On May 23-24, 2014, Earth will pass through the debris field of the dim periodic Comet 209P/LINEAR, and for a few hours observers will see a new meteor shower, which may for an hour or two spray dozens or hundreds of meteors across the night sky.
The Lyrid meteor shower, the first respectable meteor shower of the calendar year, runs from April 19-25 and peaks on April 22-23 each year. The Lyrids are not usually as spectacular as the more famous Perseids or Geminids which peak in August and December, respectively. But if you’re out late or up early during the shorter nights of April, look up for a few minutes and you might see a Lyrid streak by. And sometimes, the shower surprises to the upside.
Mars reached opposition on April 8 and makes its closest approach to Earth this week in more than 6 years. While Jupiter and Saturn are fairly easy to see in a telescope and put on a good show roughly once a year, Mars is a much more challenging object. It only reaches opposition once every 780 days on average and when it does, the planet is small in a telescope and gives up scant detail. But with a little resolve, steady sky, and a few hard-won tricks of the trade, you can some tantalizing surface detail on the surface of Mars. To help you see Mars for yourself, One-Minute Astronomer has published a guide on how to understand and observe the planet Mars during its opposition in 2014. In this free 26-page guide to the planet Mars, you will discover…
September or early October holds one of the most striking Moons of the year, the so-called “Harvest Moon” which traditionally marked the harvest and lent light to farmers working late in their fields. The Harvest Moon is the full Moon closest in time to the autumnal equinox which marks the first day of autumn in the northern hemisphere.
A day or two after the Moon reaches first quarter, sunlight spreads over a striking region on the Moon known as Sinus Iridum, the “Bay of Rainbows”. This region, a small semicircle on the northwest corner of the larger Sea of Rains, offers much for casual stargazers, including smooth floors of ancient lava, small symmetric craters, and the rugged peaks of the Jura mountain range. If you catch it at the right time, you can see sunrise catching the peaks of these mountains before it fully lights the floor of the Bay of Rainbows… it’s an unforgettable sight.