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 there’s 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 what’s 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 you’ll need a telescope. And some — like the equinoctes, solstices, and planetary orbital milestones — are just interesting to know. With this list you’ll 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 who’s an astrogeek and doesn’t even know it yet.
As for me, I’m 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 it’s 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 Jupiter’s moons, including casting shadows on the planet’s face, that should be visible in my telescope. And now that I can take better pictures through my ‘scope, I’m hoping that 2014 will bring a return of my own astrophotography! I spent many, many hours as a kid taking photos with my old ‘scope (I rolled my own film, and developed it in my bathroom), and I’d love a chance to use modern tech to do this again.
So get outside! Look up! 2014 will be an interesting year astronomically, and there’s a whole Universe to explore.