Look Up! Here Are All the Cool Solar Events Happening in 2021
This year is full of celestial happenings and solar events that will make your inner astronomer reach for the nearest telescope (or, you know, buy one for the first time!). From meteor showers to supermoons to solar eclipses, there are tons of significant moments in the sky to watch out for this year. Make a celebration out of the stellar occasions, marking the dates in your calendar to write a list of intentions during the new moon or even having an equinox-themed dinner. Whatever you choose to do, knowing the year’s celestial events is an interesting way to connect to the cosmos and keep track of the sky’s patterns in your day-to-day life. Ahead, find all the solar events to see this year.
This year, new moons will occur on Jan. 13, Feb. 11, March 13, April 12, May 11, June 10, July 10, Aug. 8, Sept. 7, Oct. 6, Nov. 4, and Dec. 4. During this phase, the moon will be located on the same side of the Earth as the sun, causing the “invisible” new moon. While it won’t be visible in the night sky, the lack of moonlight does make for the best time to grab your telescope and observe the stars.
Wondering when the moon will be at its fullest, brightest point in 2021? This year, full moons will occur on Jan. 28 (wolf moon), Feb. 27 (snow moon), March 28 (worm moon), April 27 (pink moon), May 26 (flower moon), June 24 (strawberry moon), July 24 (buck moon), Aug. 22 (sturgeon moon), Sept. 20 (corn moon), Oct. 20 (hunter’s moon), Nov. 19 (beaver moon), and Dec. 19 (cold moon). This lunar phase is caused by the moon facing the opposite side of the Earth as the sun, making it fully visible and bright.
Supermoons, which will occur three times this year, happen when the moon is near its closest approach to the Earth, making it look even larger and brighter than usual. Look out for the Supermoons on April 27 (pink moon), May 26 (flower moon), and June 24 (strawberry moon).
Get ready for tons of meteor showers that you might want to plan a full camping trip for! This year’s meteor showers will occur on April 22-23 (Lyrids meteor shower), May 6-7 (Eta Aquarids meteor shower), July 28-29 (Delta Aquarids meteor shower), Aug. 12-13 (Perseids meteor shower), Oct. 7 (Draconids meteor shower), Oct. 21-22 (Orionids meteor shower), Nov. 4-5 (Taurids meteor shower), Nov. 17-18 (Leonids meteor shower), Dec. 13-14 (Geminids meteor shower), and Dec. 21-22 (Ursids meteor shower). Produced by debris left behind by comets and asteroids, each of these meteor showers ranges from 10-120 meteors per hour, and the lightest showers will only be seem from a dark location after midnight (preferably accompanied by a dark new moon). The Geminids meteor shower on Dec. 13-14 will be the most powerful, shooting 120 multicolored meteors per hour from the Gemini constellation, so get ready for an early holiday present this year in the sky!
Mercury at Greatest Elongations
The best times to view planet Mercury will be on Jan. 24 (eastern elongation), March 6 (western elongation), May 17 (eastern elongation), July 4 (western elongation), Sept. 14 (eastern elongation), and Oct. 25 (western elongation). Reaching its greatest elongations either toward the east or west, Mercury will be at its highest point above the horizon in the evening sky on eastern elongations and in the morning sky on western ones. Either way, it’s a great idea to grab your telescope on these days and get a look at the closest planet to the sun.
We will experience the March equinox on March 20 and the September equinox on Sept. 22, marking the change of seasons into spring and fall in the Northern Hemisphere. Equinoxes are characterized by the sun shining directly on the equator, meaning there will be nearly equal amounts of day and night in the world.
Venus at Greatest Elongations
Make sure your telescope is ready for March 20 and Oct. 29 if you want to get a look at the quintessential planet of love. Venus reaches its greatest eastern elongation of 46.6 degrees from the sun on March 20 and its greatest western elongation of 47 degrees from the sun on Oct. 29, making these dates the best times to get a glimpse of the second-brightest natural object in Earth’s night sky.
Total Lunar Eclipse
The only total lunar eclipse of the year will occur on May 26 and will be a celestial day to remember. Visible throughout the Pacific Ocean and parts of eastern Asia, Japan, Australia, and western North America, viewers will be able to see the moon pass through the Earth’s shadow, turning red.
Annular Solar Eclipse
Just after the lunar eclipse in May, June 10 brings about an annular solar eclipse. You’ll be able to see a ring of light around the dark moon, but the sun’s corona is not visible during this kind of solar eclipse. It’s best viewed in eastern Russia, the Arctic Ocean, western Greenland, and Canada, but a partial eclipse will be seen in the northeastern United States, Europe, and most of Russia.
This year’s solstices will occur on June 21 and Dec. 21, marking the shift into summer and winter in the Northern Hemisphere. The June solstice, or summer solstice, will occur when the North Pole of the Earth is tilted toward the sun, reaching its northernmost position in the sky above the Tropic of Cancer. The December solstice, or winter solstice, happens when the South Pole of the Earth tilts toward the sun and reaches its most southern position over the Tropic of Capricorn. Both celestial occurrences are perfect opportunities to have a seasonal dinner to ring in the new phase of the year.
Saturn at Opposition
If you want to get the closest possible look at the planet with icy rings, Aug. 2 will be your best bet. On this day, Saturn will be at its closest point to Earth, and its face will be fully illuminated by the sun. It’ll be visible all night long, so grab your telescope and camera to see the sixth planet from the sun and even its brightest moons.
Jupiter at Opposition
Got a close look at Saturn and now you just can’t wait to see another one of our galaxy’s elusive planets? Aug. 19 will be the best day to see Jupiter, which will be at its closest approach to Earth and completely illuminated by the sun. You’ll be able to see the giant planet all night long, as well as its four moons surrounding it.
We get a blue moon this year, and it takes place on Aug. 22! The blue moon refers to the second full moon in one month, and it’s pretty rare (hence the phrase “once in a blue moon”). While the moon won’t be blue in color, it is fun to have an extra full moon to look forward to.
Neptune at Opposition
Neptune will be at its closest point to Earth on Sept. 14, fully illuminated by the sun and brighter than any other day this year. However, due to how far it is from the Earth, you will only be able to see the eighth planet as a tiny blue dot in most telescopes.
Uranus at Opposition
Another look at one of the farthest planets from the Earth, you’ll be able to see Uranus on Nov. 5. The seventh planet from the sun will be at its closest approach to Earth that day and will be at its brightest and biggest point this year. Still, due to Uranus’s distance from us, it will only appear as a small blue-green dot in most telescopes.
Partial Lunar Eclipse
The second lunar eclipse of the year, Nov. 19’s celestial happening is slightly less dramatic than May’s total lunar eclipse. This partial lunar eclipse occurs as the moon passes through Earth’s partial shadow. Only part of the moon will darken, and it will be visible in most of the world.
Total Solar Eclipse
Ending the year with a bang, the total solar eclipse on Dec. 4 will be a completely cosmic occurrence. The moon will completely block the sun for up to one minute and 54 seconds during this eclipse, revealing the sun’s corona. The bad news? This eclipse will only be visible for people in Antarctica, but you should be able to watch via live stream when it happens.