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Calendar of Celestial Events

Below are notable upcoming celestial events for 2018 that are visible from the Nashville/Brentwood area. Please refer to our calendar to see if Dyer Observatory is planning a special viewing for any of these events.

 

January 2 midnight – Earth at perihelion. We are at our closest point to the Sun (91,410,983 miles).

January 6 – Latest sunrise of the year at 6:58am.

January 31 – Lunar Eclipse, Blue Moon, Supermoon. Total eclipse of the Moon. From Nashville, a partial eclipse might be seen as the Moon sets in the morning. Penumbra first visible at 5:20am, partial eclipse begins 5:48am, and total eclipse begins 6:51am. Sunrise is 6:58am. This Moon is also considered a Supermoon and a Blue Moon (second full Moon in a single month.)

March 15Mercury at Greatest Eastern Elongation. A best time to view Mercury for it will be at its highest point above the western horizon just after sunset.

March 20Spring Equinox. The March equinox occurs at 11:15am CDT. The Sun will shine directly on the equator and there will be nearly equal amounts of day and night on the entire surface of the Earth. This date marks the first day of Spring in the northern hemisphere.

March 31Full Moon, Blue Moon. This is the second full moon in the same month, giving it the name Blue Moon. This year is unusual for January and March both contain two full Moons while February has no full Moon.

April 22, 23 – Lyrids Meteor Shower peak. Expect about 20 meteors per hour and some will have bright dust trails that last for several seconds. It is produced by dust particles left behind by comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher, which was discovered in 1861. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Lyra, but may appear anywhere in the sky.

April 29Mercury at Greatest Western Elongation. This is a good time to view Mercury in the morning sky. Look for it just above the horizon in the eastern sky just before sunrise.

May 8Jupiter at Opposition. Jupiter will be at its closest approach to Earth, and its disk will be fully illuminated by the Sun. At this time it will appear brighter than at any other time of the year and will be visible all night long.

May 6,7 – Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower peak. This shower is expected to produce up to 30 meteors per hour at its peak. It is notable for it is produced by dust particles left behind by the well-known comet Halley. The shower runs annually from April 19 to May 28. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Aquarius, but may appear anywhere in the sky. Best viewing is after midnight.

June 12-13 – Earliest sunrise at 5:29am.

June 21Summer Solstice. The solstice occurs at 5:07am CDT, marking the beginning of our summer. The north pole of Earth will be tilted toward the Sun, which will have reached its northernmost point in the sky to produce our longest period of daylight. 14 hours, 37 minutes, and 19 seconds of daylight.

June 27Saturn at Opposition. Saturn will be at its closest approach to Earth and the disk will be fully illuminated by the Sun. It will be brighter than at any other time of the year and will be visible all night long. This date would also be the best time to view Saturn’s brightest moons.

June 28-29 – Latest sunset at 8:08pm.

July 6 – Earth at aphelion. We are at our furthest point from the Sun at 94,507,803 miles.

July 12Mercury at Greatest Eastern Elongation. This is a good time to view Mercury for it will be at its highest point above the western horizon just after sunset.

July 27 – Mars at opposition. Mars will be well placed for observation and be visible for much of the night, reaching its highest point in the sky around midnight. It will be fully illuminated by the Sun.

July 28,29Delta Aquarids Meteor Shower peak. The Delta Aquarids shower can produce up to 20 meteors per hour on these dates. The shower runs annually from July 12 to August 23. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Aquarius, but may appear anywhere in the sky. Best viewing is after midnight.

July 31 – Mars is nearest Earth. The couple of weeks before and after this date, Mars will be especially brilliant in the sky.

August 12,13Perseids Meteor Shower peak. The Perseids is one of the brightest and most prolific showers, producing up to 60 meteors per hour. It is created by debris left behind by comet Swift-Tuttle, which was discovered in 1862. The shower runs annually from July 17 to August 24. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Perseus, but may appear anywhere in the sky. Best viewing is after midnight.

August 17Venus at Greatest Eastern Elongation. This is the best time to view Venus for it will be at its highest point in the western sky after sunset.

August 26Mercury at Greatest Western Elongation. This is the best time to view Mercury for it will be at its highest point above the horizon in the eastern sky just before sunrise.

September 7Neptune at Opposition. The planet will be at its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. Neptune will appear brighter than at any other time of the year and will be visible all night long. Because of its distance from Earth, it will be difficult to spot.

September 22 – Autumn Equinox. The equinox occurs at 8:54pm CDT. The Sun will shine directly on the equator and there will be nearly equal amounts of day and night on the entire Earth’s surface. This is the first day of fall in the Northern Hemisphere.

October 8Draconids Meteor Shower. The Draconids produces only about 10 meteors per hour. The cause is dust grains left behind by comet 21P Giacobini-Zinner, which was first discovered in 1900. The Draconids is an unusual shower in that the best viewing is in the early evening instead of early morning like most other showers. This is a notable year to observe the Draconids because there will be no moonlight to interfere. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Draco, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

October 21 and 22Orionids Meteor Shower peak. The Orionids typically produce a maximum of 20 meteors per hour at the peak. This meteor shower is produced by dust grains left behind by the famous comet Halley. The shower runs annually from October 2 to November 7. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Orion, but may appear anywhere in the sky. Best viewing is after midnight.

October 23Uranus at Opposition. The planet will be at its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. It will appear brighter than at any other time of the year and will be visible all night long. Due to its distance, it might be difficult to locate though it can easily be spotted with binoculars or a small telescope.

November 5, 6Taurids Meteor Shower peak. The Taurids produces about 5-10 meteors per hour. It is unusual in that it consists of two separate streams: The first is from dust grains left behind by Asteroid 2004 TG10 and the second is produced by debris left by Comet 2P Encke. The shower runs annually from September 7 to December 10. Meteors radiate from the constellation Taurus, but can appear anywhere in the sky. An early-setting crescent Moon will cause little interference.

November 6Mercury at Greatest Eastern Elongation. This is the best time to view Mercury. Look for the planet low in the western sky just after sunset.

November 17,18Leonids Meteor Shower peak. The Leonids display up to 15 meteors per hour at its peak. The shower is produced by debris left behind by comet Tempel-Tuttle. The entire shower runs annually from November 6-30. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Leo, but may appear anywhere in the sky. Best viewing is after midnight when the Moon sets.

December 5-6 – Earliest sunset at 4:32pm.

December 13,14Geminids Meteor Shower peak. The Geminids is  widely considered the showiest shower, producing up to 120 multicolored meteors per hour at its peak. It is produced by debris left behind by an asteroid (3200 Phaethon), rather than a comet. The shower runs annually from December 7-17. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Gemini, but may appear anywhere in the sky. Best viewing is after midnight.

December 15Mercury at Greatest Western Elongation. This is a good time to view Mercury. Look for it low in the eastern sky just before sunrise.

December 21Winter Solstice. The December solstice occurs at 4:22pm CDT. The south pole of the earth will be tilted toward the Sun, which will have reached its southernmost position in the sky. This is the first day of winter in the northern hemisphere, which also has the longest night.

December 21, 22Ursids Meteor Shower. The Ursids produce about 5-10 meteors per hour from dust grains left behind by comet Tuttle, which was first discovered in 1790. The shower runs annually from December 17-25. This year, the full moon will hide all but the brightest meteors. Best viewing will be just after midnight from a dark location far away from city lights. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Ursa Minor, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

Much research for this page was provided by Sky and Telescope magazine, seasky.org, in-the-sky.org, and timeanddate.com.