This article will discuss the best celestial events that you can see from Ireland in 2021.
As we begin to settle into 2021, we are given the opportunity to reflect on all that we did in the past 365 days, or in the case for 2020, what we didn’t do. Due to COVID-19, we all were prevented from taking part in many of our favourite hobbies and social activities, but a hobby that fortunately wasn’t affected by the pandemic is astronomy, the study of celestial objects.
Many great celestial events occurred throughout the year, such as the Perseid meteor shower and more recently the ‘Great’ conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn that came with the winter solstice. These events helped make 2020 a great year for aspiring astronomers In Ireland; fortunately 2021 brings with it many more celestial highlights and opportunities to look forward to and hopefully witness on our next rotation around the sun.
2021 will be host to 3 different Supermoons, occurring in the months of April, May and June. A Supermoon occurs when the moon surface seems larger and brighter than the normal lunar cycle, this occurs because the moon is at its closest possible approach with the earth, and reflects a significantly higher luminescence due to its closeness with the earth.
Two eclipses will be viewable from Ireland in 2021. One will be a partial solar eclipse, with the other being a partial lunar eclipse. The annular solar eclipse will be taking place on June 10th; although these eclipses will only be partial eclipses, they will still create a beautiful ring of light as the sun becomes covered by the moon. The lunar eclipse will occur later on within the year on November 26th. A lunar eclipse appears when the Moon passes into the shadow of the Earth, and this will only occur when the moon, the sun and the earth are in a particular alignment, and the moon happens to be a full moon.
2021 happens to be a rather fortunate year for witnessing eclipses in Ireland, as two separate eclipses being visible from the one region, in the one year is quite abnormal.
Although there are many great astronomical events that are about to occur in 2021, current observations believe that 2021 will not be a great year for viewing comets. Nevertheless, there will always be hope that one can be discovered in 2021, as the NEOWISE comet that was bright enough to be seen with the unaided eye in July 2020, was only first discovered 4 months prior to its first sightings.
Meteor showers, also commonly known as “shooting stars”, are planned to occur throughout 2021. The first of the year just occurred on the 4th of January, but don’t worry there’s plenty more in store for us.
There will be at least 7 more opportunities within 2021 for you to view passing meteors, with the 2 best meteor showers to view under Irish skies being the Perseids Meteor Shower and the Geminids Meteor Shower.
The Perseids Meteor Shower that occurs August 12th-13th can produce up to 60 meteors per hour at its peak. The Perseids are great for first time stargazers, as knowledge of the constellations won’t be required, as this meteor shower can appear anywhere in the sky.
The Geminids are the next great meteor shower of 2021 and will occur throughout the month of December, with its peak occurring between the 13th and 14th. This will be the greatest meteor shower of the year with up to 120 meteors being produced every hour at the showers peak. These meteors will most often appear from the constellation Gemini, but fortunately they can appear from anywhere in the sky.
Following the significance of the Great Conjunction that occurred in December of 2020, 2021 can appear to be a rather boring year for celestial events involving the planets of the solar system. But nonetheless there will still be opportunities presented during the year to view our neighbours in the sky.
With Mercury presenting itself in late January at its highest point above the horizon in the evening sky, 2021 will also be a good year for attempting to view Venus as it will be particularly bright when it comes into our evening skies in March. Lastly, Jupiter will once again be visible in our skies after journeying from behind the sun, where it will be most visible on August 19th, where it can easily be perceived with just a pair of binoculars, no other equipment required.
Astronomy has helped many to look beyond the issues that they are experiencing, that by looking deep towards the stars, a sense of wonder can be obtained that can help raise questions of who we are and what are the significance of the issues that we currently face. Stargazing can be used as a great tool for those who have found the constant lockdowns of 2020 particularly difficult. It might help ease the dread we face in everyday life, by becoming more aware of the insignificance of our issues in regards to the vastness of the cosmos.
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