ORLANDO, Fla. – 2023 will be jam-packed full of astronomical events worthy of making plans for. Most of the events on this list don’t even require a telescope!
Here are just five of the many reasons to look up at the night sky in 2023.
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5. Moonless meteor showers
Number five is a two-for-one special. The Perseids and Geminids are two of the best annual meteor showers we have. In 2023, near-perfect viewing (weather permitting) is expected as moonlight will not be a factor in either of the displays.
Perseid Meteor Shower: Peak August 11 & 12
Geminid Meteor Shower: Peak December 13 & 14
Meteor showers are best observed with the naked eye. It’s best to be away from city lights and allow about 15-30 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the darkness. Be patient! Meteor showers are notorious for having lulls and spurts during the show.
4. Jupiter and Venus conjunction
Two of the brightest objects in our night sky are about to get up close and personal from our perspective. In reality, the two bodies are still extremely far apart.
You will notice Jupiter and Venus inch closer together after sunset through February. They will be at their closest on the evening of March 1.
3. Asteroid 319 (Leona) blocks Betelgeuse
Only a select few people in the U.S. will be able to see this rare event, but you won’t have to travel far in Florida. On Dec. 12, an asteroid is going to move in in front of one of the brightest stars in our night sky. Asteroid Leona will block the light of the iconic orange star Betelgeuse. Betelgeuse makes up the shoulder of the well-known constellation Orion.
For about 10 seconds, just before 8:30, it will look like the star has gone missing as the asteroid occults Betelgeuse.
This is only visible from the Florida Keys and extreme south Florida in the U.S. This will also be visible, however, in parts of southern Europe.
2. Comet ZTF
Late January through Early February
There is a lot of buzz about a comet lighting up the sky in January and February. Rightfully so, but this one is going to be hard to see with the unaided eye if you are around city lights.
Comets are notoriously hard to forecast, but Comet ZTF, named for the Zwicky Transient Facility where it was discovered, does have the potential to be a naked-eye comet in late January and early February. You likely won’t even know it’s there with lights around unless ZTF has an extreme surprise up its sleeve.
If it does, it will look like a green smudge near the Big Dipper. Binoculars or a small telescope will enhance the viewing of this once in 50,0000 year event.
1. Ring Of Fire Eclipse
This will be a partial solar eclipse for Florida, like what was observed in 2017. For a select few areas out west, however, a rare ring of fire eclipse will be seen. Like a total solar eclipse, the moon moves in between the Earth and sun. This time around, the moon won’t completely cover the sun during the main event, but will leave a thin ring of orange around the moon, hence the ring of fire name.
Special eclipse glasses will be needed to view the partial solar eclipse and the full ring of fire eclipse out west.
Looking ahead to 2024
Something even greater is coming into alignment for the spring of 2024. Like in 2017, a total solar eclipse will be visible for a large portion of the U.S.; Florida will miss out on totality, but a partial solar eclipse will again be visible.
This eclipse brings total darkness for a few minutes where totality occurs. It’s during this portion of the eclipse that the special glasses can be taken off for a few moments to view the sun’s corona.
Totality will be seen in a small sliver from Texas through upstate New York. This is an event worth planning a trip around. It will take place April 8.
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