Star gazing is an activity that dates back to antiquity. Throughout history humans have enjoyed watching the night sky, whether to simply enjoy its beauty or in an attempt to determine future events. Autumn in now on the horizon. What does that mean for fall star gazing?
There are several noteworthy fall star gazing opportunities available in 2016. From meteor showers to supermoons, you will want to put these events on your calendar so you don’t miss them.
Modern star gazers join a long tradition of watching the heavens for pleasure or knowledge. Ancient ones from a number of cultures are known to have studied the stars and planets. Greek philosophers during the fifth century B.C. made accurate observations about the moon and sun. Babylonians were studying astrology and astronomy as far back as the seventh century B.C. The popular Biblical account of the wise men following a star to find Jesus also reflects an ancient study of the stars. In the tradition of the ancients, here are a few fall star gazing events that you will not want to miss.
Jupiter and Venus, the two brightest planets, will appear very close together in the west-southwest sky. Star gazers on the east coast will see the two planets so close together that they will appear to be separated by a distance only one-sixth as wide the width of the moon. Look for this stunning sight on August 28.
On October 19, be prepared for star gazing as a waning gibbous moon blocks Aldebaran (the eye of Taurus the Bull). Star gazers in eastern Canada and a majority of the United States should be able to see this event. Those in the Pacific Northwest and parts of the Northern Plains may have to sit this one out though.
A supermoon is a phenomenon that occurs when the full moon coincides with an event known as the perigee. The perigee is when the moon makes its closest to the earth for the entire year. Normally the moon is more than 238,000 miles from the earth. During the perigee, the moon will be only 221,000 miles from the earth. The moon has not been this close to the earth since 1948. Look for the supermoon this year on November 14.
The Geminid meteor shower is widely considered to be an even better show than the famed Perseid meteor shower. With 120 meteors per hour this is an active meteor shower that doesn’t leave time to be bored. Unfortunately, the Geminid shower will coincide with a full moon so only the brightest meteors will be visible. The Geminid meteor shower will occur on December 13-14.
The moon will also block Aldebaran again on the same night as the meteor shower. This will be the fourth time that Aldeberan is occulted this year.