Solar Eclipse 2013: Best Viewing Time On Thursday and Friday


This week those looking up at the night sky will be able to witness what National Geographic has called a "mixed cosmic bag of shooting stars, an eclipse, and some worlds playing tag with each other."

Events to look out for, and you should because space is awesome, include:

1. Eta Aquarid Meteors

Photo credit: Ann Dinsmore Photography, courtesy of EarthSky

This refers to the shower of material left behind by previous visits from Halley's Comet (see above for an image from Sunday morning). Although the Comet only comes through the inner solar system every 76 years, not for another 48 sorry, when it does come it leaves behind gas, dust, and rocks that break off as it  gets partially melted by the sun. These form clouds of debris which the Earth is now in travelling through. No binoculars or telescope needed to view, just a dark location.

Viewing time: began over the weekend but meant to continue throughout the first half of this week.

2. Venus Returns to Evening Skies

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Venus makes its return to the evening sky this week. Similar to the Earth in size, mass, density, composition, and distance from the sun, Venus will first become visible very low in the west-northwest. Despite being one of the brightest objects in the night sky, Venus will at first be hard to see due to glare of the sunset. Viewing conditions should improve over the coming weeks, however, as it rises in the sky.

Viewing time: from Tuesday, getting better over coming weeks

3. Annular Solar Eclipse


Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

In the first solar eclipse of 2013, the moon will cast its shadow on the Earth, making the sun appear as a bright ring of fire (see the image above from 2012). An annular eclipse occurs when the moon and the sun are exactly in line, but differs from a total eclipse because the moon is too small to entirely block out the sun. This event will be best viewed from the South Pacific. Here is a list of locations from which it will be visible. Trip to Australia or Papua New Guinea anyone?

Viewing time: Thursday to Friday

4. Moon Joins Venus

Photo credit: Flickr

The moon and Venus will hang out together, well, appear to be less than 2 degrees away from each other, later this week when a very thin crescent moon passes Venus very low in the west-northwest sky. This will be hard to see given how low in the sky it will appear, but binoculars and "a location that has a free line of sight down the horizon" will help.

Viewing time: Friday evening

5. Moon Joins Jupiter

Photo credit: Flickr

The moon gets around this week, also hanging out with Jupiter over the weekend. As the moon glides past Jupiter, the two will appear to be separated by about 6 degrees. The moon can be seen on the lower right of the gas giant on Saturday, and on the Sunday will have moved to its upper left.

Viewing time: Saturday and Sunday

So turn your computers off and head out to look at space do its thing this week. Or just wait for someone else to do it and then look at their photos.