There’s nothing better than spending an evening at the cottage staring up at the stars. Wintertime is no exception to this rule, when crisper temperatures and longer nights mean that the celestial bodies are all that more vivid.
Here are seven of the best winter stargazing events, including what you can expect to spot in 2018.
Aurora Borealis: September to Mid-May
Although many people think of northern lights as a wintertime phenomenon, they’re actually visible year-round. However, it’s when the nights darker and longer that they appear brighter. As with any other stargazing activity, the key to spotting them is heading to a location with minimal light pollution. To determine the best viewing times, you can even check out an aurora forecast website for your area.
Jasper Dark Sky Festival: Mid-October
Jasper is the second-largest Dark Sky Preserve in the world, which makes it a natural host for the Dark Sky Festival. At this annual event, tourists and astronomers gather in the Albertan mountain town to celebrate the night’s sky. Expect space talks, orchestra performances under the stars, and nighttime photography workshops.
Geminid Meteor Shower: Mid-December
Every year, our planet passes through a trail of space debris left behind by a five kilometre-wide asteroid. In Hollywood terms (Armageddon, anyone?) that might sound mildly terrifying, but what it really means is a spectacular light show for us here on earth. Seeming to emerge from behind the constellation of Gemini, tiny bits of grit fly through the upper atmosphere. In 2018, the show hits its peak the night of December 13, when up to 120 meteors per hour will be visible.
Comet Wirtanen: December 12, 2018
“Wirtanen’s Comet” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it as Halley’s Comet (the astronomical event responsible for the popularity of the name “Hailey” in 1986). However, if early predictions prove to be true, this comet will be one of the brightest seen from earth in more than five years. It’s anticipated that the comet will come within 7.2 millions miles of the planet, which will make it visible to the naked eye.
Quadrantids Meteor Shower: Early January
Every year, the Quadrantids Meteor Shower kicks off the new year. One of the three biggest showers throughout the year, its peak intensity rivals that of the Geminids. While it’s varies every year, in 2014 up to 300 meteors per hour were spotted.
Super Blue Moon Eclipse: January 31, 2018
“Super Blue Moon Lunar Eclipse” is a mouthful, but it’s a surprisingly apt description of what we can expect at the end of January. The second full moon of the month (making it a “blue”) will appear larger than usual (making it “super”). When the moon moves within the Earth’s umbral shadow during the eclipse —which will be visible before sunrise on January 31st to those in Western Canada — it will take on a rusty-brown colour.
Planets in Alignment: Late February to early March, 2018
If you’ve got a telescope or keen eyes, get ready for the planets to align — nearly literally. In the early morning hours of late February to early March, Saturn, Mars and Jupiter will line up near one another in the sky. This astral alignment will culminate on March 8th, when the moon will appear to “tuck” itself between Mars and Jupiter.