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School Year of Astronomy Events in Review

School Year of Astronomy Events in Review
Will Micciche '26

School Year in review: Astronomy events
This year had many amazing astronomy events visible here in Connecticut, such as two solar eclipses, one lunar eclipse, many planetary conjunctions, lunar occultations, meteor showers, and comets! Let’s take a look back. 

1-8 September: C/2023 P1 (Nishimura) visible in morning sky. 
The school year started with a comet passing close to the Earth. Comet Nishimura was visible in the early days of September in the dawn sky in the constellation Leo. I woke up early on the mornings of 6-7 September to observe and photograph the comet.

17 September: c/2023 P1 (Nishimura) at perihelion.
The comet whizzed by the Sun at approximately 34M km from it on this day. However, due to its close proximity to the Sun in Virgo, it was very challenging to observe.

28-29 September: Super Harvest Moon
The last Supermoon of 2023 was at the end of September. The Moon reached its full phase around its perigee, making it appear larger and brighter than a normal full Moon. After lots of clouds covered the sky, they cleared up and I was able to observe and photograph it.

14 October: Partial Solar Eclipse
An annular solar eclipse passed over the US on 14 October. However, a partial eclipse was visible from Danbury, where only about 20% of the Sun was covered at maximum. While watching Alabama play Arkansas at Bryant-Denny stadium in Tuscaloosa, AL, I watched and photographed a 60% partial eclipse. This was my appetizer to what was in April. 

9 November: Moon passes close to Venus
On the morning of 9 November, the waning crescent Moon passed within half a degree of Venus in the constellation Virgo. Though there were some clouds, the skies were clear enough for me to observe and photograph the stunning show.

14-15 December: Geminid Meteor Shower 
The best meteor shower of the year was visible on 14-15 December. There was a peak rate of >120 meteors per hour radiating from Gemini. On the morning of the 15th, I sat back, relaxed and enjoyed the show, even though it was cold.

3-4 January: Quadrantid Meteor Shower
A great way to start off the year was with the Quadrantids, at its peak, it would produce a rate of about 120 meteors per hour. Unfortunately, the clouds decided to crash and we were unable to see this shower.  

8 January & 3 March: Moon passes close to Antares

The mornings of these two days saw the Moon pass in front of the brightest star in the constellation Scorpius, Antares, from some parts of the United States, but not to us. However, a close approach of the two was visible to us. I woke up early both mornings to take a look, and photographed both conjunctions. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

22-23 February: Venus-Mars conjunction
The leading event of February was a close approach of Venus and Mars in the constellation Capricornus in the dawn of the 22nd and 23rd of February. Unfortunately, due to some clouds, we had to miss out this time. 

25 March: Penumbral Lunar Eclipse
In the early hours of 25 March, the Moon passed through Earth’s outer shadow called the penumbra. While the Moon was only slightly dimmed, and was subtle to observe the minimal change in brightness, this eclipse was still worth watching even though it was 3 o’clock  in the morning.

8 April: Total Solar Eclipse.
It finally came. The day hundreds of millions of people across North America had been anticipating since August of 2017. The Moon passed in front of the Sun, creating a total solar eclipse visible from Mexico, Canada, and the United States. All of the lower 48 states saw a partial eclipse, and 15 saw a total eclipse. The greatest duration of totality lasted for 4 minutes and 28 seconds. While the Wooster community gathered on the turf to see the partial eclipse, I was in upstate Vermont to see the total eclipse. At about 3:27 pm, the Sun went completely black, and its corona became visible in its ghostly white color. At 3:30pm, the Sun reemerged, and I, along with millions of other people, was left speechless. 

10-11 April: Saturn-Mars conjunction.
While the excitement from that Monday was still high, Saturn and Mars passed close to each other in the constellation Aquarius. Due to there being clouds in the area, I was unable to observe the event. 

21 April: Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks at perihelion. 
Early to mid April saw the return of 12P/Pons-Brooks after 71 years, also known as the devil comet. It passed by its closest point to the Sun on the 21st, but was too low in the sky to observe in Connecticut. I went to look for it on the 4th, and  after over a half hour of searching, I located the comet. 

7-8 May: Solar activity at highest in 19 years. 
When I got home from school, I took a look at the Sun through eclipse glasses and noticed that there was a huge sunspot facing Earth. I grabbed my telescope and solar filter to get a better view, and I was very surprised at what I was seeing. In the coming days, the Sun launched multiple flares in our direction, which may have caused some trouble with satellites and cell phones, but we were treated to a beautiful light show in the form of aurora.

22-23 May: full flower Moon
The last full Moon of the school year was towards the end of May on the 22nd and 23rd. Around its average distance from the Earth, the Moon dazzled high in the sky in Libra, gently illuminating the landscape. 

4 June: Conjunction of Mercury and Jupiter. 


 

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