Supermoons, ring of fire and a rare meeting of giant planets to be seen in 2020's skies

2020-01-07 16:45 - Gabi Zietsman
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Whether you're an amateur astronomer or just like snuggling up with a loved one under the stars from time to time, watching the sky put on a show is magical no matter where in the world you are. 

And this is going to be a busy year for celestial giants.

READ: SA desert, one of the darkest spots on the planet, named a Nat Geo top trip for 2020 

2020 kicked off already with a Quadrantids meteor shower, with the first full moon of the year taking to the skies this Friday.

Other notable celestial events this year include four supermoons, a total solar eclipse in South America and very rare planet conjunction that last appeared in the skies 20 years ago!

Ethiopia will also be a must-do destination to see this year's 'ring of fire' eclipse.

It's shaping up to be a year to keep your head tilted towards the stars - so make plans to travel to the darkest spots in SA, particularly Sutherland, Cederberg and anywhere you can escape the hindrance of city lights.

Even if it's not visible from SA, the spots they are visible in could be your next destination for your big 2020 trip.

ALSO SEE: SA in for a decade-long, solar-eclipse sighting drought - but you could head to these interesting destinations 

Here are 2020 celestial events to look out for: 

10 January: Wolf Moon Penumbral Eclipse

This is the first full moon of the year - right on a Friday, perfect for a moonlit party! But it will also be slightly darkened as it passes through Earth's partial shadow, visible from Africa.

9 February, 9 March, 8 April and 7 May: Supermoon

There will be four supermoons in 2020, when the moon will at its closest to Earth and appear much bigger and brighter than normal.

WATCH: The photos that made Moon landings possible 

22-23 April: Lyrids Meteor Shower

The annual meteor shower will peak this year on 22 April, and this time it's paired with an almost new moon - darker skies mean better viewing.

6-7 May: Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower

While the best view will be from the Southern Hemisphere, an almost full moon will make it a little harder to spot - the best time would be midnight to see the most of the meteor. 

5 June, 5 July and 30 November: Penumbral Lunar Eclipse

The moon will pass through Earth's partial shadow, which will darken the moon but not completely. 

21 June: Annular Solar Eclipse

The moon will barely cover the sun, causing a 'ring of fire' in the sky. Unfortunately it won't be visible in SA - central Africa, Saudi Arabia, northern India and southern China will be the ones to see it this time. Eastern Africa, the Middle East and southern Asia will be able to see only a partial eclipse.

One big destination for this event will be the Lalibela Churches in Ethiopia, which is located on the central line of the eclipse path - if you want to see it here book as soon as possible.

QUICK GUIDE TO ETHIOPIA: Easy eVisa travel for South Africans 

14 July: Jupiter at Opposition

For astronomy photographers this is the best time to photograph the giant planet as it's illuminated by the sun. With just a pair of binoculars you'll also be able to see Jupiter's four biggest moons.

20 July: Saturn at Opposition

Another great time to photograph a planet - this time Saturn where you'll be able to see its rings and moons as well.

28-29 July: Delta Aquarids Meteor Shower

This meteor shower will be accompanied by a quarter moon, but you'll still be able to see some of the brighter meteors.

12-13 August: Perseids Meteor Shower

One of the best meteor showers of the year will also have a quarter moon, but it will still be a sight to see.

PICS: Stargazing photographers' creativity astounds in Royal Observatory Greenwhich 2019 shortlist 

13 October: Mars at Opposition

With a decent telescope, you'll be able to see Mars surface as it reaches its closest point to Earth on this night.

21-22 October: Orionids Meteor Shower

With a waxing crescent moon, you'll have great darks skies at midnight when the meteors will reach its peak.

31 October: Blue Moon

This will be the only rare second full moon in one month for 2020.

17-18 November: Leonids Meteor Shower

With another waxing crescent moon, dark skies should out on quite a show this year.

WATCH: The secret to interstellar travel 

13-14 December: Geminids Meteor Shower

The top meteor shower event of the year, this year avid astronomy fans will be blessed with a new moon, ensuring a great view of the debris left behind by the 3200 Phaethon asteroid.

14 December: Total Solar Eclipse

If you want to see this year's solar's eclipse, you'll have to head to South America's Chile and Argentina, mostly in the south of both countries. A partial eclipse will be visible in other southern parts of the continent, as well as the southeastern Pacific Ocean and the southern Atlantic Ocean.

21 December: Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn

The two planets will form an almost double planet, last seen in 2000. Wander your gaze to the west just after sunset to see the pair embracing in the sky.

ALSO WATCH: What if you travelled outside of the solar system?


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