Thursday, May 3, 2012

upcoming astronomical events!

As an amateur astronomy geek, I love hearing about upcoming meteor showers, eclipses, and other astronomical events... and there are some really amazing events coming up in the next month!

First up, on May 5: The biggest full moon of the year will occur this weekend! Also known as a "supermoon", this is the time when the moon is at its perigee (when it's the closest to the earth in its elliptical orbit), and also when it's full. What this means is that the moon is going to be bigger and brighter than average, and may give some spectacular views as it's rising!


the march 2011 supermoon as seen in washington (credit: tim mccord @ space.com/)


On May 20, an Annular Solar Eclipse (when a ring of sunlight will be visible around the eclipsing moon) will be visible for China and the Western US, although those in Northern California will have the best view. NASA has an interactive map, which allows you to view eclipse times in your location. The next full solar eclipse visible in the US won't be until 2017!


an example of an annular eclipse (credit: NOAA/SEC)


And finally, saving the best for last, on June 5 in the US (or June 6 on the other side of the world), a very special event: the Transit of Venus! This is the last time this will happen in our lifetimes, so it's a definite can't-miss event. A Transit of Venus occurs when "Venus passes directly between earth and the sun" and "we see the distant planet as a small dot gliding slowly across the face of the sun". The last Transit was in 2004, but the next one won't be until 2117.


the 2004 transit of venus, seen in grand rapids, mi (credit: leapsecond.com)




And finally, a reminder:

DO NOT EVER LOOK DIRECTLY AT THE SUN!


Companies like Rainbow Symphony sell affordable Eclipse Shades (starting at under $1/pair), and these will mean all the difference between going blind or not!

1 comment:

David Pablo Cohn said...

Oooh oooh! It's important to know that there are, also transits of Mercury, which aren't nearly as rare, occurring once every decade or so. And since you're going to ask, the next two *simultaneous* transits of Venus and Mercury are in 69,163 and 224,508. Don't hold your breath.