Mark your calendars and organize star parties with friends and family to catch these noteworthy 2012 night sky events. In addition to key celestial events, we’ve also listed the First Quarter and New Moon phase dates for each month. The First Quarter Moon provides interesting views of the lunar terminator region and New Moon evenings are great opportunities to observe deep sky objects.
Kick off the New Year by watching the Quadrantids meteor shower peak on the 3rd and 4th, and enjoy great views of Jupiter all month long.
- January 1 – First Quarter Moon
- January 3 – Jupiter 5° South of the Moon
- January 3, 4 – Quadrantids meteor shower peaks. Look for meteors radiating from the constellation Bootes.
- January 23 – New Moon
Explore the Winter Milky Way and enjoy early evening views of Jupiter.
- January 31 / February 1 – First Quarter Moon
- February 21 – New Moon
- February 25 – Venus 3° South of the Moon
- February 27 – Jupiter 4° South of the Moon
Some of the best galaxies to view are spread across the sky from Ursa Major to Virgo during March.
- March 1 – First Quarter Moon
- March 3 – Mars at opposition. The best time to observe the Red Planet.
- March 5 – Mars closest to Earth
- March 11-14 – Conjunction of Venus and Jupiter. The two planets will be as close as just 3° apart in the night sky.
- March 20 – Vernal Equinox
- March 22 – New Moon
Mid-April is the best time of year to see ringed Saturn as it comes to opposition. Good views of Mars and spring galaxies continue.
- April 3 – Venus 0.5° South of Pleiades (M45). A great sight for binoculars and telescopes.
- April 15 – Saturn at opposition. The best time to observe the ringed planet.
- April 21 – New Moon
- April 22 – Jupiter 2° South of the Moon
- April 29 – First Quarter Moon
Saturn and distant galaxies are still featured in the evening sky throughout May.
- May 6 – Largest Full Moon of 2012
- May 20 – New Moon
- May 20 – Annular Solar Eclipse. A partial eclipse will be visible throughout parts of eastern Asia and most of
- May 21 – Venus 5° North of the Moon
- May 28 – First Quarter Moon
Don’t miss the extremely rare transit of Venus across the Sun on June 6. Always use protective gear such as a solar filter when viewing the Sun. This is the last time in the 21st century that Venus will pass in front of the Sun as viewed from Earth.
- June 4 – Partial Lunar Eclipse. Visible throughout most of North and South America, Asia, Australia, and the
- June 5, 6 – Transit of Venus across the Sun. Mid-transit will occur at 1:29 UTC on June 6. Visible from most
North America locations around sunset on June 5. CAUTION: Never look at the Sun, either directly or through
binoculars or a telescope, without a suitable protective solar filter used in a proper manner.
- June 18 – Venus 2° South of the Moon
- June 19 – New Moon
- June 20 – Summer Solstice
- June 27 – First Quarter Moon
Summer stargazing season is in full swing this month, with the galactic core of the Milky Way positioned well for nighttime observations in mid-July.
- July 12 – Venus greatest illuminated extent. Venus will appear as a very bright waxing crescent.
- July 15 – Jupiter 0.5° South of the Moon. Venus 4° South of the Moon.
- July 19 – New Moon
- July 24 – Mars 4° North of the Moon
- July 26 – First Quarter Moon
Catch one of the best meteor showers of the year, the Perseids, as it peaks in mid-August, and enjoy warm summer stargazing sessions all month long.
- August 1 – An ideal evening to view the summer Milky Way and Sagittarius due South
- August 12, 13 – Perseids meteor shower peaks. Look for meteors radiating from the constellation Perseus.
- August 17 – New Moon
- August 22 – Saturn 5° North of the Moon. Mars 2° North of the Moon
- August 24 – First Quarter Moon
Seasoned stargazers look forward to September as the best time of year to observe the night sky, thanks to cooling temperatures and dry conditions. Kick off the fall stargazing season with great views of the planets, galaxies such as Andromeda (M31) and more.
- September 8 – Jupiter 0.6° North of the Moon
- September 12 – Venus 4° North of the Moon
- September 16 – New Moon
- September 18 – Saturn 5° North of the Moon
- September 22 –Autumnal Equinox. First Quarter Moon.
Cooler nights and great planetary viewing potential makes October a treat for astronomers.
- October 5 – Jupiter 0.9° North of the Moon, occultation
- October 15 – New Moon
- October 18 – Mars 2° South of the Moon
- October 22 – First Quarter Moon
Our namesake constellation, Orion, makes its way across the sky as planets dance close to the Moon throughout the month.
- November 2 – Jupiter 0.9° North of the Moon
- November 11 – Venus 5° North of the Moon
- November 12 – Saturn 4° North of the Moon
- November 13 – New Moon
- November 14 – Total Solar Eclipse (not visible from North America)
- November 16 – Mars 4° South of the Moon
- November 20 – First Quarter Moon
- November 27 – Venus 0.6° South of Saturn
- November 29 – Jupiter 0.6° North of the Moon
A great month for viewing gigantic Jupiter, December also provides great opportunities to observe galaxies and clusters.
- December 3 – Jupiter at opposition. The best time to observe the gas giant planet.
- December 10 – Saturn 4° North of the Moon
- December 11 – Venus 1.6° North of the Moon
- December 13 – New Moon
- December 13, 14 – Geminids meteor shower peaks. Look for meteors radiating from the constellation Gemini.
- December 20 – First Quarter Moon
- December 21 – Winter Solstice
- December 26 – Jupiter 0.4° North of the Moon