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10 Celestial Events to Plan Your 2021 Around

Stargazers, get your calendars ready.

For as long as humans have walked the earth, we’ve looked to the skies. We’ve relied on the movements and stars of celestial bodies to guide our way, to tell time, and to allow our imaginations to roam. Though there’s always something spiritual about sitting in quiet communion with the cosmos, there are some nights (and a couple of days) where the sky has something extra special for us to see.

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PHOTO: Tom Lee(CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)/Flickr
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Quadrantids Meteor Shower

WHERE: Northern Hemisphere

When: January 2-3
This meteor shower both concludes 2020 and kicks off 2021 as it starts in late December but is expected to peak in the earliest days of January. This shower is named for a constellation—Quadrans Muralis—that didn’t make the cut when the International Astronomical Union determined the 88 modern constellations in 1922. This shower will be visible from places in the Northern Hemisphere, even from this vantage point it poses a bit of a challenge. Unfortunately, this meteor shower has a relatively narrow window for its peak (a few hours only) and its meteors tend to be faint, so make sure you’ve summoned your patience for this one.

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PHOTO: lovemushroom/Shutterstock
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Lyrids Meteor Shower

WHERE: Both Hemispheres

When: April 21-22
The Lyrids meteor shower has been making an impression on earthly denizens for thousands of years. The earliest known observation of this shower dates back to a Chinese document from 687 BC that describes the meteors as “falling like rain.” Indeed, this shower can see as many as 100 meteors falling within an hour. The light from the nearly full moon will make them more difficult to see but keep your gaze fixed Vega in the constellation of Lyra and you’re sure to catch a glimpse of at least a few of these meteors.

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PHOTO: Jimmy Walsh/Shutterstock
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Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower

WHERE: Both Hemispheres

When: May 5-6
This shower is created by dust from the famous Halley’s Comet (unfortunately said comet won’t be returning until 2061 so hang tight). While this meteor shower can be viewed from both hemispheres, the Southern Hemisphere makes for a better vantage point. Even in the Northern Hemisphere, however, you can still glimpse these meteors at a rate of 30 an hour.

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PHOTO: Daniele Ceravolo/Shutterstock
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Total Lunar Eclipse

WHERE: Australia, Western U.S., Western South America, Southeast Asia

When: May 26
A total lunar eclipse occurs when the moon moves completely into the Earth’s shadow. Because the sun’s direct light is blocked, the moon takes on a reddish-orange hue and so a total lunar eclipse is sometimes referred to as a Blood Moon. Unlike a total solar eclipse (during which the window of totality is very brief), you’ll have more time to experience its totality as it can last for a couple of hours.

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PHOTO: Hyserb/Shutterstock
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Annular Solar Eclipse

WHERE: Northern Canada, Greenland, Northeastern Russia

When: June 10
Less than a month after the total lunar eclipse, parts of Canada, Greenland, and Russia will be in view of an annular solar eclipse. During an annular eclipse, the moon is directly in front of the sun but because the moon is too far away from the Earth, it doesn’t totally block out the sun. This creates a striking view as the sun appears as a glowing ring (or an annulus) in the sky (Playlist note: If Total Eclipse of the Heart is what you cue up for a total solar eclipse, consider scoring your view of this annular solar eclipse with Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire).

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PHOTO: Jasmine_K/Shutterstock
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Perseids Meteor Shower

WHERE: Northern Hemisphere

Where: July 17-August 24
Because this meteor shower often peaks around the feast day of the martyred St. Lawrence, the Perseids is sometimes referred to as the “Tears of St. Lawrence.” Thanks to this shower’s summertime appearance and the fact that meteors are often seen at a rate of 60 an hour, if you’re only going to stay up late for one meteor shower this year the Perseids is a great one to prioritize.

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PHOTO: Roman Piffl(CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)/Flickr
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Draconids Meteor Shower

WHERE: Northern Hemisphere

When: October 7-8
The Draconids is not the most dramatic meteor shower, but if you have to get up early the next morning you don’t have to worry that you’ll be so exhausted you’ll sleep through your alarm. The meteors for this shower tend to be visible just after nightfall. However, the Draconids has been known to put on a spectacular show now and then. During times when the Earth passes through a particularly dense part of Giacobini-Zinner’s debris, there have been thousands of meteors an hour.

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PHOTO: Majo Chudy/Shutterstock
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Orionids Meteor Shower

WHERE: Both Hemispheres

When October 21-22
Though when it peaks the meteors may be washed out by the light of the full moon, there’s still a good chance you’ll see some meteors. This shower can see anywhere from 20 to 70 meteors per hour. So if you time your viewing for around midnight, you should get to glimpse a few of these meteors.

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PHOTO: IgorZh/Shutterstock
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If You Want to See a Total Solar Eclipse in 2021

WHERE: Antarctica and South Atlantic Ocean

If you want to experience totality during 2021’s total solar eclipse on June 10, you’re really going to have to work for it. The path of totality will only be able to be experienced in Antarctica or in the South Atlantic Ocean. But experiencing totality is such a fleeting and unique experience that people have been known to move heaven and earth to make sure they’re present for every total solar eclipse. A less elaborate option would be viewing the eclipse from South Africa, though this will provide only a partial view of the eclipse and will be outside the path of totality.

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PHOTO: Elenarts/Shutterstock
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Possible 2021 Comets

If you got a kick out of chasing NEOWISE or you missed your chance to view the comet when it visited our night skies last summer, you might be so inclined to do some more comet viewing in 2021. And while there are some comets that are pretty much guaranteed to be visible (like Halley’s Comet), there’s no 100% guarantee that a comet currently en route to our neck of the woods will be visible on the date of its projected arrival. However, there are a few comets visiting Earth in 2021 that are at least RSVPing “maybe.” Pons–Winnecke, Tempel, Finlay, and Churyumov-Gerasimenko are among the periodic comets that will be returning but due to their unpredictable nature, it can’t be determined when or even if they’ll be visible, so maybe keep an eye on NASA for the latest comet news.

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