An Exciting New Year of Cosmic Wonder
Week of Dec. 29, 2013 - Jan. 4, 2014
I really enjoy the beginning of a new year. It's always brimming with hope and optimism, as well as endless lists of resolutions we swear we're going to attack, but which usually survive a few days at most.
There is one resolution, however, that can easily carry us through the entire year: keeping watch on the heavens. And believe me, 2014 will be, without question, quite good to sky watchers!
Perhaps the most exciting events of the year will be eclipses. The first will be a total eclipse of the moon that occurs on the night of April 14/15, and North Americans will be in prime viewing position. A second occurs on the early morning hours of Oct. 8 and, while we in North America won't be in the best location to see it all, most of the continent will have a great view.
If those aren't enough to get your cosmic juices flowing, only two weeks later we will experience a partial solar eclipse. Unlike a lunar eclipse, the amount of eclipse visible depends on our viewing location, but all of North America will experience something.
On the afternoon of Oct. 23, those in the far eastern regions of North America will see only a tiny bite taken out of the sun, whiles those more to the west a will see a significant chunk of the sun gone at mid-eclipse. In any case, proper viewing filters will be necessary to watch the solar eclipse. Stay tuned, because I'll be providing more information about that later in the year.
As 2014 begins, the brilliant planet Venus, which has graced our southwestern sky at dusk for several months, will be replaced by the second brightest planet — Jupiter — rising in the east around sunset. Jupiter reaches its opposition point — when it appears at its closest and brightest — on Jan. 5, but will be quite a striking object in the night sky through the first half of the year.
Other planets will make a beautiful showing in 2014 as well. The "Red Planet" Mars reaches its brightest in early April when it will outshine all the stars in the constellations Leo and Virgo through which it will dance all spring and summer. Little more than a month later, everyone's favorite planet — the ringed planet Saturn—reaches its opposition and will provide a spectacular sight to telescopic viewers throughout the summer.
And, of course, as we approach the spring equinox of the year, the magical and colorful aurora borealis — the northern lights — will be dancing across the arctic skies and, if we're lucky, they may even descend far enough south for those of us in the Lower 48 to get a rare glimpse.
You might like to join me for some of these remarkable celestial events — or at least follow them from your own home. If so, I hope you'll check my website and Facebook page to keep up with celestial activities throughout the year. And please feel free to drop me a note if you have any questions.
In the meantime, Happy New Year, and get ready for another truly exhilarating year of cosmic wonder!
Visit Dennis Mammana at www.dennismammana.com. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.