All the Stargazing Events You Can Still Catch in 2023
You've still got a solar eclipse and the chance to see a brand new meteor shower.
Every year features ups and downs for stargazers and space enthusiasts. In 2022, there was the Artemis launch, along with some beautiful eclipses, a lovely lunar occultation of Mars, and other events that kept us looking up to the sky. The downs were largely about meteor showers. For two years, meteor shower peaks were landing awfully close to a full moon, making them not quite as spectacular as we like.
In 2023, things have changed and they've also stayed the same, as you might expect. There have been some beautiful events to catch and quite a few meteor showers that have shown off a little more than they have in recent years. Those events have include near-perfect conditions for the Perseid meteor shower, some stunning supermoons, and plenty more to keep us stargazers satiated.
Although summer's almost done and the year is almost half over, there's still plenty more to come. There's a "ring of fire" solar eclipse, the potential to catch an entirely new meteor shower, and much more.
Don't miss any of the alluring attractions in the night sky yet this year. Here are the most exciting meteor showers and stargazing events taking place later in 2023.
A Rare Blue Supermoon
When: August 30
The third of four supermoons for 2023 will be the year's biggest and brightest. What exactly qualifies as a supermoon? It is 8% bigger and 16% brighter than a typical full moon, due to its proximity to the Earth, as NPR notes. It is a rare occurrence to see a blue supermoon, and the next time we'll be able to enjoy one will be August 2032, nine years from now. The moon will peak at 9:36 pm ET on August 30, and you can use this moonrise calculator to see when it will be most visible where you live.
Draconids Meteor Shower
Peak: October 8-9
Unlike the Perseids, the Draconids meteor shower isn't typically a huge celestial event, but it's still something to be excited about this fall. The Draconids this year fall between October 6 and 10 (with the peak falling between October 8 and 9), and they usually have a rate of 10 meteors per hour. Differently than most showers, the best time to catch the Draconids is in the early evening rather than early in the morning.
A Ring of Fire Solar Eclipse
When: October 14
There is no total solar eclipse in 2023, but there is a partial eclipse that will be visible across the US. Even better, a stretch from southern Oregon, through Nevada, and into southern Texas will see an annular ring of fire eclipse. The moon will pass right through the center of the sun, leaving a ring of solar fire burning in the sky around the moon's shadow. This will be a nice teaser for the 2024 total solar eclipse that will streak across the US.
Orionids Meteor Shower
Peak: October 21-22
This is an early morning shower. Head out very late at night or early in the morning to see this fireball-rich shower that stems from Halley's Comet. At that time, the first quarter moon will have set, providing good conditions for meteor viewing. Expect to see around 20-30 meteors per hour.
Leonids Meteor Shower
Peak: November 17-18
With up to 15 meteors per hour during its peak, the Leonids is an average shower, but it has a peculiar trait. About every 33 years, it has a "cyclonic peak," where it flaunts hundreds of meteors per hour. The last one occurred in 2001, so unfortunately, there's still a few years to go until the next one. This year, the Leonids will run from November 6 to November 30, peaking on the night of November 17 and the next morning.
A Brand New Meteor Shower
Peak: December 11-12
This is a "totally new meteor shower," Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office told Thrillist, with meteors coming from the debris of Comet 46P/Wirtanen. It is not entirely known what we'll see. We could have a new meteor shower that puts on a decent display, or we might not see a whole lot, Cooke says. It's a bit of a question mark at the moment. That's why there isn't a projection on how many meteors per hour you'll see. Cooke says that your best bet for seeing this new display will be viewing from Asia and the Pacific coasts. You might get a bit of a view from the west coast of the US as well.
Geminids Meteor Shower
Peak: December 13-14
The Geminids are one of two showers—along with the Perseids—that are pretty reliably the most exciting of the year. Cooke says that "conditions are quite favorable" for the Geminids in 2023. You won't be competing with moonlight and could see upwards of 100 meteors per hour. Cooke notes that he would recommend stargazers get out on the night of December 13, but that there will be good viewing on the night of December 14 as well.
Here's What You Missed
A Celestial Trio Met UpWhen: January 22 & 23
On January 22, the Venus and Saturn got close to one another. EarthSky noted that they would be less than half of a degree apart in the sky. That's close enough that you could see them simultaneously through binoculars. The night after that meeting, they were a little further apart, but were joined by a thin crescent moon, forming a lovely tableau.
A Lunar Occultation
When: January 30
We saw a lunar occultation in December when the moon eclipsed Mars. That happened once more in January. As the night proceeded, the moon moved towards Mars, covering it up for a while. The occultation was visible in the southern US, as well as throughout Mexico and Central America.
Lyrids Meteor Shower
Peak: April 22-23
This was the first good opportunity to see a meteor shower in 2023. Cooke predicted "excellent conditions" for the Lyrids on the night of April 22 into the morning of April 23. The shower landed "right around the new moon" providing nearly perfect conditions for the display. Though, the Lyrids still only showed about 10 meteors per hour.
Eta Aquariids Meteor Shower
Peak: May 5-6
The display that rains down from the debris of Comet Halley had an outburst this year. When a shower has an outburst, the meteor rates explode. Though, hold your excitement for the moment. The Eta Aquariids normally have 30-40 meteors per hour under perfect conditions. This year, that rate was up 100 per hour. However, the fast-moving meteors arrived near a full moon, which significantly reduced the number of meteors that were actually visible. It was still worth a look.
Two Planets, the Moon, and the Solstice
When: June 21
On the night of the summer solstice, there was a nice scene in the western sky. The waxing crescent moon sat next to bright Venus and the somewhat dimmer Mars.
Even More Planets Came Together
When: July 19-21
For three nights, a pile of planets was hanging out together in the west. Venus was shining brightly low in the sky. A little higher in the sky, there was find Mars. Slightly brighter than Mars was the impressively luminous star Regulus. And, if you were under clear skies and got out right around twilight, you might have even spotted Mercury, which never gets too high in the sky. Mercury sat near the horizon right about where the sun sets. Additionally, stargazers could find the moon joining that quartet, rising higher and showing a little more of its surface on each of the three nights. On July 20, it sat just above Regulus and to the right of red Mars. It started pulling away a bit and sitting higher than the planets and stars on July 21.
Perseids Meteor Shower
Peak: August 12-13
This is almost always a highlight of the stargazing calendar. Cooke told Thrillist that "observing conditions [were] excellent" in 2023. Stargazers could catch around 100 meteors per hour at a great time of year to be outside looking up. Cooke recommended stargazers to head out the night of August 12. However, there were good conditions on the night of August 13 as well.