The New Year is upon us – and you know what that means! It’s time to turn over calendars, come up with resolutions, and look forward to another orbit ’round the sun. After passing perihelion on January 4th, the Earth will move on its elliptical orbit to its furthest point from the sun on July 4th, and then return back 3 million miles closer by this time next year.
The celestial dance is consistent, and that means that some of the best events in the 2023 night sky are similar from years past; others are new and exciting opportunities to get out and enjoy the night sky. From newly-discovered comets and renamed meteor showers to chances to spot the foundational objects in our solar system, 2023 promises many nights of enjoyable time under the stars if you take advantage of them.
In this post, I’ll help you accomplish your New Year’s resolution to go stargazing more by highlighting 23 of the best astronomy events of the year. These are the events I have on my calendar, though there are of course others – and I highlight them each month in my Night Sky Guides (which you can see on the Explore page). Whether you use this as your guide for the year – or just as your starting point – you’ll be delighted by any chance you have to see these events. Read on to discover the best night sky events in 2023.
January 4 – Peak of the Quadrantid Meteor Shower
The new year kicks off with a bombastic event – as it always does – with the peak of the Quadrantids meteor shower in early January. This meteor shower radiates from a point in the sky where a constellation no longer “exists” – Quadrans Muralis was an early constellation that is no longer part of the 88 official constellations in the sky.
The Quadrantids are one of the most active meteor showers of the year, though most people don’t realize how well the hourly rate of meteors compares to the more popular showers like the Perseids and Geminids. The difference between these latter-year showers and the Quadrantids is that the peak of the Quadrantids is very short – usually just a few hours. This means that if it occurs in the daylight, dawn, or dusk hours, it can be hard to see any meteors at all that year.
Unfortunately, that applies in 2023: the peak of the Quadrantids will occur after dawn, around 9am EST, making this a hard year to see any of these celestial fireworks marking the new year.
February 1 – C/2022 E3 (ZTF) Reaches its Brightest
You might have already heard about the mouthful-of-a-name Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF), which has been making headlines for the incredible imagery some astrophotographers have captured – as well as the chance for all of us to spot it in the sky (and potentially with the unaided eye!).
C/2022 E3 (ZTF) was discovered in early March 2022, and will pass around the sun on January 12th. On February 1st, it will be at its closest to Earth on its 50,000-year orbit, and this is an ideal night to get out to try and spot it. It’s most likely the case you’ll need binoculars to do so, though it may brighten enough for the unaided eye in good dark sky conditions.
There are lots of resources about C/2022 E3 (ZTF) out there – I recommend googling to see the latest headlines if you want to spot it as it sails by.
March 21 – Ceres at Opposition
The only dwarf planet in the asteroid belt, Ceres is the largest object among the many millions that make up that part of the solar system. As the largest, it was the first spotted too – that’s why its designation is officially “1 Ceres.” In 2023, it’s also the first of the dwarf planets you could try and spot when it reaches opposition (the night where it is opposite the Sun from our earthly perspective, and thus well-lit for viewing).
Ceres will be in the constellation Coma Berenices and is relatively easy to spot with binoculars or a smaller telescope, thanks to its proximity to Earth.
March 21 – Best Night for the Messier Marathon
For those not familiar, the Messier catalog includes 110 deep space objects; the Messier Marathon is an unofficial event where astronomers attempt to see all 110 events in a single night. All 110 events are only visible in the sky between late February and early April, and it’s obviously critical to have no light interference from the Moon.
In 2023, there are two good weekends near a new moon where you can try and “run” the Messier Marathon: March 18/19 and March 25/26. On these nights, you’ll want to plan a trip to a very dark-sky spot, bring your telescope, and plan to stay up all night gazing deep into the universe.
March 29 – Makemake at Opposition
Named for the god of fertility in the Rapanui mythology of the Easter Islands, the dwarf planet Makemake is one of the many interesting not-quite-planetary objects in our solar system. Even better, the annual best night to see Makemake occurs early in the year.
On the night of March 29th, Makemake will reach opposition and be at its most brightly lit by the sun; it will be visible in the constellation Coma Berenices if you want to try and spot it with your telescope or other stargazing equipment.
April 19 – Hybrid Solar Eclipse
While you wouldn’t think it, there are lots of terms that seem to be new in the field of astronomy – at least to me. One term I had never heard before this year was “Hybrid Solar Eclipse,” which is apparently how you can describe the solar eclipse happening on April 19th.
See, this eclipse varies a lot depending on where you see it – and not just in an “I’m in the path of totality and you can only see a partial eclipse” kind of way. This eclipse is actually a hybrid total/annular solar eclipse: for those on the path where the Moon completely blocks the Sun, some (most) people will see a total solar eclipse, and a small number will see an annular eclipse.
Totality/annularity will only be visible to those in a small swath of western Australia, East Timor and eastern Indonesia, so be sure to check out my guide for this solar eclipse for all the details if you live in that part of the world.
April 20 – Haumea at Opposition
It’s been fun trying to spot the dwarf planets this year, right? Let’s try again: dwarf planet Haumea will reach opposition during the daylight hours of April 20th, so that night is a great time to try and spot this solar system object named for the goddess of childbirth and fertility in Hawaiian mythology.
Haumea will be in the constellation of Boötes and you’ll need stargazing equipment to spot her (either a telescope or high-powered astronomy binoculars); you’ll also want to use some sort of starfinder app to make it easier.
April 23 – Peak of the Lyrid Meteor Shower
I consider it a good luck sign that my birthday is always marked by a meteor shower: the Lyrids generally peak on the night of April 22nd (into the 23rd, my birthday). This year, the radiant point of the meteor shower – the constellation Lyra – will be visible above the horizon all night long. Additionally in 2023, a nearly new moon will pose little interference, so it’s a great first opportunity to see one of the year’s major meteor showers.
If you want to learn more about how to see the Lyrids this year, I have a guide for that!
While there are certainly astronomical events in the three months between the end of April and late July, I did not choose to feature them in this list. I’d encourage you to check out my monthly guides to the night sky for more info about what’s happening during those months.
July 22 – Pluto at Opposition
After reading about Ceres, Haumea, and Makemake, you might be thinking: What about Pluto? Surely Valerie didn’t demote it off her list in 2023 in addition to conceding its status as a dwarf planet?!
Never fear, fellow astronomy fan: Pluto is on my list of dwarf planets you can (and should) try to spot in 2023! Beloved Pluto reaches opposition on July 22nd (actually in the morning hours, so your best chance to see Pluto is the night of the 21st-22nd).
You’ll definitely need a telescope and some sort of app to help you located and spot distant and beloved Pluto in the constellation Capricornus.
August 13 – Peak of the Perseid Meteor Shower
No list of yearly astronomy events is completed without including the most popular meteor shower of the year, the Perseids.
The Perseids typically peak somewhere between August 12th-14th each year. This year it’s predicted they’ll peak right in the middle, on the morning of the 13th. Before the sun rises that day, you can expect to see up to 150 meteors per hour – hence why this is such a popular astronomy event to see!
Like for the Lyrids a few months earlier, the Moon will be in an excellent nearly-new phase for the Persieds in 2023.
Ready to plan your Perseids-viewing experience? Check out my guide.
August 27 – Saturn at Opposition
As the second half of the year goes by, there are some great opportunities for seeing the gas giants and ice giants in our solar system. In particular, you’ll want to try and spot these planets when they’re at “opposition” – meaning they’re directly opposite from the sun, with the earth in the middle.
The first good opportunity like this happens just after the Perseids, when Saturn reaches opposition on August 27th. Saturn will be visible in the constellation Capricornus and in the sky most of the night; it’ll reach its highest point around midnight local time – wherever you’re observing from.
While Saturn is visible to the unaided eye, a telescope will make this an even better experience. Saturn’s rings are visible even with low-cost, smaller telescopes (such as those in the $100 to $200 range); obviously a bigger telescope will bring even more definition to the resplendent scene. (Can you tell Saturn is my favorite planet to view through a telescope? Those rings are just so magical!)
Note that for all of these opposition events this year, I chose photos that are more similar to what you’ll see looking through a standard telescope rather than professional photos from Hubble or other observatories.
September 19 – Neptune at Opposition
Following up on Saturn’s (good) opposition, next up is Neptune. Distant Neptune reaches opposition on September 19th, and you’ll definitely need a telescope to see it. (Neptune is never visible to the unaided eye, even in perfect dark sky conditions or when at opposition and relatively brighter.)
Neptune will be located in the constellation Aquarius, which might be hard to find if you don’t use a star finder app or have a telescope with that function. Instead, look for big, bright Jupiter, which is close to Neptune in the sky and use that as a guide. Speaking of Jupiter being relatively close to Neptune in the night sky…
October 9 – Peak of the Draconid Meteor Shower
After a series of oppositions and some great chances to go planet-gazing, it’s time to head back out for more meteor showers. The autumn is prime season for shooting stars, so bundle up!
First up is the Draconids meteor shower, which peaks in the evening hours of October 9th. The good fortune of moon phases and meteor showers continues, as the moon will be a small waning crescent on this night, and present little interference for viewing.
While generally a slow meteor shower with only meteors per hour, the Draconids are a variable shower – some years we are treated to literally thousands of meteors per hour. Nobody has made predictions for 2023 yet, so keep your ears peeled for news as we get closer to the day. Additionally, I have a guide for seeing the Draconids that will help you plan a night out to see them, however many there are.
October 14 – Annular Solar Eclipse Across the U.S.
It’s safe to say that few countries get more into the astronomical hype than the U.S., so it’s no surprise that there is already lots of buzz around the annular solar eclipse that will cut across North and South Americas later this year.
Annularity will be visible in a wide diagonal swath from Oregon to Brazil, and many great national parks in the Western U.S. will be in the path – the time to plan a trip is now as many are already running out of availability for overnight accommodations before and after the eclipse.
I’m thinking of planning a community meetup at one of the parks to view this solar eclipse together. Interested? Let me know here.
October 18 – Eris at Opposition
Want dwarf planet “BINGO” in 2023? Here’s your chance!
After opportunities to spot Ceres (March), Haumea (March), Makemake (April), and Pluto (July), the final of the dwarf planets reaches opposition on October 18 – that’s right, Eris! (Are we on a game show or something?)
In any case, Eris reaches opposition overnight on October 18th, and will be visible in the constellation Cetus. You’ll need a telescope to spot relatively large Eris… despite being nearly the same size as Pluto, it’s twice as far away and will require good familiarity with your equipment and some sort of star finder to be seen.
October 22 – Peak of the Orionid Meteor Shower
Roughly two weeks later, we’re in for a another treat: on the night of Friday, October 21st, the Orionids meteor shower will reach its peak. While the Moon will be slightly less agreeable (nearing its third-quarter phase), you’ll still have a good chance to spot meteors streaking away from their recognizable radiant point near the constellation Orion.
While the Orionids aren’t nearly as active as other major meteor showers – with only an average of 15 meteors per hour – they are still worth heading out to see. While we don’t know what 2023 will bring yet, the Orionids is another one of the meteor showers each year that occasionally produces “fireballs” – exceptionally bright and dramatic displays as meteors enter the atmosphere. The chance to see a fireball is always worth heading out for!
October 28 – Partial Lunar Eclipse
Live in the eastern hemisphere? This one’s for you! Following on the annular eclipse two weeks earlier, viewers in Europe, Africa, Asia, and Western Australia will be able to see a partial lunar eclipse on the night of October 28th and morning hours of the 29th (depending on time zone).
Partial lunar eclipses aren’t as exciting as their total counterparts – but even a partial “blood moon” is still interesting! I’ll update my lunar eclipse guide for this eclipse roughly four weeks before the event, so bookmark it if you live in this part of the world and want all the details.
November 3 – Jupiter at Opposition
After a break from planet-viewing, Jupiter reaches its own opposition on the night of September 26th. It makes sense that Neptune and Jupiter will have opposition in close succession due to their relative proximity in the sky form our perspective.
In any case, Jupiter will be in the constellation Pisces, and since this gargantuan gas giant is visible to the unaided eye, you won’t need a telescope to see it. However, should you choose to use one, even smaller telescopes will reveal the four Galilean moons of Io, Europa, Callisto, and Ganymede. A bigger telescope will reveal even more of Jupiters many, many moons (last count was 79).
As with Saturn and Neptune, Jupiter will reach its highest in the sky around midnight local time, so that’s the best opportunity to go out and see it if you stay up late.
November 13 – Uranus at Opposition
Rounding out your top chances to see the planets further from the sun than we are, Uranus will reach opposition on the night of November 9th – and like its fellow giants, this makes it a great night to try and observe.
While Uranus is visible to the unaided eye in pristine dark sky locations, I recommend a telescope for this astronomy event. Uranus will be in the constellation Aries and a New Moon, making for easy spotting if you have the right equipment and a star-finder app (or should I say planet-finder?).
November 18 – Peak of the Leonid Meteor Shower
While there are other astronomical events as the months wind down in 2023, the three main ones I want to highlight in this post are meteor showers.
First up, the Leonids, which peaks in the middle of November. This year, that’s expected to be overnight from November 18th to 19th, as the constellation Leo will be visible above the horizon throughout most of the night. Like the Orionids, the Leonids aren’t super active – roughly 15 meteors per hour, on average – but can also produce fireballs.
Need extra help spotting the Leonids this year? I’ve got a guide to help!
December 2 – Peak of the Andromedids Meteor Shower
Never heard of the Andromedids meteor shower before? Neither had I – before I started researching which events I should recommend this year.
The Andomedids meteor shower, so named for its radiant point near the constellation Andromeda, are one of the most minor meteor showers during a normal year… and they haven’t even always been called the Andromedids! (They were historically referred to as the Decemberϕ-Cassiopeiids, but the radiant point has drifted from Cassiopeia to Andromeda in the last few years.)
In any case, after strong activity in late November 2021, astronomers predict that the Andromedids may have another good year in early December 2023. This is much like the predictions (and hype) around the Tau Herculids in 2022 – it may turn out to be a dud, but do we really need another excuse to go stargazing? (No!)
Bonus! Astronomers are also predicting that 2023 will be the first year Earth encounters debris from comet 46P/Wirtanen (part of the Rosetta mission). If there are any meteors caused by this comet, they are expected to be visible on December 12. I’ll update this post or create a new one if more information becomes available.
December 14 – Peak of the Geminid Meteor Shower
After two years of moon interference in 2021 and 2022, this is the year with the best prospects of spotting Geminids in a deeply dark sky. A nearly-New Moon will mean the only thing you need to worry about to see the Geminids is dressing warmly (and the weather, of course).
If your skies are clear though, this is a must-see meteor shower. The Geminids typically peak around 120 meteors per hour, almost on par with the Perseids on any given year. Additionally, colder weather makes for clearer skies and less atmospheric interference – so while you’ll need to bundle up to enjoy this meteor shower, the viewing prospects are actually better than during the late summer Perseids.
Don’t forget to check out my guide to seeing the Geminids meteor shower for extra tips.
December 23 – Peak of the Ursid Meteor Shower
Last, but certainly not least, winter begins with the December Solstice and peak of the Ursids meteor shower. This is a substantially less active meteor shower than the Geminids, so let’s just manage that expectation now: the average rate of meteors per hour is only about 10 for Ursids. Additionally, the moon will be quite bright on this night, so it’s not as good for spotting meteors as other nights during the year.
Nevertheless, watching shooting stars is a nice way to end 2023, which is why I always recommend it if your skies are clear and you own enough layers to stay warm.
Have any questions about these astronomical events in the 2023 night sky, or are there others I should add to the list? Let me know in the comments!