Meteor showers and Jupiter-Mercury conjunction among 2021 highlights

Space

(WJZY) — Each year, the night sky is filled with some amazing sights, and you can probably guess that the stars are pointing to another spectacular show for 2021.

Stargazers, get your telescopes ready because there are quite a few events to check out this year.

Starting in March, you will be able to see a Jupiter-Mercury conjunction. Just before daybreak over the eastern horizon on March 5, you should be able to spot the two planets.

“Now Jupiter is pretty bright. Mercury is a little harder to see because it’s the closest planet to the sun and you are always fighting the visibility with the sun,” explained Candice Jordan, with the Schiele Museum’s James H. Lynn Planetarium and Science Theater.

A conjunction occurs when two astronomical objects — in this case, planets — appear to be near each other as observed from Earth. “The dots of Mercury and Jupiter will be closer together,” Jordan said.

Super moons have become a big talker in recent years, but how did they get their name?

“There are times when we can have a micro moon. Which means it’s a little bit smaller in the sky when it’s a little further away. And sometimes when it’s a little bit closer, we can actually have what we call a Super Moon; it looks a little bit bigger in the sky,” Jordan said.

There will be three super moons this year: in April, May, and June.

Towards the end of summer, in August, Jordan said, there will be “three really cool sights to see.”

Jupiter (L) and Saturn are seen during the great conjunction from the Griffith Observatory on the same day as the winter solstice, December 21, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. The great conjunction refers to the astronomical alignment of Jupiter and Saturn, the closest for nearly 400 years. (Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)

She said in separate events, stargazers will be able to see far-away planets Jupiter and Saturn at opposition, which occurs when a planet forms a straight line with the Earth and sun, with the Earth at the center.

The moon also will take center stage. “When the Moon hits the full moon status in August, it will become a blue moon. And a blue moon is just when we have two full moons in one calendar month,” Jordan said.

When the blue moon occurs, Jupiter and Saturn will also be at their closest point to Earth, and as a bonus, you will be able to see these two gas giants through the end of 2021.

By fall, the night sky will begin to get a bit crowded.

“We start adding in Venus into the mix once we get to Thanksgiving,” Jordan said. “So, it’s just kind of a nice treat to be able to take the kids outside and tell them we can see three planets, you know three out of eight.”

You will be able to see them all through early December.

Also this year, there will be several meteor showers and eclipses.

The Leonid meteor shower lights up the sky. (November 2001 AP file)

In addition to the Quadrantids meteor shower, which peaked the first week of January, the most visible will be the Lyrids (to peak in April), the Eta Aquariids (May), the Southern Delta Aquariids (July), the Perseids (August), the Orionids (October), the Leonids (November) as well as the Geminids and Ursids (both in December).

According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, there will be two lunar eclipses — a total and a partial — and two solar eclipses — one total and one annular. The eclipses will occur between May and December.

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