One of the biggest joys of astronomy is doing it yourself. Sure, I love to talk about the science and history of different astronomical objects, describe colorful and deep Hubble images of galaxies, and point out the minutiae and overlooked bits hiding in the corner of a nebula somewhere. But thereâs nothing like going out under the stars and taking a look for yourself.
I get a lot of email and tweets asking about upcoming events, and I usually have to dig through the Net and my planetarium software to see whatâs what. However, the good folks at Universe Today have made that a lot easier: They just posted a list of 101 astronomical events in 2014 to look for!
Most of these events are visible to the naked eye, including meteor showers, conjunctions, and occultations (when two objects, usually planets and the Moon, get close together in the sky or even pass directly in front of one another), and of course solar and lunar eclipses. Some are best with binoculars, and with others youâll need a telescope. And someâlike the equinoctes, solstices, and planetary orbital milestonesâare just interesting to know. With this list youâll be forewarned of cool stuff going on over your head, and forearmed with cocktail party info in case you bump into another astrogeek, or astrogeek-in-training, or someone whoâs an astrogeek and doesnât even know it yet.
As for me, Iâm looking forward to quite a few of these. On Jan. 25, the Moon will be very close to Saturn for most viewers, and even though itâs in the early pre-dawn sky, I might take a shot at it. A month later the Moon slides by Venus, too. There are lots of interesting events involving Jupiterâs moons, including casting shadows on the planetâs face, that should be visible in my telescope. And now that I can take better pictures through my âscope, Iâm hoping that 2014 will bring a return of my own astrophotography! I spent many, many hours as a kid taking photos with my old âscope (I rolled my own film and developed it in my bathroom), and Iâd love a chance to use modern tech to do this again.
So get outside! Look up! 2014 will be an interesting year astronomically, and thereâs a whole Universe to explore.