10 celestial events not to miss in 2023, from rare eclipses to a bright new comet

Are you ready for a great year of stargazing? From rare occultations to stunning planetary views, there will be plenty of celestial events to enjoy in the coming year. So-called “super moons” will light up the night sky, two rare types of solar eclipses will bring brief wonder to those lucky enough to travel to distant parts of the globe. A bright comet is predicted from January to February, while 2023 promises to be the best for meteor showers for many years.

Let’s take a chronological look at the 10 stargazing highlights the next 12 months have in store for us:

1. A bright comet appears

January to February 2023

Do you remember Comet NEOWISE from 2020? 2023 could see a rival. Discovered in 2022, Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) will likely brighten as it nears its perihelion– its closest point to the sun – January 12, 2023, although it will likely reach its brightest for Earthlings on February 1, 2023 – its closest approach to Earth as it exits the solar system. Here is a useful search table to locate C/2022 E3 (ZTF) in 2023.

2. Jupiter and Venus in conjunction

Thursday, March 2, 2023

There are several planetary conjunctions in 2023, but this apparent path of close passage of the giant planet and the brightest planet of them all is not to be missed. Visible in the night sky after sunset on March 2, 2023, the two plants will appear to pass just 0º.32′ apart, the width of a finger stretched skyward. However, you will need to ensure that you have a clear view of the southwest horizon.

3. A Brief Totality in the Southern Hemisphere

Thursday, April 20, 2023

A solar eclipse occurs when a New Moon crosses the Sun. This will happen twice in 2023, with both events providing spectacular views of Earth. On April 20, 2023, a rare hybrid The solar eclipse – a combination of a total solar eclipse and a “ring of fire” annular eclipse – will bring stunning totality to Western Australia, Timor Leste and West Papua.

4. A crescent moon and Jupiter

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Just before dawn on May 17, 2023, a 5% illuminated waning crescent Moon will move across Jupiter. Later that day, he will occult it. Since the Moon’s orbital path around the Earth is only tilted 5º with respect to the Earth’s orbit around the Sun and the plane of the solar system, this will happen from time to time. It will be visible from parts of the Americas and Europe, but only easily for those with powered telescopes. This won’t happen again until 2026.

5. Mars enters a star cluster

Friday, June 2, 2023

One of the best sites for a pair of binoculars in the spring and summer is the beehive cluster. Also called M 44, this open cluster of stars lies about 520 light-years away in the constellation Cancer, the Crab. In a pair of binoculars you can see about 12 bright blue stars, but on June 2, 2023 they will be joined by the Red Planet. Although far from its best (opposition in December 2022), we will need astroid photographers out in force to capture an image of the red planet among the blue stars.

6. A Moonless Perseid Meteor Shower

Saturday/Sunday 12/13 August 2023

Get ready for 100 “shooting stars” every hour in dark skies and mark your calendars for a camping expedition! After a few years under moonlit skies, the northern hemisphere’s most popular meteor shower peak occurs in 2023, when the moon has set. Known for their bright, fast-moving meteors (and frequent “fireballs”), the Perseids are caused by Comet Swift-Tuttle, which orbits the Sun roughly every 133 years. The Perseids are named after the constellation Perseus, from which the meteors appear to radiate.

Other moonless meteor showers in 2023 include:

  • Lyrid meteor shower on Saturday/Sunday April 22/23 (20 per hour)
  • Orionid Meteor Shower Friday/Saturday October 20/21 (20 per hour)
  • Leonid Meteor Shower Friday/Saturday November 17/18 (10-20 per hour)
  • Geminid meteor shower on Wednesday/Thursday December 13/14 (75 per hour)

7. A “super blue moon” shines brightly

Wednesday August 30 and Thursday August 31

There will be four technical “supermoons” in 2023 (when the Moon appears slightly larger than average because it is slightly closer), but the biggest, brightest and best will also be a “Blue Moon”. The full moon in late August will be called a “blue moon” because it’s the second full moon in a calendar month, which must happen every few years because the Moon takes 29 days to orbit Earth. It will spin 357,344 km from Earth and will be at its best at moonrise two nights in a row.

8. A ‘Great Western Ring of Fire Eclipse’ in the United States

Saturday, October 14, 2023

North America is experiencing a golden age of solar eclipses. By now, you’ll probably have heard of the next total solar eclipse coming to North America in 2024. However, in 2023 there will be a dress rehearsal as an annular solar eclipse – also known as the “ring of fire” – will be visible in the southwest. US states from Oregon to Texas including many US national parks. These are basically pretty partial eclipses, caused by a slightly smaller Moon (farthest from Earth in its egg-shaped orbit) blocking out the middle part of the Sun. Solar eclipse glasses will need to be worn at all times, but it will be a striking sight from places like:

  • Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah (2 minutes 15 seconds)
  • Canyonlands National Park, Utah (2 minutes 24 seconds
  • Chaco Culture National Historical Park, New Mexico (4 minutes 42 seconds)
  • Crater Lake National Park, Oregon (4 minutes 19 seconds)
  • Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado (2 minutes 58 seconds)
  • Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah (4 minutes 28 seconds)

MORE FORBESWhen will our next solar eclipse be? ‘Secret’ Solar Eclipses and ‘Rings of Fire’ Coming Soon to North America

9. Venus and a crescent moon

Thursday, November 9, 2023

This one requires some organization, but the reward will be worth it. If you can force yourself out of bed about two hours before sunrise on November 9, 2023, you may see a 14% illuminated crescent moon next to a very bright planet Venus. And an impressive site in itself, from North America, it will also be possible to see Venus disappearing behind the invisible dark limb of this crescent moon.

10. Debris from Comet Biela hits Earth

Saturday/Sunday 2/3 December 2023

Biela’s Comet, last seen in the inner solar system in 1852, isn’t known for causing meteor showers too often, in part because it split in two centuries ago. However, 2023 could see a rare sight of what remains in what will be called the Andromeda meteor shower, as around 60 “shooting stars” per hour become visible.

I wish you clear skies and big eyes.

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