Of the dozen meteor showers that happen every year, typically the Perseids and Geminids produce the best celestial shows. Full moons fall on or near the peak nights of both of those showers in 2019, but you’ll still be able to catch the brightest shooting stars if you go somewhere with little to no light pollution. Fortunately, the sky will be virtually moonless during January’s Quadrantids and May’s Eta Aquarids this year, making it worth adding those meteor showers to your travel list this year, too.
But that’s not all. January also brings the only lunar eclipse of 2019 to the Americas, while those who plan to visit specific parts of Chile and Argentina in July will get to see the first total solar eclipse to happen anywhere on Earth since August 2017. For more details on when and how to experience these astronomical events, read on:
Quadrantids Meteor Shower
January 3-4, 2019
Last minute travelers can enjoy the first meteor shower of the year when it peaks the night of January 3 into the early morning hours of January 4, 2019. The Quadrantids tend to be fainter than other meteor showers, but a new moon on January 6 means that the sky will be dark, so you’ll have a better chance at seeing the 60 to 100 meteors expected per hour, according to the International Meteor Organization. You can see this meteor shower from anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere that has clear skies and little light pollution. In North America, the weather will be clearest from southern California and northern Mexico up through the Southwest and into parts of the Midwest, according to Accuweather.
January 20-21, 2019
A “Super Blood Wolf Moon” is happening on the night of January 20 into the early hours of January 21—but what does that mean exactly? Essentially, the only total lunar eclipse of 2019 is happening on the same night as January’s full moon (nicknamed the “Wolf Moon” by some American Indian groups, according to Farmers’ Almanac), when the moon is also at its closest to Earth during its orbit. The eclipse will give it the red hue (hence the “blood”), while the moon itself will only be 222,274 miles from Earth, making it appear larger in the sky (this is where the “super” comes in). It will be visible from anywhere in North America and South America and into parts of western Africa and Europe where there is clear weather. Totality—or when the moon will appear completely red—will occur between 11:41 p.m. and 12:43 a.m. EST, according to Space.com.
Two more super moons are happening on February 19 and March 21, 2019, but January’s event is the one to watch because of the simultaneous eclipse.
Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower
May 4-5, 2019
Active between April 19 and May 28, the Eta Aquarids peak from the night of May 4 into May 5, 2019. This meteor shower is best seen from the Southern Hemisphere, where anywhere between 20 to 60 meteors per hour are expected, according to the International Meteor Organization. (You can see them from the Northern Hemisphere, but only about half the rate.) Because the new moon also happens on May 4, you’ll have a completely dark sky for optimal viewing.
Total Solar Eclipse
July 2, 2019
The first total solar eclipse since the Great American Eclipse of August 2017 will darken the daytime skies over South America on July 2, 2019. While most of the path of totality falls over the Pacific Ocean, parts of Chile and Argentina will get to see the moon completely block the sun. Areas just outside of Buenos Aires will experience the total eclipse, but your best bet is to head to Chile’s Elqui Valley, which experiences 300 sunny days a year and lies directly in the path of totality (one of the reasons why AFAR named it one of the 25 best destinations to visit in 2019).
Perseids Meteor Shower
August 12-13, 2019
Typically the Perseids—which peak this year the night of August 12 into August 13, 2019—are the best meteor shower of the year due to their high rates (50 to 75 per hour) and the warm summer weather in the Northern Hemisphere. However, this year’s shower won’t be as great as other years because the moon will more than 94 percent full—and very bright—on the peak night, per the International Meteor Organization. However, if you want to take your chances in a designated Dark Sky Place, you should still be able to see the brightest shooting stars streak across the sky.
Geminids Meteor Shower
December 13-14, 2019
Active from December 4 to 16, 2019, the Geminids peak this year on the night of December 13 into the early hours of December 14. Unfortunately, this particularly bright meteor shower with 100 to 120 meteors per hour will be dimmed by the moon being about 96 percent full on the peak night, according to the International Meteor Organization. If you still want to plan a trip, you can see them as early as 10 p.m. on December 13, in the Northern Hemisphere. In the Southern Hemisphere, you’ll have to wait until the middle of the night for the best viewing (but at least it’ll be warmer there).