2020: A fantastic year to watch the heavens

Bob Berman (photo by Philip Kamrass)

It looks to be our best-ever year in the sky. It’s hard to imagine what could make it better. I suppose a total solar eclipse right over our homes would do the trick. We last had one of those on January 24, 1925, but we won’t have another until May 1, 2079. Still, can you imagine stepping out your front door and finding that day has turned to night, with pink flames visibly shooting off the Sun’s edge?

It’s the best visual experience a person can ever behold. And there actually will be a total solar eclipse in 2020. But you’ll have to travel to Patagonia to see it. Good idea! Come to Argentina while there are still a couple of openings. Join my 30-person group at specialinteresttours.com. In fact, don’t wait that long: See the best Northern Lights of your life by joining me in central Alaska this March. It’s not even expensive.

Forgive the shameless commercial plug. And now jump immediately to find out why the coming year will be so remarkable. You can either cut out this column and use a magnet to post it on the fridge, or just keep joining me on this page and I’ll alert you to each event as it gets closer.

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We’ll skip right past winter, although our region’s pure skies and clear dry air make Orion and the Pleiades worth staring at time and again. I’ll sure be looking at them. But let’s start with:

  • The earliest spring of our lives – on March 19, here in the EDT. If you’re fed up with winter, this equinox will arrive sooner than any you’ve ever experienced. It used to always happen on March 21st when many of us were kids.
  • A truly spectacular apparition of Venus, the Evening Star, the first half of spring. No more dodging hills and trees. In March and April it will be 40 degrees high, about halfway up the sky, and dazzling enough to cast shadows!
  • Favorable conditions for the summer Perseid meteor shower. This year the Perseids were a bust. But in 2020 you can confidently gather your tribe for a shooting star celebration. If it’s clear.
  • A fantastic early-autumn opposition of Mars in Pisces, whose brilliance will rival Jupiter’s.
  • Perfect conditions for the December 13 Geminid shower, the year’s best.
  • A total solar eclipse on December 14 in Patagonia in both Chile and Argentina. It will be almost summer there!
  • The finest conjunction of the century, when Jupiter closely meets Saturn on the Winter Solstice. Those two bright planets will merge into a single brilliant star. At least, for those whose eyesight isn’t perfect. Telescope owners will see both planets together in the same high-power field! I’m going to figure out a way to do a charity lottery, and invite 20 people to see it from here at the new observatory.

Want to know more? To read Bob’s previous columns, click here. Check out Bob’s podcast, Astounding Universe, co-hosted by Pulse of the Planet’s Jim Metzner.

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