5 Epic Celestial Events (& the Only Places You Can See Them)
You, like many others, may suffer the POMO (pain of missing out) associated with the big celestial happenings of the universe. Stay in the lunar loop with my guide to the most spectacular star gazing events this side of the galaxy.
April 29 2014 ”Ring of Fire” Solar Eclipse
Whilst only penguins and polar explorers will get to see this solar eclipse in all it’s glory (the “Ring of Fire” effect is only visible from the uninhabited region of Wilkes Land in Antarctica), Australians are the only people in the world who will get to see a partial eclipse at all and only if you get to Western Australia.
Watching the moon block out the sun is one of those awe-inspiring, ever so slightly apocalyptical events, that you just don’t want to miss (even if it is only partial). Cue “The End” by The Doors to play at the peak of the eclipse (2:41pm WA time) to give any doomsday messages you wish to give under the blackening sky a little bit of credence.
Albany, Western Australia is the best place in the world get in on this partial eclipse action. We’ve got to be honest with you here, there’s not a lot going on in Albany as far as other attractions go.
The surrounding area, however, is a photographer’s wet dream. If you want to capture some memorable moments with your beloved (read: earn brownie points) head out to Porongurup, a small mountain village 40 minutes north of Albany.
Pick up a bottle of wine from one of the many boutique (oo la la) family-owned wineries in the region and then get your romance on by hiking to a picnic spot to view the eclipse.
The small mountain range’s striking natural beauty, complete with its 78 species of birds and 700 types of flowering plants will make a great backdrop to the solar event.
When it comes to wooing; wine, flowers, and a solar eclipse are a winning combination.
October 8 2014 Total Lunar Eclipse
For those of you who missed last night’s “blood moon”, do not fret, because is there is another one just around the corner.
Blood moons are an awesome phenomenon, and not just because they have a badass mystical sounding name.
During a lunar eclipse, the moon decides to adopt a funky fresh new colour scheme involving red, pink, or copper, as it reflects sunrises and sunsets happening around the world.
While the moon is in shadow, some light from the sun shines through Earth’s atmosphere. Red light (unlike other colors that are blocked and scattered) is able to penetrate the atmosphere, which creates this “bloody” effect.
Unfortunately for Europe, Africa, South America and most of Asia, October’s eclipse is only visible in all it’s glory around the Pacific Rim.
The best place to get in on that hot lunar action? Mauna Kea, Hawaii.
Here you’ll find one of the most epic observatories in the world. If viewing a “blood moon” isn’t cool enough, try doing it atop a 13,796-foot volcano in front of 13 telescopes from 11 different countries.
The dry atmosphere in Mauna Kea makes it one of the most cloud-free spots on Earth. Combine that with the fact that an island smack-bang in the middle of the Pacific Ocean attracts very little light pollution, you got yourself one hell of a show.
December 14 2014 Geminids Meteor Shower
Astronomers avidly mark the number of sleeps until the Geminids arrive on their calendars, and with good reason.
The shower, which is thought to be intensifying every year, has recently averaged 120–160 multicoloured meteors per hour. Don’t pike out early either, because the best time to see it is generally around 2am to 3am, although near peak rates are often maintained for almost a full day.
Whilst this flamboyant display is visible in all of the Northern Hemisphere, the best places to see it are far, far away from the “light pollution” of cities. What better place to escape cities is there than in the middle of the Sahara desert?
For a surprisingly affordable $2000, On The Go Tours offers a 15 day package, which will see you trekking into a Berber Camp (via camel, of course) to witness the shower.
The Saharan stars are fantastic at the best of times, but this one night of the year they are set to be extraordinary, with rumors of fire balls appearing in one of the world’s brightest showers.
If you can think of an awesome way to take in such a wondrous celestial event which doesn’t involve chowing down on some spicy tajine stew, wrapping yourself in a sheep’s skin, and taking in a tonne of sweet lute and drum solos, we’d like to hear it.
March 20 2015 Total Solar Eclipse
Svalbard is not just rugged, icy Norwegian wilderness packed with polar bears and gigantic glaciers. It’s also the only location in the world where the moon completely blacking out the sun will be visible next year.
The total solar eclipse, which is expected to last for two hours, is the last one that will be visible from Europe for the next twelve years.
Head to the Svalbard Wilderness Centre where you will be greeted with welcome drinks, reindeer soup and a cabin to call your own.
Norwegians know the meaning of hospitality, so kick back on a warm reindeer skin atop a dog sled, relax and enjoy the lunar show.
The super friendly folks at the Wilderness Centre will even lend you pair of warm overalls to star gaze in. Apparently, most people don’t know how to pack for -10 degree weather.
August 12-13 2015 Perseids Meteor Shower
The Perseids are the Muse of the meteor world. They never fail to put on a good show, are the most popular among newcomers to the field, and have some of the fastest moving members of their kind.
Peaking at 60-80 meteors an hour, they are no Geminids, but they’ll scratch the half-year star gazing itch.
The moon and city lights may steal some of the glory of their shine though, so it’s best to head to the deserts to find a choice spot to bathe in the splendor that is The Perseids.
The best way to see the shower is by going to one, or more, of North America’s Certified Dark Sky Parks (see below for links).
The Perseids can be seen any time from July 23 – August 22, peaking on the nights of August 12 and 13, which makes them the perfect opportunity to do a summer star gazing tour of Midwest America.
Start at Death Valley National Park in California, then head east to the Natural Bridges National Monument in Utah. Continue on to the Parashant International Night Sky Province in Arizona, then hit the Clayton Lake State Park and Chaco Culture National Historical Park in New Mexico. Finish off the trip by admiring your new-found tan whilst wolfing down couple of smores by the fire at the Big Bend National Park in Texas.
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