From the “Keep Looking Up Files”: Nine Dazzling Celestial Events to Watch in 2024, Beginning Tonight

  • Quadrantids Meteor Shower

The Quadrantids, which peak during early-January each year, are considered to be one of the best annual meteor showers. This year, they will peak tonight through tomorrow morning, though they are active from mid-December, 2023 to mid-January, 2024. (NASA)

According to Smithsonian, “These meteors are known for their short, intense peak, which will happen this year on the night of January 3 to 4. Unlike other showers, which tend to peak over a few days, this shower’s peak will only last a few hours, making it easy to miss. However, viewers can see from 60 to as many as 200 shooting stars per hour under perfect conditions, so heading out could yield big rewards. This year, the moon will be 47 percent illuminated during the peak, providing much less of a hindrance to viewers than the highly illuminated moon last year.

An image of an etching of an astronomical chart showing Bootes the Ploughman holding a spear, a sickle, and two dogs, Asterion and Chara, on leash. It also shows a quadrant, and the hair of Berenice forming the constellations. Credit: Library of Congress.
  • March 25, Penumbral Lunar Eclipse
A Penumbral Lunar Eclipse will be the first eclipse of the year.

Per Audacy, a Penumbral Lunar Eclipse happens when the Moon passes through the partial shadow of the Earth, also known as the penumbra. During this eclipse, the Moon will only slightly darken. However, it will be visible across all of North America. The eclipse will begin at 4:53 UTC on March 25, and is expected to last approximately 280 minutes, according to Eclipse Wise.

  • April 8: Total solar eclipse

“On April 8, the moon will pass directly between the Earth and the sun, completely blocking out the sun during a breathtaking total eclipse. Viewers anywhere along the 115-mile-wide path of totality will witness the sky darkening in the midafternoon as the sun disappears.”

Path of the total eclipse on April 8, 2024 Michael Zeiler, GreatAmericanEclipse.com

Total solar eclipses are quite rare. On average, one will occur at a given location every 375 years. In the lower 48 states, the last visible total eclipse occurred in 2017, and, before that, in 1979. Your next chance to witness this phenomenon within the contiguous United States won’t be until August 23, 2044.

  • April 16 – 25: Lyrids Meteor Shower

The Lyrids meteor shower is one of our more moderate annual showers, with about 10 to 15 meteors soaring across the sky under ideal conditions. Unfortunately, the peak of this year’s shower on April 22 will fall just before the full moon on the 23rd, so the bright moon may obscure viewing.

Meteor showers occur as the Earth passes through debris left behind by a comet or asteroid. As these particles enter the Earth’s atmosphere, they burn up at high speeds and leave a bright streak across the sky.

  • Other events:

April 15 to May 27: Eta Aquarid meteor shower

August 11 to August 13: Perseid meteor shower

October 12 to October 19: Comet Tsuchinshan-ATLAS passes close to Earth

Orionid and Geminid Meteor Showers

Jupiter, Mars, Saturn and the Moon align forming a straight line across the night sky (June)

Harvest Moon (September)

“It was the mark of a barbarian to destroy something one could not understand.”
― Arthur C. Clarke, 2001: A Space Odyssey

Every revolutionary idea seems to evoke three stages of reaction. They may be summed up by the phrases: (1) It’s completely impossible. (2) It’s possible, but it’s not worth doing. (3) I said it was a good idea all along.”
― Arthur C Clarke

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