Make a resolution to get outside: 2015 night sky, celestial events calendar

SOUTHERN UTAH – With a brand new year ahead, make a resolution to get outside and check out some of the amazing celestial events on display in the night sky this upcoming year.

Take advantage of this compiled astronomy calendar containing dates for the most notable celestial events happening in 2015 including moon phases, meteor showers, eclipses, oppositions, conjunctions and other interesting events.

Nearly all of these events can be seen with the naked eye, although some may be better enjoyed with a telescope or good pair of binoculars.

Whether you’re an experienced astronomer or observing the night sky for the first time, you’ll want to check out these events dazzling and igniting the night sky.

January 

  • Jan. 3-4 – Quadrantids Meteor Shower: The first meteor shower of the year will be visible from Jan. 1-5 and is expected to peak this year on the night of Jan. 3 and the morning of Jan. 4. With up to 40 meteors per hour at its peak, the Quadrantids is considered an above average shower thought to be produced by dust grains left behind by an extinct comet known as 2003 EH1, which was discovered in 2003. Unfortunately, the nearly full moon will wash out all but the brightest meteors this year. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Bootes, but can be visable anywhere in the sky.
  • Jan. 5 – Full Moon: The Moon will be directly opposite the Earth from the Sun and will be fully illuminated as seen from Earth. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Wolf Moon, according to seasky.org, because this was the time of year when hungry wolf packs howled outside their camps. This moon has also been known as the Old Moon and the Moon After Yule.
  • Jan. 20 – New Moon: The Moon will be directly between the Earth and the Sun and will not be visible from Earth, making it the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.

February

  • Feb. 3 – Full Moon: According to seasky.org, this full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Snow Moon because the heaviest snows usually fell during this time of the year. Since hunting is difficult, this moon has also been known by some tribes as the Full Hunger Moon.
  • Feb. 6 – Jupiter at Opposition: This is the best time to view and photograph Jupiter and its moons, as the giant planet will be at its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. A medium-sized telescope should be able to show you some of the details in Jupiter’s cloud bands, and a good pair of binoculars should allow you to see Jupiter’s four largest moons: Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto, appearing as bright dots on either side of the planet. This will be visible in the Northern and Southern hemispheres.
  • Feb. 18 – New Moon: This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.
  • Feb. 22 – Conjunction of Venus and Mars: Conjunctions are rare events where two or more objects will appear extremely close together in the night sky. Just after sunset, Venus and Mars will appear only half of a degree apart in the western sky.

March

  • March 5 – Full Moon: This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Worm Moon because this was the time of year when the ground would begin to soften and the earthworms would reappear, according to seasky.org. This moon has also been known as the Full Crow Moon, the Full Crust Moon, and the Full Sap Moon.
  • March 20 – Total Solar Eclipse: A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon completely blocks the Sun, revealing the Sun’s beautiful outer atmosphere known as the corona. The best view of the event will be from the Atlantic Ocean near Greenland, and into the northern parts of Siberia. However, those living in Europe, Northern Africa, and Western Asia will be able to partially view the eclipse.
  • March 20 – March Equinox: The Sun will shine directly on the equator and there will be nearly equal amounts of day and night throughout the world. This is also the first day of spring, or vernal equinox, in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of fall, or autumnal equinox, in the Southern Hemisphere.

April

  • April 4 – Full Moon: This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Pink Moon because it marked the appearance of the moss pink, or wild ground phlox, which is one of the first spring flowers, according to seasky.org. This moon has also been known as the Sprouting Grass Moon and the Growing Moon.
  • April 4 – Total Lunar Eclipse: This is the third event of the Total Lunar Eclipse tetrad. The moon will spend nearly nine and a half hours in the penumbral or umbral phase, with just under five minutes as a total eclipse. A total lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes completely through the Earth’s dark shadow, or umbra. During this type of eclipse, the Moon will gradually get darker and then take on a rusty or blood red color. The eclipse will be visible throughout most of North America, South America, eastern Asia and Australia.
  • April 18 – New Moon: This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.
  • April 22-23 – Lyrids Meteor Shower: The Lyrids produces about 20 meteors per hour at its peak and is produced by dust particles left behind by comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher, which was discovered in 1861. The shower runs annually from April 16-25 and is expected to peak this year on the night of April 22 and morning of April 2. These meteors can sometimes produce bright dust trails that seem to hang in the air and last for several seconds. The first quarter moon will set shortly after midnight, leaving fairly dark skies and setting the stage for a good show. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Lyra, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

May

  • May 4 – Full Moon: According to sesky.org, this full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Flower Moon because this was the time of year when spring flowers appeared in abundance. This moon has also been known as the Full Corn Planting Moon and the Milk Moon.
  • May 5-6 – Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower: The Eta Aquarids is an above average shower, capable of producing up to 60 meteors per hour at its peak in the Southern Hemisphere and about 30 meteors per hour in the Northern Hemisphere. This long-running shower is visible from April 19 through May 28, and is expected to peak on the night of May 5 and the morning of May 6. It is produced by dust particles left behind by comet Halley, which has been observed since ancient times. Unfortunately, the nearly full moon from May 4 will be a problem this year, washing out all but the brightest meteors. If you are patient, you should still be able to catch a few good ones. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Aquarius, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
  • May 18 – New Moon. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.
  • May 23 – Saturn at Opposition: This will be the best night of the year to view and photograph Saturn, as it makes its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. A medium-sized or larger telescope will allow you to see Saturn’s rings and a few of its brightest moons.

June

  • June 2 – Full Moon: This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Strawberry Moon, according to seasky.org, because it signaled the time of year to gather ripening fruit. It also coincides with the peak of the strawberry harvesting season. This moon has also been known as the Full Rose Moon and the Full Honey Moon.
  • June 16 – New Moon: This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.
  • June 21 – June Solstice: The North Pole of the earth will be tilted toward the Sun, which will have reached its northernmost position in the sky and will be directly over the Tropic of Cancer at 23.44 degrees north latitude. This is the first day of summer, or summer solstice, in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of winter, or winter solstice, in the Southern Hemisphere.

July

  • July 2 – Full Moon: This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Buck Moon because the male buck deer would begin to grow their new antlers at this time of year, according to seasky.org. This moon has also been known as the Full Thunder Moon and the Full Hay Moon.
  • July 14 – New Horizons at Pluto: NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is scheduled to arrive at Pluto after a nine and a half year journey. Launched on January 19, 2006, this will be the first spacecraft to visit Pluto, according to seasky.org. New Horizons will give us our first close-up views of the dwarf planet and its moons. After passing Pluto, the spacecraft will continue on to the Kuiper belt to examine some of the other icy bodies at the edge of the Solar System, according to the site.
  • July 16 – New Moon: This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.
  • July 28-29 – Delta Aquarids Meteor Shower: The Delta Aquarids is an average shower, produced by debris left behind by comets Marsden and Kracht, that can produce up to 20 meteors per hour at its peak. The shower runs annually from July 12 to Aug. 23 and is expected to peak this year on the night of July 28 and morning of July 29. The nearly full moon will block out all but the brightest meteors this year. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Aquarius, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
  • July 31 – Once in a Blue Moon: The Moon will be directly opposite the Earth from the Sun and will be fully illuminated as seen from Earth. Since this is the second full moon in the same month, it is known as a blue moon. This rare calendar event only happens once every few years, giving rise to the term, “once in a blue moon.”

August 

  • Aug. 12-13 – Perseids Meteor Shower: The Perseids, a favorite among many skywatchers, is one of the best meteor showers to observe, producing up to 60 meteors per hour at its peak. The Perseids are famous for producing a large number of bright meteors. The shower runs annually from July 17 to Aug. 24 and is expected to peak this year on the night of Aug. 12 and the morning of Aug. 13. This year is expected to be an amazing show, as the thin crescent new moon will make for nice, dark skies and be no match for the bright Perseids. It is produced by comet Swift-Tuttle, which was discovered in 1862. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Perseus, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
  • Aug. 14 – New Moon: This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.
  • Aug. 29 – Full Moon: This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Sturgeon Moon, according to seasky.org, because the large sturgeon fish of the Great Lakes and other major lakes were more easily caught at this time of year. This moon has also been known as the Green Corn Moon and the Grain Moon.

September 

  • Sept. 1 – Neptune at Opposition: This will be the best day of the year to view and photograph Neptune, as it makes its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. Due to the giant blue planet’s extreme distance from Earth, while more experienced astronomers with large, high-powered telescopes may be able to see some details of the eighth planet, it will appear only as a tiny blue dot to those using smaller equipment.
  • Sept. 13 – New Moon: This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.
  • Sept. 13 – Partial Solar Eclipse: A partial solar eclipse occurs when the Moon covers only a part of the Sun, sometimes resembling a bite taken out of a cookie. This crescent-shaped partial solar eclipse will be peak over Antarctica and will be visible to those living in southern African countries as well. A partial solar eclipse can only be safely observed with a special solar filter or by looking at the Sun’s reflection.
  • Sept. 23 – September Equinox: The Sun will shine directly on the equator and there will be nearly equal amounts of day and night throughout the world. This is also the first day of fall, or autumnal equinox, in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of spring, or vernal equinox, in the Southern Hemisphere.
  • Sept. 28 – Full Moon: This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Corn Moon because the corn is harvested around this time of year, according to seasky.org. This moon is also known as the Harvest Moon. The Harvest Moon is the full moon that occurs closest to the September equinox each year.
  • Sept. 28 – Total Lunar Eclipse: The 2014/2015 Total Lunar Eclipse tetrad will conclude on this night. A total lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes completely through the Earth’s dark shadow, or umbra. During this type of eclipse, the Moon will gradually get darker and then take on a rusty or blood red color. The total eclipse will last for over an hour and will be visible to those living in North America, South America, Europe, Africa, and some portions of Asia.

October 

  • October 8-9 – Draconids Meteor Shower: The Draconids is a small meteor shower, producing only about 10 meteors per hour. It is produced by dust remnants of comet 21P Giacobini-Zinner, which was first discovered in 1900. The shower runs annually from Oct. 6-10 and is expected to peak this year on the night of Oct. 8 and the morning of Oct. 9. The second quarter moon will wash out many of the meteors, though the brightest may still be visible. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Draco, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
  • Oct. 11 – Uranus at Opposition: This will be the best night of the year to view Uranus, as it makes its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. Due to the distance of the blue-green planet, only those with large, high-powered telescopes may be able to see details of this planet. Those using smaller equipment will only be able to see it as a small teal dot.
  • Oct. 13 – New Moon: This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.
  • Oct. 21, 22 – Orionids Meteor Shower: Like the Eta Aquarids, the Orionids is also made up of remnants from the famed Halley’s Comet. It is an average shower producing up to 20 meteors per hour at its peak. The shower runs annually from Oct. 2 to Nov. 7 and is expected to peak this year on the night of Oct. 21 and the morning of Oct. 22. The first quarter moon will set shortly after midnight leaving fairly dark skies and creating more favorable conditions for viewing the shower. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Orion, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
  • Oct. 26 – Conjunction of Venus and Jupiter: Venus and Jupiter are two of the brightest planets in the sky and will visible within one degree of each other in the early morning sky. They will be best viewed before sunrise, looking into the eastern sky.
  • Oct. 27 – Full Moon: This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Hunters Moon because at this time of year the leaves are falling and the game is fat and ready to hunt, according to seasky.org. This moon has also been known as the Travel Moon and the Blood Moon.
  • Oct. 28 – Conjunction of Venus, Mars, and Jupiter: Building off of the event with Venus and Jupiter two nights before, Mars will join the two planets to form a tight one-degree triangle. The best time to view this will be just before sunrise, looking into the eastern sky.

November

  • Nov. 5-6 – Taurids Meteor Shower: The Taurids is a long-running small meteor shower, producing only about 5-10 meteors per hour. It is unusual in that it consists of two separate streams. The first is produced by dust grains left behind by Asteroid 2004 TG10. The second stream is produced by debris left behind by Comet 2P Encke. The shower runs annually from Sept. 7 to Dec. 10 and is expected to peak this year on the night of Nov. 5. The meteors will also be competing with light from the second quarter moon, which will likely wash out all but the brightest meteors. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Taurus, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
  • Nov. 11 – New Moon: This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.
  • Nov. 17-18 – Leonids Meteor Shower. The Leonids produces an average of up to 15 meteors per hour at its peak. This shower is unique in that it has a cyclonic peak about every 33 years where hundreds of meteors per hour can be seen. That last of these occurred in 2001. The Leonids is produced by dust grains left behind by comet Tempel-Tuttle, which was discovered in 1865. The shower runs annually from Nov. 6-30 and is expected to peak this year on the night of Nov. 17 and the morning of Nov. 18. The first quarter moon will set shortly after midnight, leaving fairly dark skies for what could be a promising show. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Leo, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
  • Nov. 25 – Full Moon: This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Beaver Moon because this was the time of year to set the beaver traps before the swamps and rivers froze, according to seasky.org. It has also been known as the Frosty Moon and the Hunter’s Moon.

December

  • Dec. 7 – Conjunction of the Moon and Venus: The crescent moon will come within 2 degrees of the bright planet Venus in the early morning sky. For the best viewing, look to the east just before sunrise.
  • Dec. 11 – New Moon: This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.
  • Dec. 13-14 – Geminids Meteor Shower: The Geminids is the king of the meteor showers. It is considered by many to be the best shower in the heavens, producing up to 120 multicolored meteors per hour at its peak, and is a perennial favorite among skywatchers. It is produced by debris left behind by an asteroid known as 3200 Phaethon, which was discovered in 1982. The shower runs annually from Dec. 7-17 and is expected to peak this year on the night of Dec. 13 and the morning of Dec. 14. The crescent moon will set early in the evening leaving dark skies for what should be an excellent show. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Gemini, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
  • Dec. 22 – December Solstice: The South Pole of the earth will be tilted toward the Sun, which will have reached its southernmost position in the sky and will be directly over the Tropic of Capricorn at 23.44 degrees south latitude. This is the first day of winter, or winter solstice, in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of summer, or summer solstice, in the Southern Hemisphere.
  • Dec. 22-23 – Ursids Meteor Shower: The Ursids is the final meteor shower of the year and produces about 5-10 meteors per hour. It is produced by dust grains left behind by comet Tuttle, which was first discovered in 1790. The shower runs annually from Dec. 17-25 and is expected to peak this year on the night of Dec. 22. This year, the nearly full moon will be bright enough to wash out all but the brightest meteors. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Ursa Minor, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
  • Dec. 25 – Full Moon: This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Cold Moon because this is the time of year when the cold winter air settles in and the nights become long and dark, according to seasky.org. This moon has also been known as the Moon Before Yule and the Full Long Nights Moon.

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4 Comments

  • JSD January 2, 2015 at 6:19 am

    Wonderful. Thank you very much for this!

  • sagemoon January 2, 2015 at 8:29 am

    Awesome! Thank you so much for this article.

  • evil twins mommy January 2, 2015 at 10:57 am

    Oh this is going to be great we always do the sky show thing.. never miss it

  • Andy January 2, 2015 at 5:16 pm

    We know St. George has a very active astronomy club, (remember the last solar eclipse). Can someone tell us about the comet Lovejoy? If we can see Orion, should we be able to see the comet in January from here?

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