Top 2018 Astronomy Events

The final occultation of the bright star Aldebaran by the Moon for 2017. Dave Dickinson
2018 Astronomy – The final occultation of the bright star Aldebaran by the Moon for 2017. Dave Dickinson

Happy New Year 2018.

One of the toughest choices we made last year was to not write a full astronomy guide for 2018. We’ve done this in one iteration or another now for about a decade, but an ongoing project (also astronomical in nature) has consumed most of our writing hours… but we recently realized that we can still take stock in what’s in the sky for the year ahead, and give you a sneak peek at part of our project for the end of 2018.

The Rules:

What we’ve constructed is a simple three month strip chart denoting the top astronomical events by date. The big idea was to make a latitude independent version of the familiar hourglass chart, and distill the events down to the very best.

For the top events listed below for the entire year, we considered:

Meteor showers with a ZHR greater than 10, where the phase of the Moon is not within a week of Full;

-Oppositions of the outer planets;

-Elongations of the inner planets;

Eclipses of the Sun and Moon;

-The closest conjunction of two naked eye planets for 2018;

-The best easily visible occultation of a bright star and a planet for 2018;

Comets slated to reach perihelion in 2018 and forecast to break +10th magnitude.

The Best of 2018: (events in bold are the “best of the best”)

-Meteor Showers: Lyrids (April 22), Daytime Arietids (June 7), Perseids (Aug 12), Draconid Outburst? (Oct 8) Orionids (Oct 10), Andromedids (Dec 3), Geminids (Dec 14).

-Oppositions: Mars (Jul 27), Jupiter (May 8), Saturn (Jun 27), Uranus (Oct 23), Neptune (Sep 7), Pluto (Jul 12)

-Elongations: Mercury (Jan 1, Mar, 15, Apr 29, Jul 12, Aug 26, Nov 6, Dec 15). Venus (Aug 17)

-Eclipses: A Total Lunar eclipse for Asia, Australia the Pacific and western North America (Jan 31), a partial solar for the southern tip of South America (Feb 15), a partial solar for Tasmania and southernmost Australia (Jul 13), a total lunar for South America, Europe, Africa, Australia and Asia (Jul 27), and a partial solar for Scandinavia and northern Asia (Aug 11),

-Closest conjunctions: Mars-Jupiter (January 7)

-Best occultation (planet): Mars for the southern tip of South America (Nov 16). The Moon occults 4 planets in 2018: Mercury (2), Mars (1), Venus (1), and Saturn (1)

-Best occultation (star): Aldebaran for northern Asia and Europe (Feb 23) The Moon occults Aldebaran 9 times and Regulus 5 times in 2018.

-Periodic Comets over magnitude +10 with perihelion dates: C/2016 M1 PanSTARRS (Aug 10, +9), C/2016 R2 PanSTARRS (May 9, mag +9), C/2017 S3 PanSTARRS (Aug 16, +4), 21P/Giacobini-Zinner (Sep 10, mag +4), 38P/Stephan-Oterma (Nov 11, mag +9), 46P/Wirtanen (Dec 13, mag +3)

The astronomical strip chart for the first 3 months of 2018:

Astronomical events for Jan-Mar 2018 (click the chart to see the full-sized version).

What’s Up for January-March 2018:

-The month of January 2018 kicks off with a Full Moon on the night of January 1-2, the first of two Full Moons in the month, the second of which is sometimes referred to as a Blue Moon. March 2018 also contains two Full Moons (March 2 and March 31), while the 28 day month of February lacks a Full Moon, the only month that can do so.

The Moon also continues its cycle of occultations of the bright stars Regulus and Aldebaran, favoring the following locations;

January 5- Regulus (Northern North America)

January 27-Aldebaran (Northern Pacific)

February 1- Regulus (NE Asia)

February 23- Aldebaran (northern Europe/northern Asia)

March 1-Regulus (North Atlantic)

March 22-Aldebaran (North Atlantic)

March 28-Regulus (NE Asia/Alaska)

The Moon also occults Mercury for NW North America (in the daytime) on February 15th, then Venus just 22 hours later favoring the southern tip of South America (in the daytime), though both events are too close to the Sun to observe.

The first of two eclipse seasons for 2018 also begins in January, with a total lunar eclipse centered over the Pacific Ocean and surrounding regions on January 31st and a 60% partial solar eclipse for the southern tip of South America on February 15.

Venus reaches superior conjunction on January 9th, and moves into the dusk sky for a brilliant dusk apparition later in 2018. Mercury reaches greatest elongation 23 degrees west of the Sun in the dawn sky on January 2, then reaches superior conjunction on the farside of the Sun on February 17 before catching up with Venus and passing just 66′ from it on March 4.

Mars, Jupiter and Saturn remain dawn objects through the first quarter of 2018, with Mars passing just 12′ from Jupiter on January 12.

Let us know what you think, as this quarterly product is very much a work in progress… we plan on bringing you the quarterly astronomical graphic chart here on Universe Today every three months.

We’re looking forward to bringing you another great year of sky watching in 2018!