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Celestial Events in 2020
Celestial Events in 2020

January

Did you catch the peak of the Quadrantids on January 4th? The shower will remain active until January 12th, so you might still catch some shooting stars from this meteor show.

Take advantage of the dark skies from the new Moon on January 24th for viewing faint deep sky objects.

February

On February 9th, Mercury will be at its greatest Eastern elongation, meaning it is at its greatest separation from the Sun. Mercury will be at an altitude of approximately 16 degrees when the Sun sets at 17:34 PST, making it an ideal time to observe this tricky target.

Get up early on President's Day, February 17th, to see a lineup of three planets and the Moon. At dawn the crescent Moon and Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn will form a line spanning about 39 degrees in the southeastern sky.

Before sunrise on the next day, February 18th, viewers in North America can watch the Moon occult Mars! Better yet, try snapping a sequence of high-magnification pics of the event.

March

Early risers on March 18th will be treated to a close triangle of the crescent Moon, Mars, and Jupiter in the southeastern sky at dawn, with Saturn nearby as well.

Starting on March 19th and for the next two mornings, Mars and Jupiter will be less than 1 degree apart. At around 60x magnification they should both fit in the field of view of a telescope. The pair rise around 04:30 in the southeastern sky, and for observers near 40 degrees latitude will reach an altitude of approximately 25 degrees by sunrise at 07:00. Saturn isn't too far away either, about 7 degrees away from the pair that morning.

On March 31st Mars continues its trek across the morning sky to meet with Saturn for a close approach of 54 arcminutes as the Sun rises.

April

On the evening of Friday the 3rd, you might notice a bright "extra star" in the Pleiades (M45). But this "Eighth Sister" is not a star - it's the planet Venus! This would be a great time to photograph the Pleiades - like you've probably never seen it before - posing with this planetary interloper.

On April 28th Venus is at its greatest brightness during the year, at a visual magnitude of -4.5. It will also be setting more than 3 hours after the Sun, placing it high in the sky and in an ideal position for observing as the Sun sets.

May

May is a great month for star clusters, with M4 and M5 both placed well for observing. One of the easiest star clusters to locate, M4 is well placed for observing in late May. Rising around sunset, it is located 1.3 degrees west of the bright star Antares in Scorpius. M5 is higher in the sky, and is similar in brightness and size. Both should be visible under dark skies with binoculars and small telescopes as a diffuse patch of light, with larger telescopes resolving individual stars.

In the early morning hours of May 12th, the waning Moon forms a pleasing triangle with Jupiter and Saturn.

June

The Summer Solstice on June 20th is the longest day of the year, and the start of summer in the Northern Henisphere. On the very next day, the 21st, there is an annular solar eclipse, but it is unfortunately only visible from parts of Africa and Asia.

July

July is a great time for planetary observing, with Jupiter at opposition on July 14th, and Saturn at opposition shortly after on the 20th. Since their orbits are so far away their apparent size does not vary that much, but this is a great time for observing them since they are high in the sky and at their largest. Grab some planetary filters to help bring out surface details, and enjoy the ideal time for observing our solar system's largest gas giants.

August

Perhaps the most popular meteor shower of the year, the Perseids are active this year from August 17th to August 24th, with an estimated peak rate of 150 meteors per hour on the night of August 11th and early morning of the 12th. The Last Quarter Moon will wash out many meteors after it rises near midnight, so it's best to observe before midnight on the 11th.

September

Venus rises long before the Sun the morning of September 2nd, and reaches its highest point in the morning sky this year making it an ideal time for morning observation. At 60% illumination it won't be at its brightest, but provides a good example of the phases that Venus exhibits, similar to our Moon.

October

The Red Planet is at opposition on October 13th this year. Since Mars has such a close orbit to Earth its apparent size varies a lot, making opposition the ideal time for observation since it coincides with perigee, the planet's closest approach to Earth. With such a close orbit it only remains large and bright in the sky for a few weeks, so grab your planetary eyepieces and get observing in October!

On the evening of the 22nd look in the southwestern sky to see the Moon, Jupiter, and Saturn arranged in an eye-catching triangle.

November

Take advantage of dark skies from the New Moon on November 15th to observe some of the best deep sky targets November has to offer. The Orion nebula (M42) and the Andromeda Galaxy (M31) are both good targets for most telescopes or binoculars because of how large and bright they are.

December

Pack your bags eclipse chasers: on December 14th a total solar eclipse will be visible from Chile and Argentina. At the point of greatest eclipse, totality will last more than 2 minutes. Pick up a solar filter for your telescope if you're making the trip!

For those in the US, the Geminid meteor shower will be at its peak on the night of December 13th, and will be active from December 4th to December 17th. While not quite as active as the Perseids, it is expected to produce around 120 meteors per hour at peak - and the Moon will not interfere! - so bundle up to catch this wintertime treat.

Break out the Barlows on December 20th and 21st, because Jupiter and Saturn will be within 10 arcminutes of each other. They will be low on the horizon as the Sun sets, only setting about 2 hours after the Sun does. However, this close approach means both planets and their moons will fit into the field of view of high magnification eyepieces. On the 21st at 6pm they will be only 6 arcminutes apart, close enough to view both simultaneously at about 300x magnification!

Details
Date Taken: 01/10/2020
Author: Orion Staff
Category: Seasonal

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