Rare Astronomy Events of 2014

Thursday, 2 January 2014 - 12:36pm IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna

As the sky prepares a new range of canvases for us to marvel at this year, Aadil Desai tells us about rare astronomical events that you shouldn't miss.

Fireworks from constellation Camelopardalis
Every year we see several meteor showers emanating from different constellations, this year we are expecting a first-time performance from constellation Camelopardalis in the predawn hours of May 24. As the Earth sweeps through a great number of dusty trails left behind in space by a small comet named P/209 (LINEAR), you will be able to view the meteors with the naked eye. The best locations to do so are away from the city lights, where you can spot the faintest meteors as they whiz by through the dark night sky.

Jupiter meets Venus
The brightest planets orbiting the sky will be at conjunction or will appear less than half a degree away from each other on the morning of August 18. Although they will be closest to each other at around 9.36 am (Indian Standard Time), when the sun will make it impossible to view them, you can get a good look, without any viewing equipment, around 5 am.

Comet at crashing distance from Mars
Comet C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring), discovered by Robert H. McNaught in Australia, will pass extremely close to Mars at 1,17,000 km from the surface of the red planet, and when seen from Earth, it will be separated by a very small angle (seven minutes of arc) on October 19. When the comet’s nucleus heats up due to it’s proximity to the sun, it sublimates, and the tenuous, gaseous coma it forms may envelop Mars, causing meteor showers to be visible from the Martian surface. The last time a similar event occurred was in 1994, when comet Shoemaker Levy crashed into Jupiter and different parts of the shattered comet reacted with the planet’s gaseous surface, leaving impact marks on it for several days till they faded away slowly.

Total lunar eclipse & Uranus occultation
North America, south America, eastern Asia and Australia will not only witness a Total Lunar Eclipse on October 8, but with binoculars and telescopes people living there will also be able to see Uranus’s tiny blue-green disk of light near the coppery-red moon. Uranus will be closest to Earth during the total phase. From central and northern Alaska, and northern Canada, the moon will be seen occulting (hiding) Uranus during totality–a very rare event!

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