Astro Calender 2019: The new year promises several spectacles for the starry-eyed!
A 'super blood wolf moon', stunning meteor showers and other major astronomical events of 2019 coming up!
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Look at the skies and be starry-eyed, for 2019 promises delight for you cosmologists this year.
Five eclipses, a rare planet transit, one of the visually best meteor showers — 2019 promises it all. There will also be a ‘super blood wolf’ moon, three supermoons and one blue moon. The stargazer in me is loony over all the lunar projections!
Here are some events to mark in your calendar:
January 21: Super Blood Wolf Moon
Millions across North and South America and parts of Western Europe and Africa will be able to witness the rare sight overnight on January 20 into January 21 — for a few hours, the moon will give off a bright reddish glow.
Lunar eclipses only happen during full moons, and the one that rises later this month will be bigger and brighter than average — making it a 'supermoon'. Earth's dark shadow will creep over the bright lunar disk as it moves between the sun and moon — turning the silvery orb blood-red — making it a 'blood moon'. The January full moon was nicknamed the 'Wolf Moon' because wolves tend to howl a lot during their breeding season in January and February.
January 20: Catch a super, bloody and wolverine moon! (Source: India Today)
The moon on the night of January 20-21 will, therefore, be a 'super blood wolf moon' — usual as individual occurrences, rare as they come together.
Those in the Americas and parts of Europe and Africa will have front-row seats to witness this. Sadly, India will not get to see the Super Blood Wolf Moon eclipse on January 20-21 as it would be daytime here during the event. No worries — NASA will be live streaming the entire episode. Starting at 5:30 a.m. EST (4:00 pm IST) on January 31, check out NASA's live feed of the moon on NASA TV and NASA Live or follow the NASA Moon Twitter account for live updates — and some incredible images along the way.
May 6: Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower
Shooting stars from the Eta Aquarid meteor shower will rain down on Earth from April 19 to May 26, and its peak night will begin around 3 a.m. ET (1:30 pm IST) on May 6. Created by the dusty debris left behind by Halley's Comet (which flew by Earth in 1986), the shower appears in our skies annually. What makes 2019’s shower spectacular is the new moon two days prior to the peak of the meteor shower — on May 4, 2019 — implying a darker sky on May 6.
A stargazer waits for the meteor shower to begin. (Source: Reuters)
This will make it possible for the human eye to appreciate the glory of Eta Aquarids' dazzling show.
According to NASA, the Eta Aquarids this year will produce as many as 20 to 40 meteors or more per hour on its peak day. Go away from city lights to someplace with a dark sky and no obstructions along the horizon, lie on the ground to give yourself the widest possible view of the sky, and enjoy the fireworks presented by the universe.
May 18: Blue Moon
The blue moon — or the 'betrayer moon' (called thus after an old English term where ‘blue’ means ‘betrayer’) — is an extra full moon of the year that occurs due to a quirk of the calendar. The blue moon will be visible on May 18, 2019. The NASA website says that “most Blue Moons look pale grey and white — indistinguishable from any other moon. But, as the wise say, “never say never”. It turns out that the moon did appear bluish in 1883 after the volcano Krakatoa erupted. Dust in the air acted as a filter, causing sunsets and the moon to turn blue all over the world —indeed, once in a blue moon!
November 11: Rare Transit of Mercury
Mercury will make a rare pass in front of the sun on November 11 — one of the 13 times in a century.
A striking celestial phenomenon as Mercury makes the transit across the Sun. (Source: Reuters)
Mercury’s last trek was in 2016, and this year, it will appear as a black dot across the sun. The transit will begin at 7:34 a.m. ET (6:04 pm IST) — likely to last around six hours. See the ‘mole’ on the sun’s face with the help of telescopes and solar filters.
December 26: 'Ring of Fire'
During a solar eclipse, the moon blocks the sun, leaving only its outer edges visible from earth. (Source: Reuters)
2019 will close on a high note with the glorious ‘Ring Of Fire’. The eclipse will begin right at dawn and pass over the Arabian Peninsula and arc over areas of South Asia.
Other events to look skywards for include a partial solar eclipse on January 6 (those in Beijing will see 20 per cent of the sun covered, 30 per cent from Tokyo and 37 per cent from Vladivostok, Russia), a total solar eclipse on July 2 (visible in South Asia and South America), a partial lunar eclipse on July 16 (visible in South America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia), and the ‘merger’ of the crescent moon and Venus on December 28. The celestial pairing between the waxing crescent moon and Venus will be visible even to urban sky-watchers under light-polluted skies, who will be able to see the pretty pair hanging low in the southwestern sky at dusk.
For all those Jim Carreys out there, who are looking for their Bruce Almighty moments, there will be three supermoons — on January 21, February 19 and March 21. Of these, the February 19 full moon will be the largest supermoon of 2019.