All the Stargazing Events You Can't Miss in 2023
In 2023, you've got a solar eclipse, Mars passing behind the moon, 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 late in 2022, 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 have landed awfully close to a full moon, making them not quite as spectacular as we like.
In 2023, things change and stay the same, as you might expect. There are some beautiful events to catch and quite a few meteor showers that are going to be showing off a little more than they have in recent years. Those events include near-perfect conditions for the Perseid meteor shower, a "ring of fire" solar eclipse, and the potential to catch an entirely new meteor shower.
Don't miss any of the alluring attractions in the night sky this year. Here are the most exciting meteor showers and stargazing events taking place in 2023.
A Celestial Trio Meets Up
When: January 22 & 23
Venus will slowly become easier to spot, rising as January progresses. Saturn is working in the opposite direction in the southwestern sky. On January 22, the two planets will come together. EarthSky notes that they will be less than half of a degree apart in the sky. That's close enough that you can see them simultaneously through binoculars. The night after that meeting, they're a little further apart, but will be 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 will happen once more in January. As the night proceeds, the moon will move towards Mars, covering it up for a while. The occultation will be visible in the southern US, as well as throughout Mexico and Central America. (In the Sky has a map of exactly where you can see this.) If you're in the US, but outside the area where the occultation is visible, you’ll see the moon and Mars come together in a close pairing.
Lyrid Meteor Shower
Peak: April 22-23
This is the first good opportunity to see a meteor shower in 2023. Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Center tells Thrillist we will have "excellent conditions" for the Lyrids on the night of April 22 into the morning of April 23. The shower lands "right around the new moon" providing nearly perfect conditions for the display. Though, the Lyrids will still only show about 10 meteors per hour.
Eta Aquariid Meteor Shower
Peak: May 5-6
The display that rains down from the debris of Comet Halley will have an outburst this year. When a shower has an outburst, the meteor rates explode. Though, hold your excitement for the moment. "We expect rates to double or triple," Cooke says. The Eta Aquariids normally have 30-40 meteors per hour under perfect conditions. This year, that rate will be up 100 per hour. However, the fast-moving meteors will arrive near a full moon, which will significantly reduce the number of meteors that are actually visible. Cooke says that the Eta Aquariids will have a "fair number of fireballs" which will be visible despite the interference from the moon. Cooke says it will still be worth a look.
Two Planets, the Moon, and the Solstice
When: June 21
On the night of the summer solstice, you'll see a nice scene in the western sky. The waxing crescent moon will sit next to bright Venus and the somewhat dimmer Mars. EarthSky recommends looking low in the western sky not long after sunset to find the group.
Even More Planets Come Together
When: July 19-21
For three nights, you'll find a pile of planets hanging out together in the west. Venus will be shining brightly low in the sky. A little higher in the sky, you'll find Mars. Slightly brighter than Mars will be the impressively luminous star Regulus. And, if you are under clear skies and get out right around twilight, you might spot Mercury, which never gets too high in the sky. Mercury will sit near the horizon right about where the sun sets. Additionally, you'll 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'll sit just above Regulus and to the right of red Mars. It'll be pulling away a bit and sitting higher than the planets and stars on July 21.
Perseid Meteor Shower
Peak: August 12-13
This is almost always a highlight of the stargazing calendar. Cooke tells Thrillist that "observing conditions will be excellent" in 2023. Expect to see around 100 meteors per hour at a great time of year to be outside looking up. Cooke recommends stargazers head out the night of August 12. However, there will be good conditions on the night of August 13 as well.
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 a 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.
Orionid 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.
A Brand New Meteor Shower
Peak: December 11-12
This is a "totally new meteor shower," Cooke says, 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.
Geminid 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.
Ready to go stargazing?
Here are all the best stargazing events that you can get out and see this month or you could stay in a stream the northern lights from home. If you're just getting started, check out our guide to astronomy for beginners or easy stargazing road trips from big US cities.