Starry Sky. photo credit: Pixabay FelixMittermeier

Astronomy Events To Watch For Through The Year 2023

The night sky offers spectacular astronomy events every year, visible to everyone who looks up into the sky at the right time.

From two total lunar eclipses to bright meteor showers on moonless nights, and conjunction of planets, here are a few of these astronomy events to look for in 2023.

January 3rd and 4th: The Quadrantid Meteor Shower

Besides all the fireworks to celebrate the New Year, a more natural celestial event lit up our night skies. Active from December 12th to January 12th, the Quadrantid Meteor Shower is usually visible between January 1st and 5th each year. It peaked this year on the night of January 3rd to January 4th.

You probably won’t find the constellation the Quadrantids got their name from. The Mural Quadrant was invented in 1795, but removed from the list of constellations in the 1920s when the International Astronomical Union adopted the current list of 88 officially recognized constellations. Though the Mural Quadrant no longer exists, the meteor shower kept its name. Its origin point is in the northeast sky just off the handle of the Big Dipper.

This year, in 2023, the nearly full moon blocked many of the meteors. However, , a dark sky place would have offered a nice show this year. For us, te combination of light pollution in the city, the bright moon, and cloudy skies offered less than ideal circumstances for this show.

But there is always next year. Last year, in 2022, viewing circumstances were ideal, since the thin, crescent moon set early, leaving dark skies for the meteor shower.

January 22nd – Venus and Saturn Near Each Other

In January 2023, Venus is easier to spot in the evenings, while Saturn also becomes visible in the twilight sky. On January 22nd, 2023, the two planets will appear very close to each other, less than half a degree apart, offering a beautiful sight. However, I am looking forward to the following night, when the crescent moon will join them, all three celestial objects visible near each other.

On and around March 1, 2023, the two brightest planets, Venus and Jupiter, will be visible near each other. As seen from North America, they will be at their closest soon after sunset on March 1st.

April 22nd – 23rd: Peak of the Lyrid Meteor Shower

The Lyrids return this April and peak on the 22nd in the Eastern Hemisphere and on the 23 in the Western one. Of course, they put on a show a few days before and after the peak. In the US, the best time to view them will be around 2am. Normally it would be better just before dawn, but the moon rising at 2am will interfere with the ideal viewing conditions.

The meteors seem to originate from the constellation Lyra (hence the name), home of Vega, the brightest star in the northern sky. Look for the meteors near the constellation, if you find it, but you’ll see them anywhere in the sky, if you stay out long enough.

As always, it is best to watch a meteor shower far from cities, hopefully in dark sky places. But on the peak nights we can probably see a few meteors even in the most light-polluted cities.

April 21st and 22nd – Venus among the Pleiades and Hyades

In April 2023, best visible on the 21st and 22nd, Venus, our brightest planet, will shine among two of the better-known star clusters, the Pleiades and the Hyades.

The Pleiades star cluster, also known as the Seven Sisters, is easy to spot in the Taurus constellation. The larger, V-shaped Hyades star cluster is known for its bright red star, Aldebaran. If you haven’t seen them yet, this is a great time to find them, with Venus between the two clusters.

Unless clouds roll in, the night will be perfect for this viewing, with a low-light waxing crescent moon on April 21 and 22, 2023. And, you don’t even need to stay up late to see this celestial spectacle. Look for it shortly after sunset.

May 6th – 7th: Peak of the Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower

In early May we’ll see the Eta Aquarid meteor shower. The event peaks this year on the night of May 6th and the morning of the May 7th. This time, sky conditions should be perfect, with no moonlight for the event.

As opposed to last year, when the waxing crescent moon set early in the evening the night before, the nearly full moon his year will block out all most of the meteors. If you have dark skies, you should still be able to catch a few of the brightest ones after midnight.

Meteors will radiate from the constellation Aquarius, but can appear anywhere in the sky. They are interesting because they are debris shed by Halley’s comet.

June – Mars and Venus in the Beehive Star Cluster

The Beehive star cluster in the Crab constellation gets will be joined by two planets in June 2023. On June 1st and 2nd Mars will join the cluster, offering a beautiful sight. The red planet will be best viewed with binoculars (unless you are viewing with a telescope), against the background of the Beehive.

Later in the month, on June 12th and 13th, Venus will passes through the Beehive star cluster.

June 21st – Moon, Venus, and Mars on the Summer Solstice

June 21 marks the summer solstice, and the first day of summer for the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of winter for the Southern Hemisphere. This year, it will be worth looking up into the night sky during the solstice, for a gorgeous spectacle of the waxing crescent moon near the bright Venus and the dimmer Mars. Look for them low in the west shortly after sunset.

July 18th through the 21st – A Plethora of Celestial Events

On the evenings of July 19th, 20th and 21st of 2023, the western sky will offer a few extraordinary viewing treats. Venus will shine brightly low in the west. Nearby, you’ll notice the dimmer, but still visible Regulus, the brightest star in the Leo constellation (considered the Heart of the Lion). A bit farther you’l notice our red planet, Mars, brighter than usual. And, if you have clear skies, you can also see Mercury in the twilight, near the horizon.

To top it all, a waxing crescent moon will also add to the scene. Each of these evenings the moon rises higher, as it grows, creating slightly different images with this background planets and stars.

I’m looking forward this this event, it is one I don’t want to miss.

July 28, 29Delta Aquarids Meteor Shower

2023 is not the best year for meteor showers. Once again, the moon will ne nearly full, blocking most of the fainter meteors. But if you are in a ark sky spot, you might still see a few.

The Delta Aquarids is produced by debris left behind by comets Marsden and Kracht, and it runs each year from July 12 to August 23. In 2023 it peaks on the night of July 28th and morning of July 29th. Meteors radiate from the constellation Aquarius, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

August 12th and 13th – Peak of the Perseid Meteor Shower

The most popular yearly meteor shower, the Perseids usually peak between August 12th-14th. In 2023 they will peak between the night of the 12th and the morning of the 13th. You might see up to 150 meteors per hour before the sun rises that day.

This year, in 2023, the most popular meteor shower of the year will occur under great conditions, with a crescent moon that won’t make the sky it too bright for viewing a problem this year. Skies should be dark enough for a good show.

As always though, the best spectacle will be from a dark sky location, though you might see a few after midnight, no matter where you are. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Perseus, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

October 7th: Peak of the Draconid Meteor Shower

The Draconids is a minor meteor shower, produced by dust grains left behind by comet 21P Giacobini-Zinner, first discovered in 1900. The Draconids is an unusual shower since the best viewing is in the early evening instead of early morning like most others. This meteor shower runs annually from October 6-10 and peaks this year on the the night of the 7th.

The second quarter moon will offer dark enough skies for a good show. Of course, like any meteor shower, this one will be best views from a dark sky place, far from city lights. Meteors will seem to radiate from the constellation Draco, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

October 14th – Partial Solar Eclipse

The partial solar eclipse, or annual solar eclipse occurs when the moon is too far from Earth to fully cover the sun, which results in a ring of light around the darkened moon.

On October 14th this year, the sun, moon and Earth will almost perfectly align, resulting in a partial solar eclipse across the United States. The eclipse will be visible along a band running from southern Oregon, through Nevada and the Four Corners region, then into west and south Texas, and finally into the Gulf of Mexico.

October 21st and 22nd – Peak of the Orionid Meteor Shower

The next meteor shower, the Orionids, will offer a real treat, happening during one of the darkest nights. The first quarter moon might block some meteors in the evening, but after setting around midnight, it will leave the skies dark for a good show.

The Orionids aren’t even close to being as active as the Perseids, for example; They only have an average of 15 meteors per hour. They are still worth watching though. Not only because the night sky will offer perfect conditions, but they often produce “fireballs”, extremely bright and dramatic meteors. And their radiant point, Orion, is one of the easiest to find.

As with all meteor showers, best viewing is always from a dark sky location, in this case, after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Orion, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

November 17th and 18th – Peak of the Leonid Meteor Shower

The last three main astronomy events of the year are meteor showers, starting with the Leonids, peaking in the middle of November. This year, they peak on the night of November 17th to 18th. Similar to the Orionids, they are not very active, but also known to produce fireballs. Watch for them between midnight and early dawn.

The night will be perfect for viewing, with a crescent moon that will set before midnight. The dark skies will offer a great early morning show. Of course, as usual, the meteor shower is best viewed from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will seem to radiate from the constellation Leo, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

December 14th: Peak of the Geminid Meteor Shower

One of he most spectacular meteor showers of the year, the Geminids usually peak around 120 multicolored meteors per hour. It runs annually from December 7th to 17th. This year it peaks this year on the night of the 13th and morning of the 14th.

2023 should be a great year for the Geminids, since the nearly new moon means dark skies for an excellent show. Dark sky places, or other dark locations will be ideal for watching, but this meteor shower will be visible from anywhere. Meteors will seem to radiate from the constellation Gemini, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

December 21st and 22nd – Peak of the Ursid Meteor Shower & Winter Solstice

Last, but not least, winter begins with the December Solstice and the same time with the peak of the Ursids meteor shower. Although this is not much of a shower compared to the Geminids, if you happen to be in a dark sky place, it’s worth looking for them. Besides, it’s interesting that it occurs right on the winter solstice.

The Ursid meteor shower is produced by dust grains left behind by comet Tuttle, which was first discovered in 1790. The shower runs annually from December 17th and 25th. This year it peaks on the the night of the 21st and morning of the 22nd.

Not a great year for viewing though, since the waxing gibbous moon will block out most of the fainter meteors. Still, if you want to see a few, you shoudl be able to, especially in a dark sky place, away from city lights. Meteors will seem to radiate from the constellation Ursa Minor, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

You Can Find Celestial Events Each Month Worth Looking Up Into The Sky For

The above are only a few of the major celestial events of the year; You can find plenty more each month during the year. For reference, and to learn more about the night sky events of the year, check EarthSky’s website.

Regardless if you have a telescope, binoculars, or are watching the night sky with the naked eye, hope you enjoy it.

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