The Top Celestial Events of 2013: Your Guide

This article comes to us from Prafull Sharma, a student and amateur astronomer based in Delhi, India. He recently discovered a new comet, SOHO 2333, which is a fragment of 96P/Machholz. In addition to the comet, Sharma has discovered 13 asteroids, 87 supernovas, and 55 variable stars. He uses a SkyMaster 25x70 binocular to aid him in his work. Celestron is thrilled to feature Prafull's articles here on our blog!

Happy New Year, everyone! Many are calling 2013 the Year of the Comet, but this year is loaded with other interesting celestial events for professional and amateur astronomers alike. I hope you enjoy this year with clear skies and great Celestron equipment.


15 February – The asteroid 2012 DA14 skims by Earth at an altitude of just 27,000 kilometers!

17 February – Mercury reaches perihelion, its closest point to the Sun. Expect great views of Mercury all month long!


05 March – Comet PANSTARRS passes closest to Earth at 1.10 Astronomical Units (AU). One AU equals about 93 million miles, the distance between the Earth and the Sun. In other words, this comet will be slightly farther from us than the Sun, so there are no worries about it hitting us! The Pan-STARRS telescope in Hawaii discovered this comet in June, 2011. Since comets carry the names of their discoverers, it has been designated C/2011 L4 (PANSTARRS). The comet is expected to be visible to the naked eye, but should look even better through a telescope or binoculars!

20 March – The first equinox of 2013. On this day, the Sun shines directly on the equator, resulting in precisely 12 hours of day and 12 hours of night. This is also the first day of Spring in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of Fall in the Southern Hemisphere.

29 March – Uranus and the Sun come into conjunction.

31 March – Mercury reaches its the highest elongation: 27.8°W at 24:00.


18 April – Mars and the Sun come into conjunction.

21-22 April – The Earth passes through the remnants of Comet Thatcher 18611, and we experience the Lyrid meteor shower. The Lyrid meteor shower--a medium-intensity shower radiating from the constellation Lyra--usually produces about 20 meteors per hour. The Lyrids can produce bright dust tails lasting a few seconds. This year, the Moon will not be visible during the Lyrids, so they should put on a good show. 

25 April – A partial eclipse of the Moon. Earth is between Sun and the Moon, causing Earth's shadow to partially cover the lunar disc. The eclipse will be visible mostly from Africa, Europe, Asia and Australia.

28 April – Saturn reaches opposition. On this day, the planet is closest to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. This is the best time to view and photograph Saturn and its moons!


05 - 06 May – Earth passes through the remnants of Halley’s comet producing the Eta Aquarid meteor shower. This shower usually produces about 10 meteors per hour. However, the full Moon puts a damper on observations this year. Your best shot at seeing a meteor is to look east after midnight.

10 May –The Moon comes between the Earth and the Sun, producing the Annular Solar Eclipse. A ring formation along with Baily’s beads is visible in Western Australia and over the Pacific Ocean.

25 May – Penumbral Lunar Eclipse. The second lunar eclipse of the year occurs at the Moon's ascending node in Scorpius about 7° northwest of Antares. The eclipse is visible from North America, South America, and the western coast of Africa.

28 May – Conjunction of Venus and Jupiter. The two brightest planets come within 1 degree of each other in the night sky. Mercury is also visible nearby.


13 June - Venus reaches perihelion, its the closest point to the Sun.

19 June -  Jupiter and the Sun come into conjunction.

20 June – The first solstice of 2013. The North Pole of the Earth is tilted towards the Sun. Observers will see the Sun reach its northernmost position in the sky. This is the first day of Summer in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of Winter in the Southern Hemisphere.


03 July – Venus comes into conjunction with the Beehive star cluster.

05 July - Earth reaches aphelion, our planet’s furthest point to the Sun at 20:59.

28 - 29 July – The South Delta Aquarids shower should produce about 20 meteors per hour. The radiant point for these meteors is in the constellation Aquarius.


12-13 August – The Perseids, one of the best and most famous meteor showers, takes place. The Perseids can produce up to a whopping 60 meteors per hour at peak hours! Look for the meteors near the radiant point in the constellation Perseus. These meteors originate from the tail of Comet Swift-Tuttle.

27 August – Neptune reaches opposition. The planet is closest to Earth and fully illuminated by the Sun. This is the best time to observe Neptune. Because of its distance, it will appear as a tiny blue dot.


08 September – Venus is visible 0.4° north of the Moon.

22 September – The second equinox of 2013. From this day forward, days start getting longer in the Southern Hemisphere and shorter in the Northern Hemisphere.


03 October – Uranus reaches opposition.  The blue-green planet will be closest to Earth and fully illuminated by the Sun. This is the best time to observe and photograph Uranus. Because of its distance, it will appear as a small blue-green dot.

18 October – The last lunar eclipse of the year is a relatively deep penumbral eclipse. It should be easily visible to the naked eye as a dusky shading in the southern half of the Moon. This eclipse is visible everywhere on the planet, except Oceania and parts of Siberia.

21 - 22 October – Another famous meteor shower takes place, the Orionids. The Orionids produces about 20 medium-intensity meteors per hour. Look for meteors in the mornings from October 20 to 24. The First Quarter Moon will set before midnight, leaving a dark sky. The Orionids also originate from Comet Halley.


Throughout November, the sky is illuminated by the recently-discovered Comet C/2012 S1 (ISON). If there is no fragmentation of the comet, it will brighten the sky as it approaches the Sun. The comet will be at perihelion (its closest point to the Sun) on 28 November, at a distance of 0.012 AU from the center of the Sun.

03 November – We experience a rare hybrid annular/total eclipse. Some sections of the path are annular, while other parts are total. The hybrid eclipse of 2013 is visible within a thin corridor traversing the Northern Atlantic and equatorial Africa.

17 - 18 November – The Leonids meteor shower takes place. You’ll be able to observe about 40 meteors per hour. Leonids have a cyclic peak year every 33 years when hundreds of meteors can be seen each hour. Unfortunately, the last time this phenomenon occurred was in 2001, so we’re still a long way off from another peak. The meteors radiate from the constellation Leo after midnight, originating from the tail of the Comet Temple-Tuttle.


13 - 14 December – We save the best meteor shower for last, the Geminids. This shower is known to produce up to 60 multicolored meteors per hour. You’ll spot the most meteors on or around December 13 and 14, although some meteors should be visible in the weeks before and after.  New Moon will guarantee a dark sky, so the Geminids will be a wonderful show. The best observation is to the east after midnight in a dark area. You’ll see the meteors radiating from the Twins.

21 December – The second solstice, when the South Pole is towards the Sun. This is the first day of Winter in the Northern Hemisphere, and the first day of Summer in the Southern Hemisphere.

26 December – Comet C/2012 S1 (ISON) reaches its closest point to Earth, 64 million miles away, on this day.

-Prafull Sharma
Celestron Contributing Blogger