After the Eclipse: What to (Sky)Watch for Next

If the 2017 solar eclipse set your senses buzzing, maybe it’s time to mark your calendar for the next great astronomical phenomena.

While there won’t be another total solar eclipse in Georgia for many years, plenty of other sights will be visible in our piece of the sky.

Other Eclipses

If you do want to see another total solar eclipse, you’ll need to make some travel plans. The next one will cross southern South America on July 2, 2019. Several total solar eclipses will occur over the following years, including another in the United States in 2024, but Georgia will not be in a path of totality again until 2045.

For a more common, but still spectacular event, check out a total lunar eclipse. These occur more frequently than solar eclipses, last longer, and do not require safety glasses! The next total lunar eclipse visible from Georgia will occur January 21, 2019. (There will be a total lunar eclipse January 21, 2018, but that one is only partially visible from Georgia. The West Coast will have a better view.)

If you prefer solar events, consider watching a transit. These rare events occur when the path of an inner planet crosses between Earth and the sun, appearing as a dot of shadow on the sun’s surface. As with an eclipse, you will need special glasses to watch.

Unfortunately, if you missed the last transit of Venus in 2012, you probably won’t live to see the next, which isn’t until 2117. However, you can catch the next transit of Mercury on November 11, 2019. (Another won’t occur until 2032.)

The NASA Goddard Space Flight Center maintains a page on upcoming eclipses and transits.

Planetary Conjunctions

Close planetary conjunctions — when two planets appear within a degree of one another — vary in frequency. Some years feature multiple, then several years may go by with none; it all depends on how the various orbits line up.

The next one up is November 13, when Venus and Jupiter will appear close together in the early morning sky. These two pair up relatively often, with two more conjunctions in 2019.

On December 21, 2020 we get to see a rare close conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn. This pairing of the two largest planets in our solar system occurs roughly every 20 years and is known as the Great Conjunction.

Less Rare But Still Fun to Watch

Meteor showers are regular events, and there are 3 more this year. The next big one is the Orionids Meteor Shower, which lasts through most of October, and is expected to peak this year the night of October 21 and morning of October 22. This shower, named because the meteors appear in the same part of the sky as the constellation Orion, occurs annually as Earth passes through the trail of debris behind Halley’s Comet.

(Speaking of which, there’s an astronomical event to mark on your calendar. Patience, though; Halley’s Comet won’t pass near Earth again until 2061.)

Other meteor showers this year include:

  • Taurids (peaks November 4-5)
  • Leonids (peaks November 17-18
  • Geminids (peaks December 13-14)

Also common: It seems like there’s always another supermoon on the horizon. Catch the next one December 3.

Meet the Locals

Wherever you are in Georgia, chances are good you live near an astronomical observatory of some kind. Several state universities house observatories, most of which schedule public programs during astronomical events. Science museums across the state also host programs, and there are even a few private observatories that offer public access for fees. Search in your community for an observatory and get to know it!

Related Links

Total Solar Eclipse 2017 - NASA | Flickr
Share your eclipse experience and see photos from across America.

What’s Up? What’s Next? | Sea and Sky
More on what’s coming up in the night sky now that we’re past the solar eclipse.

NASA Blogs
Keep up with all things NASA.

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