If total solar eclipses in exotic locales excite you, 2013 could be a year you won’t forget. The Moon’s shadow sweeps across Earth’s surface November 3. It starts off the East Coast of the United States, then traverses the Atlantic Ocean before crossing equatorial Africa. Maximum eclipse on land occurs along Gabon’s coast, where the Sun’s blazing disk disappears for 1 minute and 8 seconds. A nearly 5-minute-long annular eclipse May 9/10 targets some of the same regions in northern Australia that saw totality in 2012.
Planet-watchers can look forward to a nice evening appearance from Venus. The brilliant planet isn’t as high in the sky as it was in the spring of 2012, but it is still unmistakable from late spring to year-end. Saturn’s rings tilt even more to our line of sight, providing better views to those with telescopes. Neither Mars nor Jupiter reach opposition in 2013. For Mars, this means it remains an inconspicuous reddish dot most of the year. But for Jupiter, which comes to opposition every 13 months or so, it implies great views both early and late in the year. Be sure to watch the early evening sky in late May when Mercury, Venus, and Jupiter all come within 2° of one another.
After an outstanding 2012, meteor observers have a down year in 2013. The only major shower that avoids the Moon completely is August’s Perseids. The First Quarter Moon sets around midnight, leaving the prime viewing hours before dawn devoid of moonlight.
No one knows when the next great comet will arrive, but skywatchers have high hopes for 2013. Comet C/2011 L4 (PanSTARRS) might reach naked-eye visibility before dawn in early spring, and Comet C/2012 S1 (ISON) could become the brightest comet anyone alive has ever seen. Such a spectacular comet would go a long way toward making 2013 truly memorable.
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