Last year was a busy year for astronomers. Not only were there two total lunar eclipses but there was a surprise meteor outburst and plenty of planetary sightings. However, 2023 is poised to offer astronomers even more surprises. The following is a quick synopsis of the top sky-watching events of 2023. Make sure to grab your telescope and shades because this will be a big year.
Astronomy in 2023: The Basics
Just like any other year, most things within the galaxy are out of our control. This means that while we know a few things to look for, such as moon phases and eclipses, there will be surprising events, such as meteor showers and solar cycles, that cannot be predicted. Some people would say we are due for supernovae, given one hasn't truly been seen since 1604, but there is always hope!
That said, we are inching closer to the peak of the 11-year solar cycle, so the brightest star in our galaxy (the sun) is due to offer earth astronomers some solar flares, sunspots, and aurora throughout the year.
Kicking Off with a Planetary Spectacle
Those who enjoy planetary sightings will be overjoyed to hear that 2023 will start with a unique look at five planets in a row. While a telescope will certainly offer deeper planetary views, all five will be visible to the naked eye at dusk. However, Mercury will disappear on January 5th, and then as the month progresses, the planets will slowly drop out of sight.
March Messier Marathon
Named after the famous astronomer Charles Messier, a Messier Marathon is when various galactic anomalies all come into view, including objects as simple as comets and as awe-inspiring as diffuse nebulae, globular clusters, and galaxies. This year the Messier Marathon phenomenon is likely to appear on the weekend of March 18th and the weekend of March 25th. The best views will likely fall on the 18th, but enough galactic sights should still be visible the second weekend to make it worth grabbing a telescope and inspecting the night sky.
One of the most awe-inspiring and recognizable sky-watching events every year is solar and/or lunar eclipses. In 2023 there should be two solar eclipses and two lunar eclipses, which offer everyone the chance to see at least one. The best shot for Americans to see a solar eclipse will be on October 14th, but unfortunately, it is only viewable for those in the southwest. Other locations may be able to catch a glimpse depending on many factors, so make sure to pay attention to local weather and astronomical predictions as the date gets closer.
Lunar eclipses will occur on May 5th and October 28th but will only be viewable for those in Australia/East Asia and Africa/Asia/Europe, respectively.
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