Milky Way & Magellanic Clouds - Tomas Sobek via Flickr

What to See in the Night Sky in 2019

In Night Sky Guide by Valerie Stimac

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, and you can add them to your own calendar here. For some of these, you can spot them with your own eyes. For others, you’ll need stargazing equipment like a telescope or binoculars.

In most cases, the dates recommended in this post use the moon or another planet to help you spot the planet or celestial object in question. If you’re just starting out in astronomy, using planets and stars to ‘star hop’ and find what you’re looking for is a good way to get familiar with the night sky. As such, there are plenty of other nights to see many of these planets, but if you need a little help to find them, the dates provided here will give you the best chance. 

Want to learn more about any of these dates or astronomical events? We publish a monthly series that discusses each in greater detail: January, February, March, April, and May have been published so far.

Need to invest in binoculars or a telescope? Any pair of binoculars you have at home will help, or you can invest in binoculars created specifically to help with stargazing. Celestron offers two good options: the affordable Cometron 7×50 and the more expensive but more equipped SkyMaster Giant 15×70 with Tripod Adapter. Depending on your interest, you can find the pair that’s right for you. If you’re ready to invest in a telescope, the Celestron PowerSeeker 127EQ Telescope is a good starting telescope at an affordable price.

Read on to learn about some of the astronomical events and best nights for stargazing and spotting the planets in our solar system in 2019.

Our Solar System in 2019 + Solar & Lunar Eclipses

In this first section, we break down how to see each of the main objects in our solar system in the coming year. For each section, we identify key dates where you can best see that planet, moon, or the sun.

When & How to See the Sun in 2109

Partial Solar Eclipse

🚨🕶 Note: You’ll need eye protection to view these events!

You might think: why do I need to see the sun? It’s visible almost every day (except cloudy ones)!

The sun is still pretty special, and each year there are interesting opportunities to see the sun in a new way. In 2019, you have the chance to see all three kinds of solar eclipse – when the sun is blocked in part or in full by the moon: 

  • On January 6th, a partial solar eclipse will pass across Eastern Asia. While the moon won’t fully block the sun, partial eclipses are a great opportunity to understand the mechanics of eclipses. Don’t forget to wear protective eyewear though, as it’s never safe to view a partial solar eclipse without protective eclipse glasses!
  • On July 2nd, a total solar eclipse will pass across parts of the South Pacific, Chile, and Argentina. This winter eclipse doesn’t have the best probability of good weather, but experiencing the totality of a total solar eclipse is an almost spiritual experience you’ll never forget! Even if you can’t see the eclipse, be sure to plan a trip to the Elqui Valley, a hot spot for astrotourism in Chile. Learn more about the 2019 total solar eclipse in our comprehensive guide.
  • On December 25th, an annular solar eclipse will pass across a small number of countries and the rest of the region will see a partial eclipse too. Often called a ‘ring of fire’ eclipse for the distinctive way the moon doesn’t fully block the sun, there is no point during the annular eclipse where it’s safe to view without protective eclipse glasses.

While all three of these eclipses aren’t easy for viewers in North America or Europe to see, die-hard umbraphiles will consider it worth the trip to see at least one of these solar eclipses in 2019.

When & How to See the Moon in 2109

2019 Lunar Eclipse - Photo of Total Lunar Eclipse

Similarly, the moon might seem overrated – we see it almost every night, and we take for granted how special it is that our moon is so close and so beautiful. In addition to admiring the moon any time you go stargazing in 2019, there are two lunar eclipses worth trying to see:

  • On the night of January 20th-21st, a total lunar eclipse will pass across both North America and South America, as well as parts of western and northern Europe. This traditional ‘blood moon’ eclipse will see the moon turn a bright red as the moon passes into the shadow of the earth. Depending on where you view the eclipse, it may occur any time between just after sunset on January 20th to the early morning hours of January 21st. Learn more about the 2019 total lunar eclipse in our comprehensive guide.
  • On the night of July 16th-17th, a partial lunar eclipse will allow most of the eastern hemisphere to see the moon turn partly red. Unlike a total lunar eclipse, the moon will not pass completely into the earth’s shadow during this lunar eclipse, so only part of the moon will gain the distinctive reddish hue. The western part of the world to see this eclipse will do so in the post-sunset and night hours of July 16th, whereas eastern part will experience it in the early morning and pre-dawn hours of July 17th.

Did you know that a solar eclipse and a lunar eclipse always happen close together (exactly two weeks apart)? This means that in early 2020, the world will experience another lunar eclipse following the December 25th annular solar eclipse. Mark your calendars!

When & How to See Mercury in 2109

Mercury Transit - NASA Goddard via FlickrPhoto credit: NASA Goddard via Flickr

🚨🕶 Note: You’ll need eye protection to view these events!

Mercury is one of the five visible planets we can see from earth… but it’s also the most difficult to see. Mercury is located so close to the sun that it’s rare to have an opportunity to see it on its own! In 2019, there are two good opportunities to see Mercury (if you’re trying to see all of the main objects in our solar system this year): 

  • On June 18th, you’ll have the only opportunity of the year to easily spot Mercury, as it passes within 0°13′ of Mars. Both Mars and Mercury will appear low in the western sky just after sunset, so you’ll need a good view of the western horizon to try and spot tiny, bright Mercury before it sets too. You can view Mercury and Mars on this date with the unaided eye, binoculars, or a telescope. 
  • On November 11th, Mercury will transit the sun. This means Mercury will cross directly in front of the sun, creating a small black silhouette. This is the first Mercury transit since May 2016, and the last one until November 2032! To view this Mercury transit, you don’t need any special viewing equipment, but you will need solar eye protection (such as solar eclipse glasses). You can also use binoculars or a telescope, but don’t forget to put a solar filter on those lenses so you don’t damage them! The Mercury transit will be visible across the Americas, Europe, and Africa.

Mercury is hard to spot but well worth it! Good luck getting a decent view of this tiny planet in the coming year.

When & How to See Venus in 2019

Night Sky - Venus - Art Ivakin via FlickrPhoto credit: Art Ivakin via Flickr

Venus is typically easy to spot because it is bright and beautiful in the night sky whenever it’s visible. If you want to see Venus in 2019, typically you only need to go up and look for the bright yellow-white planet if it’s in the sky.

Venus will have a close approach with the moon on six nights in 2019: January 1st, January 31st, March 2nd, April 1st, November 28th, and December 28th. On each of these nights, Venus and the moon will pass between 2°32′ and 0°05′ of each other; on the closest nights (January 31st and December 28th) it will be possible to view them through the same telescope view. 2019 is actually a great year to view Venus because on all of these nights, the moon will be a crescent moon, less than 15% illuminated, and not causing significant light pollution to obstruct your view of Venus. Use that sliver of a moon to spot Venus shining brightly.

Venus will also have a close approach with Jupiter on January 22nd and November 24th. Both of those nights offer a great opportunity to admire both planets. On January 22nd, the moon will be almost full (but won’t interfere with viewing both of these planets), whereas it’s a new moon on November 24th and will be an excellent night for planet-gazing.

Similarly, Venus has a close approach with Saturn twice in 2019: January 18th and December 11th. On both nights, the planetary duo will be visible in the pre-dawn and post-sunset hours. With a telescope, you should get a great view of Saturn’s rings.

When & How to See Mars in 2019

Night Sky - Close Approach of Mars & Moon - Manu Méndez via FlickrPhoto credit: Manu Méndez via Flickr

Mars is in the spotlight a lot lately, from news headlines to TV shows set on the red planet. It’s easy to spot Mars when it’s in the sky, because of its distinctive color… but don’t let that lull you into complacency about seeing one of our nearest planetary neighbors and possible future home to humans!

Mars will have a close approach with the moon five times in 2019: January 12th, April 9th, May 7th, June 5, and December 22nd. On these nights, the moon will mostly be a crescent moon (except January 12th, when it will be 37% illuminated), making it a great guide to finding Mars as they pass between 1°34′ and 4°58′ of one another. After its close approach to the earth in July 2018, Mars has been steadily moving further away from us (part of the normal elliptical movement of the earth and Mars) so it won’t appear as big or bright as it did last year, but it’s still an impressive sight.

When & How to See Jupiter in 2019

Milky Way & Jupiter - cafuego via FlickrPhoto credit: cafuego via Flickr

Jupiter is always fun to spot in the night sky – even without binoculars or a telescope, the gently twinkling Jupiter seems to hint at its lunar-friendly nature. In fact, with even the most basic telescopes, you can spot the four Galilean moons on a clear night!

Jupiter will have 13 close approaches with the Moon in 2019: January 3rd, January 30th, February 27th, March 26th, April 23rd, May 20th, June 16th, July 13th, August 9th, September 9th, October 3rd, October 31st, and November 28th. On each of these nights, you can use the moon as your guide to finding Jupiter – usually within 0°34′ and 3°04′ of one another. The moon will be at varying states of brightness throughout the year during these close encounters, but the best nights to reduce moon-light pollution will be January 3rd, October 31st, and November 28th when the moon is 14% illuminated (or less!). On January 3rd, you can also use a telescope to view the moon and Jupiter in the same view as they will be exceptionally close together.

As previously mentioned, Venus and Jupiter have two close approaches in 2019: on January 22nd and November 24th. Both of those nights offer a great opportunity to admire both planets. On January 22nd, the moon will be almost full (but won’t interfere with viewing both of these planets), whereas it’s a new moon on November 24th and will be an excellent night for planet-gazing.

When & How to See Saturn in 2019

Milky Way, Mars, Jupiter & Saturn - Manuel Escuder via FlickrPhoto credit: Manuel Escuder via Flickr

Jupiter may be the biggest, but Saturn has the ‘wow’ factor: those picturesque rings! If you’ve never seen Saturn, make a 2019 stargazing resolution to do so – and you’ll be wowed too. 

Saturn has 12 close approaches with the moon in 2019: February 1st, March 1st, March 28th, April 25th, May 22nd, June 18th, July 16th, August 12th, September 8th, October 5th, November 2nd, and November 29th. Each of these is a good opportunity to use the moon to find Saturn in the night sky. Early and late in the year are the best nights for viewing Saturn, as on February 1st, March 1st, and November 29th, the moon will be a crescent moon illuminated 19% or less. Additionally, the moon and Saturn pass closely to one another each time they meet – within 0°02′ to 0°55′ depending on the night. Unfortunately, the moon will be so bright in the middle of 2019 that it will make it difficult to see Saturn at all.

As previously mentioned, Venus has two close approaches with Saturn in 2019: January 18th and December 11th. On both nights, the planetary duo will be visible in the pre-dawn and post-sunset hours. With a telescope, you should get a great view of Saturn’s rings.

When & How to See Neptune in 2019

Night Sky Events - Neptune

🚨🔭 Note: You’ll need binoculars or a telescope to view this object! 

Neptune is one of two planets we cannot see without binoculars or a telescope. Don’t forget that we made some equipment suggestions at the top of this post if you need to make an investment this year.

If you want to see Neptune in 2019, you have one good shot to planet-jump and find it: on April 9th, Venus and Neptune will have a close approach in the pre-dawn hours. Venus will pass within 0°18′ of Neptune, making it a perfect opportunity to spot Neptune through a telescope (which you’ll need to see it). Depending on your location on the globe, this pair may be viewed in the earlier morning hours. 

There are no close approaches between the moon and Neptune in 2019, so April 9th is your one chance!

When & How to See Uranus in 2019

Night Sky Events - Uranus - NASA Goddard via FlickrPhoto credit: NASA Goddard via Flickr

🚨🔭 Note: You’ll need binoculars or a telescope to view this object! 

Much maligned for its name, Uranus is another planet we can’t see in the night sky without visual aides. Whether you have binoculars or a telescope, consider setting it up in 2019 to spot this vastly underrated gas giant as it moves across the sky.

There are two good nights to potentially see Uranus in 2019.

  • On February 12th, Mars and Uranus will have a close approach passing within 0°58′ of each other in the western sky. While you won’t be able to view them in the same telescope view, you can use Mars to planet-hop to Uranus.
  • On May 18th, Venus and Uranus will have a close approach passing within 1°09′ of each other. The best chance to view this pair will be in the pre-dawn hours.

There are no close approaches between Uranus and the moon in 2019, so these two dates are your best chances; the Mars and Uranus close approach offers the best opportunity by far! 

When & How to See Pluto in 2019

Night Sky Events - Pluto - NASA Goddard via FlickrPhoto credit: NASA Goddard via Flickr

🚨🔭 Note: You’ll need binoculars or a telescope to view this object! 

Pluto may be considered a dwarf planet officially (yes, we’re still salty about that), but we still love it and think you should try and see it if you can (as well as some other dwarf planets outlined in Part III of this 2019 Night Sky series). 

Pluto has 9 close approaches with the moon in 2019: March 29th, April 25th, May 22nd, June 19th, July 16th, August 12th, September 8th, October 6th, and November 2nd. Similar to other planets mentioned, the best time of year to see Pluto will be in the beginning and the end of 2019: the March 29th and November 2nd dates are ideal because the moon and Pluto will be a bit further apart and the moon will be less bright than during the middle of the year. Head out on those two nights for your best chances to see Pluto – if you have a telescope you should be able to see it at least once!

A better chance to see Pluto in 2019 might come from two conjunctions with Venus. Venus and Pluto will have their close approaches on February 23rd and December 13th. Both times, Venus and Pluto will pass within 1°08′ to 1°24′ of each other, but they’ll appear low in the sky (pre-dawn in February, post-sunset in December). If you have a good telescope and a clear view of the horizon, you might try spotting our favorite dwarf planet on one of these days.

February 19 – Bode’s Galaxy is Well-Placed

Night Sky in 2019 - February 19 - Bode's GalaxyThe location of Bode’s Galaxy in orange, facing south

🚨🔭 Note: You’ll need binoculars or a telescope to view this object! 

On February 19th, break in your new astronomy equipment by viewing Bode’s Galaxy. Bode’s Galaxy, Messier 81, is a beautiful spiral galaxy about 12 million light-years from earth. It is best viewed when it’s almost right overhead (as on the night of February 19th).

You’ll need binoculars at a minimum to view Bode’s Galaxy. It will be easily viewable throughout the northern hemisphere near the constellation Ursa Major. To spot Bode’s Galaxy, star hop from the non-spout end of the Big Dipper/Plough toward Polaris. Bode’s Galaxy is about one-third the distance to Polaris, off to the right as you look north.

Note that February 19th is the full moon. However, it shouldn’t interfere too much with viewing M81 due to where it will be placed in the sky.

March 18 – Comet 69P/Taylor at Perihelion

Night Sky in 2019 - March 18 - Comet 69PThe location of Comet 69P / Taylor’s Comet in orange, facing north

🚨🔭 Note: You’ll need binoculars or a telescope to view this object! 

Comet 69P, also known as Taylor’s Comet, will be at its perihelion – its closest point to the sun – on the night of March 18th. You’ll definitely need a telescope to view this comet in the sky after sunset. For most people, the comet will no longer be visible by about midnight local time.

To find Taylor’s Comet, look for the bright orange star Aldebaran in the constellation Taurus; the comet will be in close proximity to this star, to the west.

Comet 69P has an orbital period of roughly 7 years. If you encounter cloudy skies or the rising nearly-full moon makes it difficult to see, you don’t have to wait long for another chance. Also, comets approaching perihelion can typically be observed for several nights on either side of the perihelion date.

March 25 – Dwarf Planet Makemake is Well-Placed

Night Sky in 2019 - March 25 - MakemakeThe location of Makemake in orange, facing SSW

🚨🔭 Note: You’ll need binoculars or a telescope to view this object! 

On the night of March 25th, Makemake will be high in the sky in the perfect position for observation, in the constellation Coma Berenices. Makemake is a dwarf planet and possibly the largest planet in the Kuiper Belt, nearly two-thirds the diameter of Pluto. Despite its size, you’ll need a telescope to view Makemake.

On this night, Makemake is not only at opposition (opposite of the sun in the sky), but it’s also at perigee (when it is closest to the sun), making it appear bigger and brighter than other viewing times.

Makemake will reach its highest point in the sky around midnight local time. At that time, the moon will be near the southern horizon making it a great night to try and spot this small solar system object.

April 2 – The Sombrero Galaxy is Well-Placed

Night Sky in 2019 - April 2 - Sombrero GalaxyThe location of the Sombrero Galaxy in orange, facing south

🚨🔭 Note: You’ll need binoculars or a telescope to view this object! 

As its name suggests, the Sombrero Galaxy has a distinctive shape when viewed from the earth. If you want to see it for yourself, April 2nd is a great night to get out there to try. Also known as Messier 104, the Sombrero Galaxy is located in the constellation Virgo roughly 31.1 million light-years from earth. As such, you’ll definitely need a telescope to spot this pretty sight.

The constellation Virgo will be high in the sky on the night of April 2nd and most easily spotted from points in the southern hemisphere. From Virgo’s bright star Spica, look further south toward the star Algorab in the constellation Corvus. A night-sky map or app may help you here. The Sombrero Galaxy appears above the line between these two stars, roughly “halfway” visually between the two.

April 14 – Centaurus A is Well-Placed

Night Sky in 2019 - April 14 - Centaurus AThe location of Centaurus A in orange, facing south

🚨🔭 Note: You’ll need binoculars or a telescope to view this object! 

Continue galaxy-hunting in April on the night of April 14th, as Centaurus A will be high in the sky and perfectly placed for observing. Centaurus A, also called NGC 5128, is an unusually shaped galaxy with a supermassive black hole at its core. Massive ejections of light and matter form a distinctive shape that makes Centaurus A easy to spot and unforgettable. You’ll definitely need a telescope for this one.

Centaurus A will be most easily visible from points in the southern hemisphere. In North America, Centaurus A will be impossible to spot near the southern horizon, as pictured above. If you live at a southern latitude, look for the triangle formed by Rigel Kentaurus, Hadar, and ε-Cen in the constellation Centaurus. Centaurus A is higher in the sky from the long point of the triangle.

Similarly, the binary star Alpha Centauri AB and the globular cluster Omega Centaurus are also well-placed for observation on this right, as they’re all in the constellation Centaurus.

April 15 – The Whirlpool Galaxy is Well-Placed

Night Sky in 2019 - April 15 - Whirlpool GalaxyThe location of the Whirlpool Galaxy in orange, facing NE

🚨🔭 Note: You’ll need binoculars or a telescope to view this object! 

Also known as Messier 51, The Whirlpool Galaxy is a favorite of amateur astronomers because it’s easy to spot and very distinctive. A grand-design spiral galaxy seen face-on (from the top), the Whirlpool Galaxy is also slowly interacting with neighboring dwarf galaxy NGC 5195. It appears that the Whirlpool is sucking in matter from NGC 5195, hence its name.

You can easily spot the Whirlpool Galaxy with astronomy binoculars near the constellation Ursa Major. Look for the Whirlpool Galaxy and NGC 5195 near the handle of the Big Dipper/Plough, high in the northern sky on the night of April 15th. While the moon will be somewhat bright passing its first quarter, it should be located far enough away to not interfere with galaxy-gazing opportunities.

While stargazing on April 15th, look for the dwarf planet Haumea. It will be visible in the constellation Boötes near the bright star of Arcturus, high in the southern sky. You’ll definitely need a telescope to see Haumea.

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.

May 28 – Dwarf Planet Ceres at Opposition

Night Sky in 2019 - May 28 - CeresThe location of Ceres in orange, facing south

🚨🔭 Note: You’ll need binoculars or a telescope to view this object! 

Toward the end of May, it’s your last chance of 2019 to see one of the five dwarf planets in our solar system. Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid belt, will reach both opposition and perigee around May 28th. This means it will reach the highest point in the sky at its closest to the earth when it will appear its biggest and brightest. You’ll still need a telescope to get a good view of Ceres though.

To find Ceres, look for Jupiter in the southeastern sky. Ceres will appear to the unaided eye as a star above Antares, the reddish star in the claw of Scorpius. With your telescope, you’ll get a good view of this small planet, which looks surprisingly like our own moon.

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.

June 24 – NGC 6530 & the Lagoon Nebula are Well-Placed

Night Sky in 2019 - June 24 - NGC 6530 & the Lagoon NebulaThe location of NGC 6530 & the Lagoon Nebula in orange, facing south

🚨🔭 Note: You’ll need binoculars or a telescope to view this object! 

NGC 6530 is an open star cluster in the constellation Sagittarius close to the Lagoon Nebula (Messier 8). If you are stargazing in a very dark sky place, it might be possible to see NGC 6530 without a telescope or binoculars. If you’re stargazing in a place with any light pollution though, you’re going to need some equipment to see these two celestial objects.

In the northern hemisphere, NGC 6530 and the Lagoon Nebula will reach their highest point in the southern sky early on the morning of June 24th (just after midnight). Look for them between Saturn and Jupiter halfway along a straight line drawn between the two planets.

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 3 – The Andromeda Galaxy is Well-Placed

Night Sky in 2019 - October 3 - Andromeda GalaxyThe location of the Andromeda Galaxy (M33) in orange, facing NE

While the Andromeda Galaxy is the closest spiral galaxy to our own Milky Way, it’s still about 2 million light-years away. If you want to see this celestial neighbor (yes, 2 million light-years still makes it a neighbor!), head out on the night of October 3rd, when the Andromeda Galaxy will be well-placed for observation and high in the sky.

You’ll need at least binoculars to see the Andromeda Galaxy, also known as Messier 31. Look high in the northeastern sky around midnight in the space between Casseopeia’s distinctive “W” shape and the constellation Andromeda. If the skies are dark and clear, you should be able to see the glowing shape of the galaxy, as we can see it from a diagonal angle.

While out stargazing on the night of October 3rd, be sure to look for the close approach of the moon and Jupiter. These two will approach each other after sunset and the waxing crescent moon will make a lovely sight near brightly illuminated Jupiter.

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 16 – The Triangulum Galaxy is Well-Placed

Night Sky in 2019 - October 16 - Triangulum GalaxyThe location of the Triangulum Galaxy (M33) in orange, facing SE

🚨🔭 Note: You’ll need binoculars or a telescope to view this object! 

A few days after seeing the Andromeda Galaxy, plan to go out and see its neighbor, the Triangulum Galaxy. These two galaxies are actually closer to each other than to the Milky Way: while the Triangulum Galaxy is roughly 3 million light-years from earth, it is only 750,000 light-years from the Andromeda Galaxy! They’re also quite close to one another in the night sky, which makes it easy to see them both on any given night of stargazing.

On the night of October 16th, the Triangulum Galaxy, Messier 33, will reach its highest point in the southeastern sky. To find the Triangulum Galaxy, look above the moon, which will be unfortunately bright on this night. In fact, depending on air quality in your area, you may want to try and spot the Triangulum Galaxy on October 3rd when you see Andromeda Galaxy instead. In either case, you’ll need at least binoculars to see this small spiral galaxy.

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 11 – Vesta at Opposition in Cetus

Night Sky in 2019 - November 11 - VestaThe location of Vesta in orange, facing south

🚨🔭 Note: You’ll need binoculars or a telescope to view this object! 

After Ceres, which you saw on May 28th, Vesta is the second largest object in the asteroid belt, with a diameter of just 525km (326mi). Vesta will reach its highest point in the sky on the night of November 11th, making this a perfect time to try and see it. Be sure to grab a telescope for trying to spot Vesta, for as big as it seems, it’s quite small in the night sky.

At both opposition and perigee, Vesta will appear at its biggest and brightest around midnight local time, in the southern sky for most viewers. Unfortunately, a nearly-full moon will also be visible in the same part of the sky on this night, so you may want to head out to the darkest and clearest skies in your area to try and spot Vesta.

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. 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 Finland, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, 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.

There you have it: a year of amazing night sky events in 2019! 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.

Have questions? Email/contact us!

Featured photo credit: Tomas Sobek via Flickr

About the Author
Valerie Stimac

Valerie Stimac

Valerie is the founder and editor of Space Tourism Guide. She decided to start the site after realizing how many friends and family had never seen the Milky Way, and that space tourism was going to unlock the next great travel destination: space!