Top 5 Celestial Moments of 2020: A rewind on the spectacular events of the sky

This year's celestial events have been spectacular from eclipses to meteor showers that have brightened the sky.

Irrespective of the virus affecting millions this year, the world of nature remains intact and untouched. Science continues to baffle us with wonders we have never seen before.  

Even though the year might have been a loss for many, this year also marked huge changes in our ways of life. The science moments also have been extraordinary.

Let’s rewind and take a look at the top 5 impressive celestial moments that have served as some jaw-dropping moments.

Annular Eclipse

On June 21, 2020, the moon advanced in front of the Sun and made a ‘ring of fire’ that was visible in parts of Asia and Africa. The most popular nations that will witness the eclipse are Africa, Arabia, Pakistan, Northern India, Southern China, Taiwan, The Philippine Sea, and the Pacific Ocean.

The moon’s size during the eclipse was 0.6% smaller than the sun’s. The moon even if it passed across the sun, did not cover the entire sun which resulted in a ring-shaped light emitting from the eclipse and thus the ‘annular’ eclipse was recorded. The ring of sunlight lasted around 38 seconds or so and a partial eclipse was also witnessed virtually in Asia, Africa, and Northern Australia.

The width of the path of the eclipse was measured to be around 13 miles which was 21 km wide on India’s northern side. 

Eclipse
Image Credit: Koji Kudo

Perseids 

The Perseids meteor shower is one of the brightest meteor showers of the year, a yearly event that occurs from July 17 to August 24. This year the Perseids meteor shower took place around August 12, 2020. This celestial event is one of the most anticipated events for astronomers and stargazers. At the peak of this meteor shower, with clear skies, one can see about 40 to 50 meteors per hour.

The Perseids are named so because the meteor shower comes in the same direction as the Pursues Constellation. The stargazers do not need any special equipment to spot the meteors in the sky, all they need is a dark spot from which they can adjust their eyes in the dark and enjoy the spectacular event. Perseids meteor shower takes place every year and one only needs to come away from the bright places to witness it.

The Perseids was at its peak on the morning of August 12, 2020. The meteor shower is caused by the Comet Swift-Tuttle’s debris.

Perseids Meteor Shower
Image Credit: Jeremy Perez

The Geminids

Meteor showers are the most sought after celestial events for all astronomers and stargazers. Another impressive meteor shower made its entrance in December. The audience of this spectacular meteor shower had recorded that it was a finer event than Perseids. The Geminids look like they come from the Gemini constellation, however, the main source of the meteor is the 3200 Phaethon an asteroid. The peak time of the meteor shower was recorded to be between December 13 and 14, 2020, from 9 pm to 2 am local, which brightened the sky with around 120 meteors per hour.

Geminids Meteor Shower
Image Credit: Jeff Dai (Arizona State University)

Total Eclipse of the sun

The final eclipse of the year 2020 occurred on December 14, mostly visible to South Africa and South America. The eclipse lasted around two minutes and 10 seconds, precisely 2 minutes, 9.6 seconds. The eclipse had taken place in the regions of Chile and Argentina, recording the greatest point of the eclipse in a village and municipality in Rio Negro Province in Argentina. The pathwidth of the eclipse was 55 miles or 90 km.

The eclipse started over the South Atlantic Ocean and moved southeast through the Patagonia section of Chile and Argentina in around 25 minutes and then moved out towards the South Atlantic Ocean marking its end in the southwest of the coast of Namibia.

Total eclipse of the sun
Image Credit: Brian Cohen

The Great Conjunction

The Great Conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter alignment is due to take place today, December 21, 2020. The year has come to an end with the celestial event bidding farewell to the year with a major alignment taking place after precisely 397 years, last occurred in 1623. It will be visible in the southwestern sky right after the sunset which will eventually fade out on the horizon. The alignment in the sky will appear to everyone and gazers can witness the event with the naked eye, binoculars, or even a small telescope. The alignment will make the planets look like a big star or an elongated star.

Jupiter and Saturn the great Conjunction
Image Credit: Will Gater

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