11 Astronomical Events You Won’t Want to Miss in 2016

January 13, 2016 | Elizabeth Knowles

Long exposure photo of stars above a treeline.
Photo credit: Jason Jenkins/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

From meteor showers to solar and lunar eclipses.

2015 was full of amazing space exploration accomplishments. 2016 is sure to be too, but their success or failure is hard to predict. On the other hand, astronomers and astrophysicists have gotten very accurate at predicting astronomical events. Here are some to look out for in the coming year.

1. Comet Catalina

January 1 and 17

If you missed comet Catalina on January 1, she is making one more appearance on the 17th. This is her first and only passing through our inner solar system.

2. Total Solar Eclipse

March 9

Total solar eclipses happen when the moon moves between Earth and the sun, which reveals the sun’s outer atmosphere. The total eclipse will only be visible from parts of central Indonesia and the Pacific Ocean, but you will be able to see a partial eclipse from parts of Northern Australia and Southeast Asia. Be sure to protect your eyes appropriately and do not look directly at the eclipse!

3. Penumbral Lunar Eclipse

March 23 and September 16

A penumbra is a partial shadow, so a penumbral lunar eclipse occurs when the moon passes through Earth’s partial shadow, its penumbra. The moon won’t darken completely, but you should be able to see the partial eclipse from extreme Eastern Asia, Eastern Australia, the Pacific Ocean and the West Coast of Northern America in March and from most of Eastern Europe, Eastern Africa, Asia, and Western Australia in September.

4. Lyrids Meteor Shower

April 22–23

This annual meteor shower will run from April 16 to 25 and peak on the night of April 22 with about 20 meteors per hour.

5.  Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower

May 7–8

This annual meteor shower will run from April 19 to May 28 and peak on the night of May 7, with up to 60 meteors per hour in the Southern Hemisphere and 30 meteors per hour in the Northern Hemisphere. Thanks to the new moon, the skies will be especially dark which will help with visibility.

SEE ALSO: Is Earth Overdue For a Run-In With a Giant Comet?

6. Rare Transit of Mercury Across the Sun

May 9

Mercury will move directly between Earth and the sun, so a darkened disk will be viewable moving across the sun if you have the appropriate telescope with a solar filter. This extremely rare event will not occur again until 2019 and then 2039! The best places to see it from will be the Eastern United States and Eastern South America.

7. Delta Aquarids Meteor Shower

July 28–29

This annual meteor shower will run from July 12 to August 23 and will peak on the night of July 28 with about 20 meteors per hour.

8. Perseids Meteor Shower

August 12–13

This is the second most active meteor shower of the year with up to 60 meteors per hour on the night of August 12. It will run from July 17 to August 24 and a waxing gibbous moon will provide fairly dark skies.

9. Annular Solar Eclipse

September 1

This type of solar eclipse occurs when the moon is too far from the Earth to completely block out the soon. It will cover the center and leave the outer edges visible in Central Africa, Madagascar, and parts of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans.

10. Orionids Meteor Shower

October 21–22

This annual meteor shower occurs from October 2 to November 7. It will peak on the night of October 21 with about 20 meteors per hour.

11. Geminids Meteor Shower

December 13–14

This is the biggest meteor shower of the year! It runs annually from December 7 to 17 and will peak on December 13 with up to 120 meteors per hour.

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