For years immemorial, watching the phenomena that occur in the night sky has captivated human beings from annual meteor showers to occasional eclipses, these celestial spectacles attract the eyes of everyone, from researchers to amateurs. And not only the natural ones, but also the artificial ones space missions are also an attraction to take a look at the sky. If you don’t want to miss any of the appointments that space brings this 2021, here is the list of the astronomical events of the year.
The beginning of the year starts strong, apart from the meteor shower of the Quadrantids, which has been observed in these first days of 2021, on January 21 we will be able to see the first asteroid the 15 Eunomia, which will “brush” us when passing 1.5 astronomical units of the Earth (a little more than 200 million kilometers, an amount that may seem enormous, but which in spatial terms is negligible). Three days later it will be accompanied by another space rock, this time 14 Irene, also a companion to the asteroid belt and which will approach a little more than 2 astronomical units (about 300 million kilometers) near the constellation Cancer.
We start February with the visit of asteroid 18 Melpomene, which will also pass about 2 astronomical units from us on the 2nd. On the 7th, astro amateurs will be able to contemplate the galaxy M81, a spiral galaxy 12 million light years away.And right after it will be the best time to enjoy the Centaurid meteor shower, which although its activity will last between January 28 and February 21, its maximum will be on February 8. Although it is not one of the most prolific in meteors (about 5 at maximum time) in the northern hemisphere, the most favorable time will be around dawn.In addition, this second month of the year we will be able to witness the arrival of NASA’s Perseverance rover to Mars on February 18 and the descent of China’s Tianwen-1 mission, also to the red planet, although there is still no specific date announced.
In March we can enjoy the spring equinox, changing to the flower season on the 20th at 9:27 am.
Between April 16 and 25, the Lyrids will take place, meteors produced by the dust left by the comet C / 1861 G1 Tatcher. The best day to see this meteor shower: April 22 and 23, when we can enjoy up to 100 meteors per hour (although the average is established at 10 to 15 meteors / hour).And the first supermoon of the year, the so-called Pink Supermoon, can be enjoyed on the 27th. On this day, the Moon, which will be full, will be in its perigee, that is, at its closest point in its orbit to Earth. It is known as the Pink Moon because it coincides with the birth of wild flowers.
The fifth month of the year will arrive full of astronomical events: the meteor shower will reach its maximum at dawn on May 5. Although it will be more visible from the southern hemisphere, meteors originating from Halley’s Comet will still be seen in northern latitudes as well.And on May 26, the first total lunar eclipse or “blood moon” will take place, which will be visible in East Asia, Australia, areas of the Pacific Ocean and most of America. Lunar eclipses only occur when there is a full moon and, in case, the shadow of the Earth will completely block our natural satellite, which will turn it a copper or reddish color, because a little light passes through the atmosphere of the Earth and leans towards the Moon.
On June 10 there will be an annular solar eclipse, also called a “ring of fire.” This eclipse occurs when the Moon passes between the Sun and the Earth, but does not completely cover the solar sphere, creating a bright ring around the shadow. This particular annular eclipse will be visible only in northern Canada, Greenland and Russia, according to NASA. Partially it can be enjoyed from North America, Europe and Asia.Ten days later, the summer season will occur, and on June 20 we will welcome the new season.And June ends on the 24th with the Strawberry Supermoon, which receives its name because it connects with the harvest season of sowing, especially strawberries.
Between July 28 and 29, the meteor shower of the aquarid delta will reach its maximum peak, with a maximum rate of up to 25 meteors per hour.In addition, this month we will be able to enjoy the launch on July 22 of NASA’s DART mission, the first that will try to deflect an asteroid to prove that human technology can respond to a threat of collision with a space rock.
But without a doubt, the best time to see a meteor shower is in August, with the Perseids. At its peak, viewers can glimpse up to 100 meteors per hour, triggered by the wake left by Comet 109P / Swift-Tuttle. This year, the Perseids will peak on the night of August 11-12, but they should also be viewable the nights before and after, in the hours before sunrise.
September will be the month of the spring equinox, specifically on the 22nd.
The tenth month will be able to enjoy the star shower of the draconids, the first meteor shower of the autumn that will peak on October 7 and in which up to 20 meteors can be seen per hour. But just a few days later it will be the turn of the Orionids, a meteor shower known for its brightness and speed. These meteors, which can travel at about 148,000 mph (238,183 km / h), sometimes leave bright “trains” in their wake. Meteors, originating from Comet 1P / Halley, are visible from the northern and southern hemispheres after midnight. At its peak, those who look at the sky can see about 15 meteors per hour in a moonless sky, but this year it will coincide with a nearly full moon, on the night of the 20th to the 21st, so they will not be as spectacular as other years.Also, October will be a prolific month for space missions: on October 16 NASA will launch the Lucy mission, to explore seven Trojan asteroids floating in the orbit of Jupiter. And two weeks later, on the 31st, the European Space Agency, NASA and its Canadian counterpart will launch the James Webb Space Telescope, which will take over from the historic Hubble.
Just the penultimate month we can enjoy a partial lunar eclipse from America, Australia and some parts of Europe (although unfortunately not from Spain) and Asia. This will be the second and last lunar eclipse of 2021, and it will occur on November 19.And during the first two weeks of November you can see the Taurid and Leonid Meteor Showers. The former come from 2p / Encke fragments that disintegrate when they come into contact with the atmosphere. This gigantic comet of 4.8 kilometers in diameter, formed by rocks, ice and dust, spews particles that enter the atmosphere at 105,000 km / h. On the other hand, Leonids are produced by the remains left by Comet 55P / Tempel-Tuttle, whose discovery dates back to the end of the 20th century, and which has an orbital period of 33.2 years.
To say goodbye to the year, December will give us the Geminid meteor shower that will occur from December 4 to 20, although it will reach its maximum on the night of the 13th. The Geminids are the strongest meteor shower of the year, with bright shooting stars , fast and abundant, since they reach up to 120 meteors per hour. In addition, on December 21 the new season will once again be present after the winter solstice.