The year 2018 has been forecasted to offer an array of celestial events including two total lunar eclipses, two supermoons, five meteor showers, and five bright planet sightings.
Next year is opening with its first blue moon that will appear as a supermoon on New Year's Day. On Jan. 1, the moon will reach the part of its elliptical orbit called the perigee. At this location, the moon will be positioned closest to the Earth, making it appear larger and brighter. The year is then closing with 2018's earliest sunset expected on Dec. 7 at 4:43 p.m. EST.
Special instruments are not needed to view most of these events provided the weather is fair as they occur. However, there are a few that will require the use of regular telescopes.
January To Feature Two Total Lunar Eclipses And Two Blood Moons
Aside from 2018's first supermoon, NASA has announced another that will happen on Jan. 31. The second and last supermoon is also the year's second blue moon but will be red in color as a total lunar eclipse occurs on the same day. During the eclipse, the Earth's shadow will paint the moon with a red hue, resulting in a blood moon.
"The lunar eclipse on January 31 will be visible during moonset. Folks in the Eastern United States, where the eclipse will be partial, will have to get up in the morning to see it," says Noah Petro, a research scientist at Goddard Space Flight Center. "But it's another great chance to watch the Moon."
Next year's second supermoon is viewed best from western North America to Eastern Asia, and from countries that lie in between the two locations.
Another total lunar eclipse is occurring on July 27. A report states the month's buck moon will turn red due to the eclipse. By then, it will become the year's second blood moon. Unlike the supermoons of January, it is anticipated to be a micro-moon, which appears smaller as the moon reaches the part of its orbit that is farthest from the Earth.
NASA Sky Calendar Reveals Five Meteor Showers And Bright Planet Sightings In 2018
Based on NASA's Sky Events, there will be a total of six meteor showers, with the first called Quadrantid happening in the early morning of Jan. 3 or 4. Eta Aquarid meteors will follow on May 6 or 7, Perseid on the night of Aug. 12 to 13, Orionid on the night of Oct. 21 to 22, and the Leonid from Nov. 17 to 18.
The Perseid meteor shower will bring the most number of shooting stars with up to 60 meteors shooting through the heavens every hour during the shower's peak.
February will be moonless for the first time since the year 1999, but it will offer a Venus sighting by Feb. 16. All five bright planets, which include Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, are appearing over the southern sky on March 18, right before dawn.
Jupiter's face will appear brightest from the Earth on May 9. Using binoculars will allow viewers to spot its four biggest moons, while a telescope will reveal its cloud bands. Saturn will follow the next month on June 27, with its rings viewable through telescopes.
Four bright planets with the exception of Mars will be seen at the same time on the evening of July 27. Mercury is expected to set along an imagined line or the ecliptic on the east and will be replaced by Mars, which is rising at its brightest on the west.