2014’s celestial events include two lunar eclipses visible from San Antonio and a partial solar eclipse that will begin several hours before sunset one October afternoon. A new meteor shower could be a bonus.
Here’s what stargazers have to look forward to in 2014:
The Quadrantid meteors, meanwhile, also peak early in the year, on the night of January 2nd and into January 3rd for a matter of hours.
Jupiter is always one of the most distinctive objects in the night sky, and it will be at its brightest early in the new year, on January 5th. That is when the planet is at “opposition,” when the Earth is directly between it and the sun.
The year starts out with its smallest full moon on the calendar, with the January 15th “Micro Moon” occurring closest to the moon’s apogee, when it is farthest from Earth in its orbit.
Venus takes its turn to brighten in the middle of the month, reaching its greatest brilliancy around February 15th.
The vernal equinox occurs March 20th, but San Antonio’s hours of daylight and darkness will become equal again by March 16th.
April 8th is a good time to view Mars, with the planet closest to Earth and its surface fully lit up by the sun.
The Earth’s full shadow will be cast on the moon on April 14th-15th, the first of two full lunar eclipses in 2014. The eclipse will be visible across the Americas. Full lunar eclipses don’t block out the moonlight but can dim it or, sometimes, tint it red.
The Lyrid meteor shower, with up to 20 meteors per hour, peaks around the night of April 22nd and into April 23rd.
The Eta Aquarid shower, with up to 30 meteors per hour, can be seen in the early morning hours from May 4th to May 7th, with its peak around the morning of May 6.
Saturn makes its closest approach to Earth on May 10th, and its rings and moons will be visible with a telescope.
The calendar of meteor showers remains stable, more or less, as Earth’s orbit regularly intersects with the orbit of comets that leave behind small pieces of debris and dust. But an intense new shower could emerge around May 23rd, when Earth passes through the trail of comet 209P/LINEAR, which passed by the sun in 2009.
The waxing gibbous moon and Mars will be within 2 degrees of each other June 7th, pairing up nicely in the early-evening sky. Look to the west after sunset.
The summer solstice occurs June 21st, when there is just over 14 hours of daylight.
The Delta Aquarid meteor shower can produce up to 20 meteors per hour, running from mid-July through late August. The show peaks the night of July 28th and into June 29th, and a thin crescent moon setting early in the evening means that more meteors can be seen.
Venus and Jupiter will pair up this month in the early-morning sky, becoming only a quarter of a degree apart. Look to the east near the constellation Cancer’s “Beehive Cluster.”
The Full Sturgeon Moon on August 10th will be the year’s largest full moon. The moon will be just shy of 222,000 miles away at perigee, more than 30,000 miles closer than it will be at its farthest apogee, on July 27th.
The Perseids are one of the year’s best meteor showers, with as many as 60 meteors per hour at peak on the night of August 12th and into August 13th. Moonlight could outshine some smaller meteors, but the “shooting stars” should still be plentiful.
The autumnal equinox is September 23rd, and four days later, daylight hours begin taking up less than half of the day until March 2015.
The year’s second full lunar eclipse, on October 8th, will be best seen from the West Coast of the United States and across the Pacific; in Texas, part of it will be visible until moonset.
Two relatively minor meteor showers occur in October: the Draconids, with up to 10 meteors per hour, on the night of October 8 and into October 9th, and the Orionids, with up to 20 meteors per hour, on the night of October 21st and into October 22nd.
Astronomers and scientists will be watching an object known as Comet Siding Spring as it passes possibly within 70,000 miles of Mars around October 19th.
We will get a good view of a partial solar eclipse October 23rd. Be sure not to look directly at the sun.
The Leonid meteors peak the night of November 17th and into November 18th, producing up to 20 meteors per hour.
The best of the year’s meteor showers comes last, when the Geminids peak the night of December 13th and into December 14th. The shower can produce more than 100 meteors per hour, and they often streak across the sky in beautiful colors.
The winter solstice occurs December 21st, with just 10 hours, 15 minutes of daylight.