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Astronomical highlights of 2018
« on: January 04, 2018, 09:24:17 PM »

Astronomical highlights of 2018

Dean Regas
Special to Cincinnati Enquirer
Published Jan. 3, 2018

636505875375410198-Heart-Nebula - Astronomical highlights of 2018 - Science and Research
(Photo: Eric Africa)

Two blue moons, a lunar eclipse, an August meteor shower and the return of Mars are the headliners for another full year of astronomical wonders. Get out your calendars and get ready for the following astronomical highlights of 2018.

The astronomical event in 2018 that may go viral may only happen once in a blue moon. On the morning of Jan. 31, we will have a lunar eclipse. This happens when Earth comes between the sun and moon and casts its shadow onto the lunar surface. During a total lunar eclipse, the moon turns an eerie shade of orange that some people call a “blood moon.” It is definitely on the top 10 list of every stargazer to see. However, if you are looking for it on the eastern half of the country, you will see only part of the moon eclipsed. The moon will set just before totality. But if you live in the western half of the U.S., you will see the total eclipse just before sunrise.

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« Reply #1 on: January 05, 2018, 01:02:20 AM »

636505875366206139-Lunar-Eclipse - Astronomical highlights of 2018 - Science and Research
Lunar eclipse (Photo: Dean Regas)

Every lunar eclipse occurs on a full moon, but what’s going to make this lunar eclipse extra special is that Jan. 31 is the second full moon of the calendar month, making it a blue moon. A blue moon does not actually turn the color blue. It is just a made-up name.  Nevertheless, the combination of a “blue moon” and a “blood moon” might make the internet explode.     

If you miss the blue moon on Jan. 31, there will be another one on March 31. There will be a full moon on March 1 and 31 this year. And that means that the month of February will have no full moons. This rare non-occurrence has not happened since 2009.

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« Reply #2 on: January 05, 2018, 01:04:17 AM »

636505875451070683-37983-mars-globe-valles-marineris-enhanced - Astronomical highlights of 2018 - Science and Research
Our beautiful red planet, Mars. (Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Marsapalooza

After a long hiatus from the evening sky, all five naked-eye planets will be visible this year after sunset. First to return is Mercury, which will shine at dusk the week of March 15. Next comes Venus, which will cozy up to Mercury and the crescent moon on March 18. That will be the start of Venus viewing season when the dazzlingly bright planet will grace the western sky every evening until October.

On May 9, Jupiter will be at its closest point to Earth for the year and will look exceptionally bright in the southeastern sky after sunset that entire month. You will also be able to spot Jupiter right next to the moon on June 23, July 20, Aug. 16 and Sept. 13.

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« Reply #3 on: January 05, 2018, 01:06:26 AM »

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Saturn (Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/Ian Regan)

The ringed planet Saturn will be at its best for viewing on June 27 when the nearly full moon will be just above it. Since you will be able to find Saturn all summer long in the southern sky, make a point to look at it through a telescope this year.

However, the big planetary news is that the Red Planet is back. Mars, always a crowd favorite, will be a mere 35.8 million miles from Earth on July 27. This is the closest pass for Mars since 2003. You will notice it in July rising in the east late at night, and throughout August after sunset as a bright, orange, unblinking star. On the night of closest approach, July 27, Mars will also be in conjunction with the full moon. The pair will make a dramatic sight and kick off a month of Mars-watching some astronomers call “Marsapalooza.”

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« Reply #4 on: January 05, 2018, 01:08:38 AM »

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Andromeda Galaxy (Photo: Eric Africa)

Meteors and satellites

The Perseid Meteor shower this August could be the best shooting star show of the year. The Perseids peak on the night of Aug. 12 and into the morning of Aug. 13. Get out of the city and find a dark spot to view. The moon will be out of the way so you may be able to see even the fainter shooting stars. Whether you moon-gaze, stargaze or Mars-gaze, there is always lots to see when you keep looking up.

Dean Regas is the Astronomer for the Cincinnati Observatory, co-host of PBS’ Star Gazers, and author of the books 100 Things to See in the Night Sky and Facts from Space!  He can be reached at dean@cincinnatiobservatory.org

https://www.cincinnati.com/



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