It’s only a couple of days until we say farewell to 2020 and welcome the new year. This year was full of unpleasant surprises, but on the other hand, it opened lots of new and exciting opportunities. We know that many of you dived into the world of astronomy because of the lockdown, and we’re happy you did! In one of our recent articles, we talked about the main astronomical events of 2020, and today, we’d like to make predictions about the year 2021. Let’s get started!
Next year will start off with the Quadrantids — a major meteor shower that will peak around January 3. The Quadrantids’ radiant point is situated in the constellation Boötes, but their name comes from Quadrans Muralis — a former constellation created by the French astronomer Jérôme Lalande in 1795. Now, this constellation is part of the Boötes. Although the Quadrantids’ meteor rate can be very high, it’s hard to see the meteors as they are quite faint, and their peak period lasts only a few hours. The average hourly rate you can expect under dark skies is 25 meteors.
Landing of Perseverance on Mars
For everyone who has an interest in space studies, the main event of February 2021 will be the landing of Perseverance on Mars. NASA’s newest Mars rover is expected to land on the Red Planet on February 18. Perseverance will explore the Jezero crater — scientists believe it was once flooded with water and was home to an ancient river delta. The rover is accompanied by the helicopter Ingenuity that will search for locations to study and plan the best driving route. Perseverance is the first rover to carry microphones, so very soon, we’ll get a chance to hear the sounds of the Martian surface!
Total Lunar Eclipse
The first lunar eclipse of 2021 will be a total lunar eclipse. It will occur on May 26 and will be the first total lunar eclipse since January 2019. Total lunar eclipses occur only on the nights of a Full Moon, when the Sun, the Earth, and the Moon line up, and the Earth completely blocks the Sun’s light from reaching the Moon. The total lunar eclipse of May 2021 will be visible in Southeast Asia, all of Australia, all of Oceania, most of Alaska and Canada, most of North and South America, and all of Hawaii.
Annular Solar Eclipse
On June 10, 2021, another spectacular eclipse will happen — an annular solar eclipse. Such an eclipse occurs when the New Moon passes between the Earth and the Sun but doesn’t cover the solar disk completely. Thus, a characteristic annulus or ring is created around the Moon. The annular eclipse of June 2021 will be visible primarily in northern Canada, Greenland, and the Russian Far East.
Every year, the main astronomical event of August is the Perseid meteor shower, and 2021 won’t be an exception. The Perseids are, probably, the most popular meteor shower in the Northern hemisphere due to their bright meteors and warm nights at this time of year. In 2021, the Perseids will peak on the night of August 12–13 with the rate of up to 60 meteors per hour. The radiant point for the Perseid meteor shower is situated in the constellation of Perseus. The Perseid meteors are created when the particles left by comet Swift-Tuttle burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere.
Opposition of Jupiter
Another event of August 2021 that you don’t want to miss is the opposition of Jupiter. On August 19, the largest planet of the Solar System will line up with the Earth and the Sun. On the night of opposition, Jupiter will be exactly opposite the Sun and get closest to our planet. This means that the gas giant will look even brighter and bigger than usual. Jupiter will be easily observable with the naked eye, and with a pair of binoculars, you’ll be able to see its famous Galilean moons.
The First Mission to the Trojan Asteroids
The next event in our list is also related to Jupiter. On October 16, 2021, NASA is planning to launch its Lucy mission, which will last 12 years. It will be the first mission to study the Trojan asteroids — “time capsules from the birth of our Solar System”, as NASA called them. The spacecraft named Lucy will fly by seven Trojans sharing the orbit of Jupiter. The term “Trojans” comes from the fact that, traditionally, the asteroids were named after the heroes of the Trojan war. Studying the Trojan asteroids can provide unique insights into the history of the Solar System and, perhaps, even the origins of organic material on the Earth.
The year 2021 will conclude with another prolific meteor shower — the Geminids. They will peak on the night of December 13–14 and produce up to 60 meteors per hour. The Geminid meteors are bright and multi-colored and provide a spectacular show in the night sky, so make sure to circle December 13 and 14 on your calendar!
See You in 2021!
Obviously, in our article, we mentioned only a small portion of interesting space-related events of 2021, so there will be much more to see. Moreover, there can be surprises, like bright comets and asteroids flying by the Earth! Read our news in Star Walk 2 and other apps to always keep up-to-date with the latest astronomical events.
And one more thing before we finish: our Christmas sale is nearing its end, but you still have a chance to get the lifetime access to all the features of the Ephemeris app at up to 70% off! With Ephemeris, you can visualize and predict the positions of the Sun, the Moon, and the Milky Way to plan your outdoor photography sessions. Don’t miss out on our special offer!
We wish you all the best in the upcoming year. Happy New Year and happy stargazing!