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Stunning meteor showers, full moons and eclipses will light up the sky in 2023.
The year is sure to be a sky-gazer’s delight with plenty of celestial events on the calendar.
A comet discovered in March 2022 will make its closest approach to the sun on January 12, according to NASA. The comet, spotted by astronomers using the Zwicky Transient Facility at the Palomar Observatory in San Diego County, California, is named C/2022 E3 (ZTF) and will make its closest pass of Earth on February 2.
The comet should be visible through binoculars in the morning sky for sky watchers in the Northern Hemisphere during most of January and those in the Southern Hemisphere in early February, according to NASA.
On any given day, there is always a good chance that the International Space Station is flying overhead. And if you ever want to know what planets are visible in the morning or evening sky, check The Old Farmer’s Almanac’s calculator.
Here are the rest of 2023’s top sky events, so you can have your binoculars and telescope ready.
Full moons and supermoons
Most years, there are 12 full moons — one for each month. But in 2023, there will be 13 full moons, with two occurring in August.
The second full moon in one month is known as a blue moon, like the phrase “once in a blue moon,” according to NASA. Typically, full moons occur every 29 days, while most months in our calendar last 30 or 31 days, so the months and moon phases don’t always align. This results in a blue moon about every 2.5 years.
The two full moons in August can also be considered supermoons, according to EarthSky. Definitions of a supermoon can vary, but the term generally denotes a full moon that is brighter and closer to Earth than normal and thus appears larger in the night sky.
Some astronomers say the phenomenon occurs when the moon is within 90% of perigee — its closest approach to Earth in orbit. By that definition, the full moon for July will also be considered a supermoon event, according to EarthSky.
Here is the list of full moons for 2023, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac:
- January 6: Wolf moon
- February 5: Snow moon
- March 7: Worm moon
- April 6: Pink moon
- May 5: Flower moon
- June 3: Strawberry moon
- July 3: Buck moon
- August 1: Sturgeon moon
- August 30: Blue moon
- September 29: Harvest moon
- October 28: Hunter’s moon
- November 27: Beaver moon
- December 26: Cold moon
While these are the popularized names associated with the monthly full moon, each one carries its own significance across Native American tribes (with many also referred to by differing names).
Lunar and solar eclipses
There will be two solar eclipses and two lunar eclipses in 2023.
A total solar eclipse will occur on April 20, visible to those in Australia, Southeast Asia and Antarctica. This kind of event occurs when the moon moves between the sun and Earth, blocking out the sun.
And for some skywatchers in Indonesia, parts of Australia and Papua New Guinea, it will actually be a hybrid solar eclipse. The curvature of Earth’s surface can cause some eclipses to shift between total and annular as the moon’s shadow moves across the globe, according to NASA.
Like a total solar eclipse, the moon passes between the sun and the Earth during an annular eclipse — but it occurs when the moon is at or near its farthest point from Earth, according to NASA. This causes the moon to appear smaller than the sun, so it doesn’t completely block out our star and creates a glowing ring around the moon.
A Western Hemisphere-sweeping annular solar eclipse will occur on October 14 and be visible across North, Central and South America.
Be sure to wear proper eclipse glasses to safely view solar eclipses, as the sun’s light can be damaging to the eye.
Meanwhile, a lunar eclipse can occur only during a full moon when the sun, Earth and moon align and the moon passes into Earth’s shadow. When this occurs, Earth casts two shadows on the moon during the eclipse. The partial outer shadow is called the penumbra; the full, dark shadow is the umbra.
When the full moon moves into Earth’s shadow, it darkens, but it won’t disappear. Instead, sunlight passing through Earth’s atmosphere lights the moon in a dramatic fashion, turning it red — which is why the event is often referred to as a “blood moon.”
Depending on the weather conditions in your area, it may be a rusty or brick-colored red. This happens because blue light undergoes stronger atmospheric scattering, so red light will be the most dominant color highlighted as sunlight passes through our atmosphere and casts it on the moon.
A penumbral lunar eclipse will occur on May 5 for those in Africa, Asia and Australia. This less dramatic version of a lunar eclipse happens when the moon moves through the penumbra, or the faint, outer part of Earth’s shadow.
A partial lunar eclipse on October 28 will be visible to those in Europe, Asia, Australia, Africa, parts of North America and much of South America. Partial eclipses occur when the sun, Earth and moon don’t completely align, so only part of the moon passes into shadow.
The new year kicks off with the Quadrantid meteor shower, which is expected to peak in the overnight hours between January 3 and 4 for those in North America, according to the American Meteor Society.
It’s the first of 12 meteor showers throughout the year, although the next one, the Lyrid meteor shower, doesn’t peak until April.
Here are peak dates of other showers to watch in 2023:
- Lyrids: April 22-23
- Eta Aquariids: May 5-6
- Southern delta Aquariids: July 30-31
- Alpha Capricornids: July 30-31
- Perseids: August 12-13
- Orionids: October 20-21
- Southern Taurids: November 4-5
- Northern Taurids: November 11-12
- Leonids: November 17-18
- Geminids: December 13-14
- Ursids: December 21-22
If you live in an urban area, you may want to drive to a place that isn’t littered with city lights. If you’re able to find an area unaffected by light pollution, meteors could be visible every couple of minutes from late evening until dawn.
Find an open area with a wide view of the sky. Make sure you have a chair or blanket so you can look straight up. And give your eyes about 20 to 30 minutes to adjust to the darkness — without looking at your phone! — so the meteors will be easier to spot.