earth’s atmosphere and vapourizing.
The annual Perseid Meteor shower should give us another fine display, peaking overnight August 11-12.
For the best views, get away from the lights of town, lay back, bundle up and enjoy!
The display gets better into the wee hours when you can also see Mars and Jupiter paired very close together among the stars of Taurus in the Eastern Sky. Those planets are together throughout the middle of August.
If you have a telescope, late summer and fall will be a fascinating time to see Saturn, as its rings are tilting almost sideways to us. Next year, in 2025, they’ll go exactly edge-on, and be invisible -- Saturn will look ringless.
September brings a minor partial eclipse of the moon on the 17th. Look to the east at dusk and watch the rising moon skirt the edge of the Earth’s shadow.
Of course, all of your celestial sky watching is subject to weather, and, increasingly, the spectre of fire smoke.
But even with clear skies, 2024 isn’t a favourable year for seeing the brightest planet, Venus. She’s playing shy, staying close to the horizon in twilight, but be patient.
You can watch for Venus at its best in November and December. Look to the southwest.
-- Contributed by Jim Failes with the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Okanagan Centre.
Published 2024-02-01 by Robin Liva & Jim Failes
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