8 Celestial Events to Share With Your Kids
In case you missed it, stargazing in 2018 kicked off with a bang! Don't worry, there are lots of other opportunities during 2018 to get the kids stargazing.
The second act of a super moon trilogy illuminated the skies on the first night of the New Year, with the moon appearing close to 15 percent larger and 30 percent brighter than average.
If you were lucky enough to catch our celestial neighbor early, or late enough, on its path across the skies, you were treated to the double treat of some dramatic atmospheric scattering — a phenomenon explained really well over at wonderopolis.org— that rendered the moon in vivid orange. Super cool!
But don't worry if you missed the first full moon of the year, because there are an astronomical number of events lined up for the year.
January 31 — Super Blue Blood Moon
It sounds like an insult from the 1800s, but Super Blue Blood describes a real event. The second full moon in a single month is deemed a blue moon, and it usually only occurs once ever 2.7 years, hence the saying, "Once in a blue moon."
The second full moon this January is much more rare, as the evening's entertainment will also feature a total lunar eclipse, or blood moon, where the earth's shadow (called the umbra) will dye the moon dark red between the hours of 10:51 and 16:08 UTC (Coordinated Universal Time).
Residents of the West Coast will have the best chance to watch the eclipse in its entirety in the early morning hours, while East Coast residents should be able to just catch the beginning before their morning commute. Did we mention the moon will also still be a super moon?
You can watch a video on this super moon trilogy from NASA. There is also a viewing map available at the Time and Date website to help you plan!
March 7-8 — Planets Aligned
The early bird catches the worm! Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars will line up along the horizon, joined at intervals by an elegant crescent moon, appearing to worm their way across the sky in a squiggly line right before sunrise.
Jupiter will be rising in opposition on these date, directly opposite the sun, meaning it will be visible all night and will also swing closer to the Earth along its orbit, appearing brighter than usual. Earthsky.org has great calendars and graphics up on their site to show you what to expect.
March 31 — Blue Worm Moon
Speaking of worms... 2018 may just be a lucky year, with two blue moons in quick succession. The display in March won't match January's sky show, but it might still be worth pulling out your telescopes. Incidentally, the term "Worm Moon" is just one of many nicknames for full moons during the month of March that herald the coming of spring! Other nicknames include "Crow Moon" and "Sap Moon."
July 27 — Total Lunar Eclipse
If you happen to be traveling in anywhere in the Eastern Hemisphere on the evening of July 27, you will be treated to a second total eclipse of the moon. On this date, the moon will be at the furthest point along its orbit, so this might be the smallest eclipse you will ever have the pleasure of witnessing. Unfortunately for folks in the Western Hemisphere, the eclipse will take place at 19:30 UCT, which puts it right in the middle of the day across the continental United States.
July 27 — Mars in Opposition
Folks who miss July's lunar eclipse have some small consolation, as the 27th is also when Mars will appear at its brightest since 2003. The best way to view the planet at this time will be through a 3-inch by 4-inch telescope, through which you should just be able to make out some of the details on the surface. But even a pair of binoculars will be enough to enhance the planet's characteristic red/ochre glow.
August 11 — Partial Solar Eclipse
Check out NASA's Partial Solar Eclipse of 2018 infographic for more information on where and when you can catch the solar eclipse! If you happen to live in Maine or parts of Canada you might be able to just glimpse it.
August 12-17 — Perseids Meteor Shower
The Perseids originate from the comet Swift-Tuttle and produce showers of up to 60 meteors an hour at their peak. The best viewing time will be the evening of August 12, when a thin sliver moon sets early, leaving the sky clear and dark for what will hopefully be a spectacular show. Check out Nomad's post to learn more about the Perseids!
December 13-14 — Geminids Meteor Shower
Twice the excitement of the Perseids, the Geminid Meteor Shower producers a whopping 120 meteors an hour on average. Even for people living in colder climates it will be worth venturing outdoors on the 14th. Watch the weather, and try to get out of the city or this one.
Want to find a cool way to bring space science into the classroom? Check out this post from Nomad Press about folding NASA into your curriculum.
As always, Nomad Press encourages all aspiring astronomers and astrophysicists with cool science books that offer a peek into the skies above us while keeping readers grounded with experiential projects and science activities! Check out these astronomy books for kids.
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