Celestial Events In 2020
Whether you are a novice telescope enthusiast, expert imager, or backyard binocular observer, we put this list together to help you schedule your observing. Do you have some you'd like us to add to our list? We would love for you to share your experiences during the year. Send us images or just shoot us a memo letting us know how you enjoyed these events. Let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. We found this cool YouTube by Alyn Wallace, and this online constellation guide to help plan observations.
In late February, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn will line up to provide opportunities to view all three with binoculars or telescopes. From February 18-20, the moon will pass close to each of these planets. This will make it easier to find them in the night sky, no matter where you are. You may want to take advantage of this by snapping some photos and images while this is occurring.
In late March, Venus will shine brightly in the sky. Venus will become the brightest natural object in the sky after the sun and moon. It will rise in the West after sunset, no matter where your location may be. Much brighter than any other planet or star, Venus will provide some unique observing experiences for all levels of observers.
April 27th, Venus hits its greatest illuminated extent, and maximum magnitude. Venus will be at its brightest point of the year, and almost impossible to miss. Later in the year (July 10th), Venus will again shine near its brightest, but in the morning just before sunrise.
June 21st, the “ring of fire,” annular solar eclipse occurs. The eclipse won’t be visible in the Americas, but those in or traveling to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, Ethiopia, the Arabian Peninsula, Pakistan, northern India, southern China, and the island of Taiwan will witness this event. DON’T Forget, eye protection MUST be worn to prevent eye damage.
July 14th, Jupiter will be at opposition. This means Jupiter will be on the opposite side of Earth as the sun. Distant planets like Jupiter, Earth is closer to the planet during opposition than other times of the year. Jupiter will shine bright in the sky pretty much all night over the time of opposition, reaching its highest point around midnight.
July 20th, Saturn will be at opposition. Appearing as a yellow-white dot of light, Saturn will be bright in the sky the entire night. This will give you ample opportunity to observe Saturn, particularly during the new moon, July 20th. The rings will be tilted at about 21 degrees, and clearly visible when observing.
August 11th-13th, Perseid meteor shower will occur. Shooting stars will be visible across the sky, peaking in the predawn hours of August 12. If you trace their path, they will appear to be radiating from the constellation Perseus.
October 13th, Mars will be at opposition. Mars reaches opposition with Earth every two years, and this year we expect viewing conditions to be stellar. During the last opposition of Mars, the red planet was in a full planetary dust storm that prevented any details to be seen. We are hoping and anticipating visible details this year when observing.
December 13th, Geminid meteor shower occurs. This may be the premier meteor shower of the year, peaking the night of December 13th, and predawn morning of December 14th. Geminid meteors will be seen radiating from the constellation Gemini, seen as slow-moving streaks of light. This year, it will peak during the new moon, which will intensify viewing. Plan to take advantage of this combination.
December 14th, Total Solar Eclipse will occur across the southern end of South America. The path of totality will cross Chile and Argentina, about 50 miles wide. The duration of totality will be a little more than 2 minutes. The Sun’s corona (outer atmosphere), without a telescope. DON’T Forget, eye protection MUST be worn to prevent eye damage. Schedule your travels early if you plan to witness one of the most inspiring natural phenomena known. When it crosses South America, the Moon's shadow will only be about 90 km (55 miles) wide. Here's a map of the totality path.
December 21st, Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn. 2020 will close with Jupiter and Saturn being closer than they have been since 1623! This conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn is know as the “great conjunction.” This happens about every 20 years, but this year they are particularly close. Both planets can be in view with your eyepiece.
Here are some starter objects for those new to astonomy:
|Object Name||Type of Object||Constellation|
|M41||Star Cluster||Canis Major|
|Orion Nebula (M42)||Diffuse Nebula||Orion|
|The Pleiades (M45)||Star Cluster||Taurus|
|M3||Globular Cluster||Canes Venatici|
|Beehive Cluster (M44)||Star Cluster||Cancer|
|Mizar||Double Star||Ursa Major|
|Butterfly Cluster (M6)||Star Cluster||Scorpius|
|Lagoon Nebula (M8)||Diffuse Nebula & Star Cluster||Sagittarius|
|Wild Duck Cluster (M11)||Star Cluster||Scutum|
|Swan Nebula (M17)||Diffuse Nebula||Sagittarius|
|Ring Nebula (M57)||Planetary Nebula||Lyra|
|Andromeda Galaxy (M31)||Galaxy||Andromeda|
|Double Cluster (NGC869 & 884)||Star Clusters||Perseus|
Major Meteor Showers in 2020
The following are predictions for each shower's prospects during 2020.
|Shower||Radiant and direction||Morning of maximum||Best hourly rate||Parent body|
|Quadrantid||Draco (NE)||Jan. 4||60-120||2003 EH1|
|Lyrid||Lyra (E)||April 22||10-20||Thatcher (1861 I)|
|Eta Aquariid||Aquarius (E)||May 5||20-60||1P/Halley|
|Delta Aquariid||Aquarius (S)||July 29||20||96P/Machholz|
|Perseid||Perseus (NE)||Aug. 12||90||109P/Swift-Tuttle|
|Draconid||Draco (N)||Oct. 7||10-100||21P/Giacobini-Zinner|
|Orionid||Orion (SE)||Oct. 21||10-20||1P/Halley|
|Southern Taurid||Taurus (S)||Nov. 5||10-20||2P/Encke|
|Leonid||Leo (E)||Nov. 17||10-20||55P/Tempel-Tuttle|
|Geminid||Gemini (S)||Dec. 14||100-120||3200 Phaethon|
|Ursid||Ursa Minor (N)||Dec. 22||10||8P/Tuttle|
Here's an abbreviated Telescope-Astronomy Glossary to help you become more familiar with common terms used while discovering more about telescopes and Astronomy. We hope this helps you and inspires you to learn more.