Milky Way & Magellanic Clouds - Tomas Sobek via Flickr

What to See in the Night Sky in 2019: Stargazing Sights (Part I)

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While most people are setting resolutions to mark the new year, we’re setting calendar reminders. 2019 is going to be a great year for astronomical events! We’ve pulled together a list of the best ones. Read about each of these 14 night sky events in 2019, and you can add them to your own calendar here.

Did you know? We’ve also put together two other posts about night sky events in 2019! This post focuses on those night sky events you can see without any extra instruments or equipment. Part II of our Night Sky 2019 series focuses on how to see our celestial neighbors in the solar system. Part III is all about night sky events where you’ll need binoculars or a telescope to see them – but they’re well worth the investment. (We make recommendations about equipment if you don’t have yours yet!).

Don’t forget to check out the other two posts in this series:

Read on to learn about some of the astronomical events and best nights for stargazing in 2019.

January 6 – Partial Solar Eclipse Across Eastern Asia

Partial Solar Eclipse

If you live in Eastern Asia, Eastern Siberia, or far western Alaska and the Aleutian Islands, this one’s for you. A partial solar eclipse will start at 11:34 pm UTC on January 5th and end at 3:48 am UTC on January 6th. The maximum eclipse will occur will at 1:41 am UTC. (If you don’t happen to live in the range where this eclipse will be visible, January 5th/6th is the night of the new moon in January. That makes it (yet another) great night for stargazing.)

During this partial solar eclipse, don’t forget that you will need to wear eye protection at all times. There is no point where the eclipse is safe to view with your unprotected eyes.

January 20/21 – Total Lunar Eclipse Across the Americas & Europe

2019 Lunar Eclipse - Valerie Stimac

In 2018, the total lunar eclipses in late January and again in late July wowed viewers across North America and Europe. Now, on January 20th another Total Lunar Eclipse will occur across both of those continents. The total lunar eclipse will be fully visible across North America, South America, and far Western and Northern Europe. A partial lunar eclipse will also be visible across the rest of Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

If you live in one of these regions, it’ll be a great night to stay up (or get up early) to see this lunar eclipse. Check out our comprehensive guide to the January 2019 lunar eclipse.

April 23 – Peak of the Lyrid Meteor Shower

Lyrid Meteor Shower - Islam Hassan via FlickrPhoto credit: Islam Hassan via Flickr

The Lyrids meteor shower occurs annually, and in 2019 meteors will be visible between April 19th and April 25th. The night of peak activity is expected to occur on April 23rd. This will be the best day to get out and try to see the meteor shower if the skies are clear in your area.

The Lyrids are caused by the comet C/1861 G1, also called comet Thatcher. While this is not the first meteor shower of each calendar year, it is the first ‘big one.’ You can expect to see up to 10 meteors per hour on the peak night. Meteors will appear to radiate from the constellation Lyra, which is next to the tell-tale cross of Cygnus the swan. On April 23rd, you can look for Lyra in the eastern sky. Unfortunately, the moon will be a bright waxing gibbous (about 83% illuminated). Depending on the time you go out to view this meteor shower, the moon’s brightness may interfere with meteor visibility. 

June 21 – June Solstice

Summer Solstice Celebrations - Paul Townsend via FlickrPhoto credit: Paul Townsend via Flickr

The next major event isn’t a ‘night’ event per se – instead, the June Solstice is worth noting because it’s an important astronomical event no matter which hemisphere you live in.

For those in the northern hemisphere, June 21st marks the longest day of the year. Theoretically, this means limited stargazing opportunities depending on what latitude you live at. However, there are some great summer solstice celebrations you can enjoy to mark the extra daylight.

In the southern hemisphere, June 21st is the shortest day of the year… or for those of us who love stargazing, it’s the longest night. This makes it a fantastic opportunity for stargazing. Or, if you live in a region with visibility of the aurora, to try and spot the aurora australis. We have guides to viewing the southern lights in Australia and Tasmania, New Zealand, and Patagonia. Our summer solstice celebrations post (linked above) also includes a few cool winter solstice celebrations that happen in some southern hemisphere countries on June 21st each year.

July 2 – Total Solar Eclipse Across South America

Diamond Ring during Solar Eclipse - Sheila Sund via FlickrPhoto credit: Sheila Sund via Flickr

While a solar eclipse is not a night sky event, it’s literally always worth trying to see a total solar eclipse if one happens in your region (or you’re willing to travel for it!). 

The July 2nd total solar eclipse is visible over some Pacific islands, Chile, and Argentina in a narrow band of totality. While this eclipse has somewhat lower chances of being seen due to winter weather and the angle of visibility in the sky, it’s still worth planning a trip. Even if you don’t see totality, you could visit Chile’s Elqui Valley, which is one of the world’s great astrotourism destinations.

If you want the best odds of seeing the total solar eclipse, you could book a solar eclipse cruise to improve your chances of seeing totality near Tahiti, or snag a seat on a solar eclipse flight from Easter Island that will give you the chance to experience a whopping 9 minutes of totality (much longer than the 4 minutes and 32 seconds you can potentially see from land).

We have an entire comprehensive guide about the July 2019 solar eclipse, including where to go in Chile and Argentina to see totality and other tips on viewing total solar eclipses. 

Don’t forget that you will need to wear eye protection during the partial eclipse before and after totality. Only during totality can you remove your protective solar eclipse glasses and view the eclipse safely.

July 16/17 – Partial Lunar Eclipse Across the Eastern Hemisphere

2019 Lunar Eclipse - US Army Corps of Engineers via FlickrPhoto credit: US Army Corps of Engineers via Flickr

Did you know that a solar eclipse and a lunar eclipse always happen two weeks apart? Similar to the partial solar eclipse and total lunar eclipse in January, July has a total solar eclipse (just mentioned) and a partial lunar eclipse 14 days later. Partial lunar eclipses are less dramatic as their siblings, the total lunar eclipse or “blood moon.” During a partial lunar eclipse, only part of the moon will fall under the earth’s umbra, so only part of the moon will turn the distinctive red color.

The July 16th partial lunar eclipse is not visible in North America. However, it will be visible in parts of South America, Africa, Europe, Asia, and South America. The timing of the partial lunar eclipse in your region will depend on how far east you are located: western destinations will see the partial lunar eclipse in the post-sunset and night hours of July 16th, whereas eastern destinations will experience it in the early morning and pre-dawn hours of July 17th.

August 13 – Peak of the Perseid Meteor Shower

Night Sky Events - Perseids - Paul Williams via FlickrPhoto credit: Paul Williams via Flickr

The Perseids meteor shower is widely considered the best meteor shower of the year. This is because they are highly visible in the northern hemisphere during the warm late summer month of August. In 2019, the Perseids shower will occur from July 23rd to August 30th; the night of peak activity is expected to be August 13th.

The Perseids are caused by the comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle. This comet produces a wide stream of debris which the earth passes through throughout the meteor shower. On the night of the greatest activity, you can see up to 80 meteors per hour! To see the Perseids, look for the constellation Perseus sitting just under the easy-to-spot “W” of Cassiopeia in the northeastern sky. That is the radiant point of the Perseids shower, though you can see meteors in all directions of the sky radiating from that region. 

Cloudy skies on the 13th? The Perseids usually have a good night on August 14th too. 

October 5 – The Small Magellanic Cloud is Well-Placed

Magellanic Clouds - Emilio Küffer via FlickrPhoto credit: Emilio Küffer via Flickr

For those in the southern hemisphere, head out on October 5th. On this night, you’ll see the Small Magellanic Cloud high in the night sky. This makes it an especially good time to see this celestial neighbor. Why? Due to the curve of our atmosphere, the darkest and least distorted perspective on any celestial object occurs when it is directly overhead from your perspective. The Small Magellanic Cloud will appear high above the horizon around midnight on the night of October 5th.

While you can observe the Small Magellanic Cloud with the naked eye, grab a pair of astronomy binoculars to get a close-up view. (You can also use them later in December when the Large Magellanic Cloud is in a prime spot for viewing!)

October 21 – Peak of the Orionid Meteor Shower

Night Sky Events - Orionids Meteor Shower - Mike Lewinski via FlickrPhoto credit: Mike Lewinski via Flickr

In late October, head outside to see another active meteor shower, the Orionids. Occurring from October 16th to October 30th each year, the Orionids occur as earth passes through the field of debris left by Halley’s Comet. While Halley’s Comet last came into our part of the solar system in 1986, the debris field from this comet provides us with a good reason to go stargazing each year.

The Orionids appear to radiate from a point in the outer region of the constellation Orion (as the name suggests), near the star Betelgeuse in the direction of the constellation Gemini. On October 21st, the night of peak activity, you can expect to see up to 25 meteors per hour radiating from this part of the eastern sky.

November 18 – Peak of the Leonid Meteor Shower

Night Sky Events - Leonids - Perry McKenna via FlickrPhoto credit: Perry McKenna via Flickr

If you somehow missed the Lyrids, Perseids, and Orionids (or the weather didn’t cooperate to give you clear night skies), don’t worry! You still have a chance to see a great meteor shower in 2019.

The Leonids meteor shower occurs each year between November 15th and November 20th; in 2019, the night of peak activity is expected to be November 18th as earth passes through the field of debris left by comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle. On this night, you can see up to 20 meteors per hour, depending on your location and the time you go to view the meteor shower. Unfortunately, the moon will be somewhat bright (a waning gibbous 68% illuminated). This may interfere with the ability to see meteors as they radiate from the constellation Leo (“beneath” the Big Dipper/Plough). 

If you are out looking for Leonids, be sure to check out the Pleiades (Messier 45). This open star cluster is well-placed for viewing on the night of November 18th too. In the northern hemisphere, the Pleiades will be visible as high as 73° above the southern horizon near the bright reddish star of Aldebaran in Taurus. You can view the Pleiades without a telescope or binoculars.

December 12 – The Large Magellanic Cloud is Well-Placed

ALMA & Magellanic Clouds - Mauricio Bustamante via FlickrPhoto credit: Mauricio Bustamante via Flickr

If you thought December meant the year is slowing down for astronomical events, you’ll be pleasantly disappointed! December has as many interesting night sky events as other seasons of the year. This starts with a great viewing opportunity of the Large Magellanic Cloud on December 12th.

While the Large Magellanic Cloud (like the Small Magellanic Cloud), is only visible in the southern hemisphere, this is a great opportunity for those south of the equator to get out and go stargazing (and you might spot a few early Geminids in advance of the peak later that week!). The LMC will be high above the horizon for most viewers.

December 14 – Peak of the Geminid Meteor Shower

Night Sky Events - Geminids - Henry Lee via FlickrPhoto credit: Henry Lee via Flickr

The Geminids meteor shower is arguably the best meteor shower of the year, but it occurs in December when cold winter weather prevents most people from fully enjoying it. If you’re willing to bundle up, head out to see the Geminids as the peak on December 14th. The Geminids occur each year from December 7th to December 16th. In 2019 they are expected to reach maximum activity of nearly 100 meteors per hour on December 14th. Trust us that it’s worth putting on an extra layer to see these bright, fast-moving meteors in the eastern sky!

To spot the Geminids, look for the tell-tale twins and their ‘head’ stars of Castor and Pollux (near Orion). Unfortunately, a nearly-full moon will also be in this part of the sky. This will reduce the chances to see all the meteors that happen. Nevertheless, meteors will appear to radiate from this part of the sky, so keep your eyes peeled in the north and upward parts of your field of view to see meteors at the rate of up to 1-2 per minute.

December 21 – December Solstice

Night Sky December - Winter Solstice - Alexandre André via FlickrPhoto credit: Alexandre André via Flickr

December 21st marks the second solstice of each year. Depending on which hemisphere you call home, it is also the greatest day for stargazing or for seeing the midnight sun.

In the northern hemisphere, the December solstice is the longest night, making it a perfect night to try and see the aurora if you live at far northern latitudes. (We have aurora viewing guides for FinlandGreenlandIcelandNorway, and Sweden to inspire you.) While there won’t be many interesting celestial objects in the night sky on December 21st in 2019, you can potentially spot the Ursids meteor shower (which peaks around December 21st or 22nd each year) or admire winter constellations like Orion, Taurus, Perseus, and Andromeda high in the sky. 

In the southern hemisphere, the longest day marks the start of the summer season. Unfortunately, you won’t have great stargazing prospects on this day – but don’t worry, the darkness will now be returning.

December 25 – Annular Solar Eclipse Across East & Southeast Asia

Annular Solar Eclipse - t-mizo via FlickrPhoto credit: t-mizo via Flickr

Christmas 2019 brings a great astronomical gift: an annular solar eclipse across parts of the eastern hemisphere. The eclipse will be visible across the Middle East, India, the majority of Eastern Asia, all of Southeast Asia, and parts of western Australia. 

Also called a “ring of fire” eclipse, an annular solar eclipse occurs when the moon is not close enough to the earth to fully block the sun during the eclipse. An outline of the sun appears around the moon, like a ring of fire, which is where the nickname comes from. Totality (where the ring of fire can be seen) will pass across parts of Oman, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Palau. Elsewhere in the region, viewers can enjoy a partial solar eclipse. If you’re planning to travel to see this eclipse, be sure to check the exact path of totality.

During this annular solar eclipse, don’t forget that you will need to wear eye protection at all times. There is no point where the eclipse is safe to view with your unprotected eyes.

There you have it: 14 amazing night sky events in 2019 to plan to see! Don’t forget that you can add our night sky events calendar to your favorite calendar app to get reminders when each of these events is approaching. You can also check out Part II and Part III of this series to see all of the other night sky events happening in our solar system and those you can see with binoculars or a telescope.

Have questions? Email/contact us!

Featured photo credit: Tomas Sobek via Flickr

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