Watch out for rare astronomical phenomena this year

Last Updated 01 January 2019, 18:50 IST

The year 2019 will be an interesting year for amateur astronomers and scientists, especially Indians.

In addition to the regular natural phenomena like the super moon, micro moon, visibility of planets, stars and galaxies, this year amateur astronomers will witness an annual solar eclipse.

Poorna Prajna College Astronomy Club head Prof A P Bhat said, “We usually have four to seven eclipses (lunar and solar) each year. This year, we have five eclipses and Indians can see two of them.”

“The year 2019 is a special year, especially for South Indians as we have a partial lunar eclipse on July 16 and a beautiful annual solar eclipse on December 26. We had a similar annular solar eclipse in 1980 and the next occurrence of a similar eclipse is in 2064 (Indian region). From 2020 to 2064, there will be six partial solar eclipses. But the annual solar eclipse will be only in 2064. Hence, the solar eclipse on December 26 is a rare occasion for scientists and amateur astronomers,” Bhat said in a press release.

“On January 6, we have a partial solar eclipse and on January 21, we have a total lunar eclipse and on June 2, there is another a total solar eclipse. All these are not visible in India,” he said.

Though all the regular full moons and new moons are appealing to people, a few full moons manage to grab attention completely because of the moon’s increased brightness. Due to ecliptic rotation of the moon around the earth, sometimes moon comes close to earth and sometimes it is far away. When the moon comes close to earth, it is called ‘perigee’ and when it is far away from earth then it is called ‘apogee’. During perigee and apogee if full moon occurs, then it is called super moon and micro moon respectively.

During supermoon, the moon will appear 14% bigger in size and its brightness will be 25% more. This year, supermoons will occur on January 21 (3,57,715 km), February 19
(3,56,846 km), and on March 21 (3,60,772 km) and micro moon would be On September 14 full moon is the micro-moon (4,06,377 km ).

Meteor showers are nature’s firecrackers. Every year, there are more than 12 main meteor showers. They are more beautiful during the new moon nights. This year, on January 3 and 4, there is Quadrantids showers from the Boötes constellation and on May 6-7, there is an Eta Aquarids meteor shower. For a better experience, one has to watch after it midnight. Meteor showers are one of the most charming natural phenomena one can enjoy fully.

Since Mercury is very close to Sun, the sighting of Mercury is quite a rare occurrence and can be seen only for 45 minutes maximum. On February 27, June 23 and on October 20, one can see Mercury in the evening sky and on April 11, August 9 and on November 28, one can see it in the morning sky.

Up to July 23, Venus is visible in the morning sky and after September 18, it is visible in the evening sky. On January 6, it is visible at a maximum height of 47 degrees in the morning sky and this is called maximum Western elongation. Up to June, Mars is visible in the evening sky and after June, it is visible in the morning sky. This year, Jupiter at its best in June. On June 10, due to Jupiter opposition, it will be very close to earth and hence, it will appear much brighter than the normal. In July, one is able to see Saturn.

(Published 01 January 2019, 16:44 IST)

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