This year so far has offered many astronomical delights for sky-gazers and it gets better. While amazing astronomical phenomena are in the offing, these events are just a few of celestial moments worth circling on your wall planner for 2018.
July 15: Moon Meets Venus
At local sunset, UK sky-watchers should look for the thin waxing crescent moon to appear in a close encounter with the planet Venus this will take place low in the southwestern sky. Although North American onlookers will have the best view the two worlds at their closest—they will appear to be separated by less than about three lunar disks.
July 27: Total Lunar Eclipse
A second chance for the year to witness the moon go dark on the evening of July 27, when a total lunar eclipse will cross South America, Europe, Australia, Africa, and Asia. This time, the eclipse will take place about half a day after the moon reaches its farthest point from Earth. The total eclipse begins at 20:30 p.m. BST (3:30 p.m. ET). During this event, the moon will travel through the darkest part of Earth’s shadow, potentially making this a particularly deep total eclipse.
July 27: Mars at Its
This year, Mars will be especially close to Earth shortly after opposition, coming within 35.8 million miles of us on July 31. This combination means that Mars will be at its biggest and brightest since 2003, and it won’t get this close to us again until 2035. On the same date as the total lunar eclipse, Mars will seem to glide close to the moon just as it reaches its peak visibility for the year. The red planet will be at opposition, when it sits opposite to the sun in the sky, from our perspective. During opposition, Mars will look like a super-bright orange star in the southern sky. As Mars does not have a perfectly circular orbit around the sun, the red planet gets nearer and farther from Earth over time. While the planet will look spectacular to the naked eye, keen backyard astronomers with telescopes will have exceptional views of various Martian surface features, such as its white polar caps and dark volcanic plains.
August 11: Partial Solar
At sunrise on August 11, a partial solar eclipse will greet sky-watchers across the high northern regions of North America and Europe, as well as Greenland, Iceland, and Asia. The most spectacular views from land will be from remote sites in Russia and large portions of northeastern China, such as around the city of Harbin, where the moon will cover 37 percent of the sun a few minutes before local sunset.
August 12-13: Perseid Meteor
Considered one of the most intense annual meteor showers, the Perseids regularly produce up to 60 shooting stars an hour at their peak. This year promises to be particularly good in terms of performance, since the peak will coincide with a dark, moonless sky on the night of August 12 and into the predawn hours of August 13. The thin crescent moon will set during the early evening, creating excellent viewing conditions across the Northern Hemisphere.