Friday, December 30, 2016

Top 7 Must-See Sky Events for 2017

[National Geographic] Among the many eye-catching astronomical shows coming up, 2017 may be best remembered for the much anticipated total eclipse of the sun that will cross the continental United States in August.
In addition to that spectacular sight, sky-watchers will have a plethora of treats to look forward to in the coming months. To kick things off, an icy comet will swing by Earth in February, hopefully offering picturesque views. Elusive Mercury and giant Jupiter will both put their best faces forward as they appear their biggest and brightest early in the year. And in December, the annual Geminid meteor shower will put on an especially brilliant display.
Here's a rundown of these and other superb sky-watching events worth circling on your calendar in 2017.

In the first half of February, sky-watchers may get a chance to see a comet swing by Earth. After rounding the sun in December 2016, Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova will be heading back to the outer solar system. On its journey it will make an appearance in our dawn skies, seeming to zip across the constellations Aquila and Hercules.
On February 11, it will reach its closest point to Earth at only 7.7 million miles. This should be the best time to catch sight of this icy visitor, since its brightness may reach naked-eye levels, and it should appear as a tiny but distinct fuzzball in the sky. Stay tuned for a detailed viewer’s guide in February.

Lucky sky-watchers along a narrow path in the Southern Hemisphere will get to see a “ring of fire” eclipse of the sun. Also known as an annular solar eclipse, this stunning event occurs when the moon’s disk is too small to cover the entire sun, and it leaves a ring of sunshine around the dark lunar silhouette.
The eclipse path starts over the South Pacific Ocean, crosses South America, and ends in Africa. North and south of this pathway, a much larger region of the world will be able to witness a partial solar eclipse. Read More