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Red skies, meteor showers and other stargazing events for 2018

January 01, 4:01 UTC+3

The Geminids will be the most spectacular celestial event of 2018

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© Yuri Smityuk/TASS

MOSCOW, January 1. /TASS/. The opposition of Mars, a lunar eclipse, meteor showers and the rings of Saturn – the new year of 2018 will be rich in all these and other celestial events. Oleg Kashin, a member of the Novosibirsk Astronomical Society, has drawn up a special calendar of stargazing events for 2018.

“I keep looking through this calendar and rejoice at the amount of celestial events,” he told TASS.

Kashin advised enthusiasts to start stargazing on the morning of January 1, when Mercury will be able to be seen with the naked eye against the dark blue sky before sunrise.

On January 7, Mars will be visible with Jupiter shining in the background despite the enormous distance between these two planets.

On January 27, people in Siberia will observe the Moon covering Aldebaran, the brightest star in the constellation Taurus the Bull. This celestial event will be visible in other parts of Russia throughout the year.

According to Kashin, the occultation of Aldebaran could have prompted the idea of the famous oriental symbol, a crescent with a star.

“The Lord of the Rings” Saturn will be seen in the morning skies with the naked eye from January 28, Kashin noted. However, the planet’s famous rings will not be visible without a telescope.

On January 31, a full lunar eclipse will be observed in central and eastern Russia, Kashin said.

Venus, the brightest planet, will be seen in the evening skies from January 19.

May 9 will have the best conditions for observing Jupiter that will be in opposition to the Sun. At the same time, the planet will make its closest approach to the Earth.

“Jupiter is a very bright and beautiful object, and it will look larger when illuminated by the Sun,” Kashin mentioned.

According to him, July will be the best month for stargazing in 2018.

On July 10, Venus will come within one degree north of Regulus, the brightest star in the constellation of Leo. 

On the night of July 28, Mars will be at its closest distance from Earth for the first time in 15-17 years. This event is called “the great opposition”, Kashin said.

“The distance between the planets will be 65-70 mln kilometers. The landscape of Mars will be visible in the telescope,” the astronomer added.

This night will be also remarkable due to one of the longest full lunar eclipses.

The moon will turn red, as it will remain in the Sun’s shadow for 1.5 hours.

“In the Middle Ages, the sight of a red moon sparked panic, but now we will feel admiration as we see this interesting celestial event,” Kashin said. “All astronomers are looking forward to seeing two red bodies in the skies.”

The eclipse and opposition will be visible in all parts of Russia. 

On August 13, Perseids, a prolific meteor shower, will reach its peak. In the previous years, astronomers observed up to 60 bright meteors per hour.

“This shower looks like a fireworks display. It is amazing but I advise everyone to observe it in the countryside for a better view,” Kashin emphasized.

On September 1, Venus will pass by Spica, the brightest star of the Virgo constellation.

“The two ladies will compete in brightness,” he said.

Another meteor shower, the October Draconids, will peak on October 8, while December 14 will be the day of the highest intensity of the Geminids.

The shower usually sees an average of 75 meteors per hour but in 2011, the number reached 120 meteors per hour.

The Geminids will be the most spectacular celestial event of 2018, if the weather is not cloudy, Kashin said.

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