We’ve already seen some incredible developments in the first week of 2019. Right off the bat, New Horizons smashed exploration records with its successful flyby of Ultima Thule, and the next day we were treated to some stunning high-resolution images of the snowman world snapped by the spacecraft on its way past. We’ve also seen the first-ever photos taken from the dark far side of the moon, courtesy of the Chinese spacecraft Chang’e 4.
But even for those of us without access to cutting-edge space travel, there’s still a lot to enjoy. And, along with beautiful meteor showers, skygazers will be able to see an amazing six eclipses throughout the year – with the first, a partial solar eclipse, occurring in just a few days’ time.
This weekend (January 5-6), people across northeast Asia and the north Pacific will be able to watch the moon roll past the Sun (figuratively, not literally, just to be clear, or else it would be much bigger news.)
Most non-extremophile eclipse-chasers will have to rely on online streaming for the best views though. The point of greatest eclipse will be in the remotest regions of Russia, close to a place known as the “Pole of Cold” – the coldest permanently inhabited place on Earth.
“The eclipse occurs just above the horizon in temperatures around -50°C/-60°F or lower,” Xavier Jubier, of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) Working Group on Solar Eclipses, explained to Forbes.
But the real treat comes just two weeks later, on January 20-21, when all of North and South America, as well as Western Europe, will see their skies light up by the epically named Super Blood Wolf Moon lunar eclipse.
This impressive moniker is due to the moon’s large, bright appearance. It will reach its closest point to Earth on January 21, resulting in a supermoon, which will take on a bloody hue as the Earth’s shadow scatters red light across it during the eclipse. And just to send a final chill through your bones, the term “wolf moon” refers to the howling of hungry wolves heard by ancient cultures in midwinter nights.
The middle of the year will see another pair of eclipses, this time in the Southern Hemisphere. On July 2, a total solar eclipse will darken the skies over South America and the south Pacific. Then two weeks later, on July 16-17, just about everybody apart from North America will be able to watch the moon turn slightly red yet again in a partial lunar eclipse.
November 11 will see the much tinier, but much rarer, transit of Mercury. The smallest planet in the Solar System will pass directly in front of the Sun, casting a tiny shadow as it goes. This won’t happen again for 13 years, so make sure you don’t miss your chance in 2019.
Finally, the year will end with a dramatic “Ring of Fire” solar eclipse on December 26. The moon, further from Earth and therefore smaller than average, will blot out just the central part of the Sun, leaving the incandescent edge exposed for viewers in Asia and eastern Europe and Africa.