Here are some of the coolest things happening in the night sky over the next year, from supermoons to meteor showers to another NASA fly-by, this time with Jupiter.
1. Atlas V | OA-6 Launch, March 10
Lifting off from the Kennedy Space Center, a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket will be the sixth cargo-based flight to the International Space Station. The mission, known as OA-6 will take off from SLC-41 at Kennedy Space Center at 3:08 a.m.
2. Space X Falcon 9 Launch, March 20
Embarking on a cargo mission to the International Space Station, the SpaceX Falcon 9 will lift off from SLC-40 from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on March 20th at 12:33 a.m. This will be the 10th Dragon spacecraft mission.
What is a solar eclipse? A total solar eclipse is when the moon positions itself between the earth and the sun and it blocks the sun’s rays. The moon will actually cast a shadow on the earth.
3. Penumbral Lunar Eclipse, March 23
The penumbral lunar eclipse will be visible from most parts of Asia, Australia, North America and South America. The best window for the eclipse will be starting around 5:30 a.m. and maxes at 7:32 a.m. in the Tampa Bay area.
4. Mercury puts on a show, May 9
The innermost planet in our solar system will be passing in front of the sun for the first time in 10 years in what National Geographic calls the biggest celestial event of 2016. It’ll take place over most of the morning for the U.S., but you’ll have to make your way to a telescope to catch it, as Mercury is only about 1/150th of the sun’s solar disk. Mark your calendar for 7:13 a.m. on the 9th. It will last until 2:41 p.m.
5. NASA spacecraft to fly by Jupiter, July 4 (scheduled)
Think of this event as the sequel to Pluto’s close-up. The best quality photos of Jupiter we have are from 1979, according to NASA, but that will change this year. The Juno spacecraft, which was launched in 2011, will pass close enough to capture the giant planet’s swirling clouds.
6. Perseid Meteor Shower, August
The Perseid shower, which brings about 50 to 100 meteors per hour, is popular in the Northern Hemisphere for both the good show it puts on and its conjunction with warm weather, according to Earth Sky. Watch for the peak around August 12. And, since a supermoon will occur around the same time as the famed Geminid shower in December this year, it has little competition to be the best meteor shower of 2016.
7. Best supermoon, November 14
Expect supermoons as the year winds down, Earth Sky explains. Supermoons occur when the Earth and moon are close together at a full moon. The closest full moon will be Nov. 14.
8. U.S. Total Solar Eclipse, August 21, 2017
While there will be a lunar Penumbral in February of 2017, the next big event will be the total solar eclipse on August 21st. For the Tampa Bay area, we will not see the full eclipse. Instead, we will observe a partial solar eclipse beginning at 1:17 p.m. and lasting until 4:14 p.m. During this time the moon is expected to cover a large portion of the sun. “This eclipse will be the first total solar eclipse visible from contiguous United States since 1979,” according to TimeandDate.com
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