A variety of astronomical events can serve to remind us of our connection with the solar system and the larger universe.

These include:

  • equinoxes and solstices,
  • phases of the moon,
  • solar and lunar eclipses,
  • meteor showers and comets,
  • planetary conjunctions and other events.

Pantheists may enjoy taking the time to witness any of these, or even to stargaze without a fixed goal in mind. Any event that stands out may be a cause for celebration, whether you mark the day of a rare event, or find an extra intensity in observing the extreme moment of an event to the second.

This almanac provides the exact timing for a selection of events. All times are given in Universal Time [Greenwich Mean Time], which you can convert to your own time zone.

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The Sun: Equinoxes and Solstices

Ever solstice (longest day or night of the year, depending on the hemisphere) corresponds to an exact moment when the axis of Earth’s rotation reaches a maximal angle, tilting one hemisphere maximally towards the sun and the other maximally away. Every equinox (equal length of night and day) corresponds to a moment of transition at which both hemispheres are equally exposed to sunlight.

The following times are formatted based on data from the US Naval Observatory.

Event Date Time
2017
Vernal (spring) equinox Mar 20 1028 UTC
Summer solstice Jun 21 0424 UTC
Autumnal (fall) equinox Sep 22 2002 UTC
Winter solstice Dec 21 1628 UTC
2018  
Vernal (spring) equinox Mar 20 1615 UTC
Summer solstice Jun 21 1007 UTC
Autumnal (fall) equinox Sep 23 0154 UTC
Winter solstice Dec 21 2222 UTC
2019  
Vernal (spring) equinox Mar 20 2158 UTC
Summer solstice Jun 21 1554 UTC
Autumnal (fall) equinox Sep 23 0750 UTC
Winter solstice Dec 22 0419 UTC
2020  
Vernal (spring) equinox Mar 20 0349 UTC
Summer solstice Jun 20 2143 UTC
Autumnal (fall) equinox Sep 22 1330 UTC
Winter solstice Dec 21 1002 UTC
2021  
Vernal (spring) equinox Mar 20 0937 UTC
Summer solstice Jun 21 0332 UTC
Autumnal (fall) equinox Sep 22 1921 UTC
Winter solstice Dec 21 1559 UTC
2022  
Vernal (spring) equinox Mar 20 1533 UTC
Summer solstice Jun 21 0914 UTC
Autumnal (fall) equinox Sep 23 0104 UTC
Winter solstice Dec 21 2148 UTC
2023  
Vernal (spring) equinox Mar 20 2124 UTC
Summer solstice Jun 21 1458 UTC
Autumnal (fall) equinox Sep 23 0650 UTC
Winter solstice Dec 22 0327 UTC
2024  
Vernal (spring) equinox Mar 20 0306 UTC
Summer solstice Jun 20 2051 UTC
Autumnal (fall) equinox Sep 22 1244 UTC
Winter solstice Dec 21 0921 UTC
2025  
Vernal (spring) equinox Mar 20 0901 UTC
Summer solstice Jun 21 0242 UTC
Autumnal (fall) equinox Sep 22 1819 UTC
Winter solstice Dec 21 1503 UTC

 

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The Moon: Phases and Eclipses

In astronomical terms, the Moon is always with us, but the amount of it that can be seen at night varies based on its illumination by the Sun. Each 28-day lunar month, the portion of the Moon’s surface that can be seen from Earth cycles through the phases of:

  • new moon (no illumination),
  • waxing crescent (increasing, a sliver visible),
  • first quarter (or “half moon”),
  • waxing gibbous (mostly illuminated),
  • full moon,
  • waning gibbous (decreasing),
  • third quarter, and
  • waning crescent.

Full moons are the most popular. Since Western calendar months are longer than lunar cycles, a “month” may have two full moons, the second known as a “blue moon”. Since the distance from Earth to the Moon varies, so does the apparent size of the moon, with abnormally large full moons known as “super moons” and abnormally small ones known as “micro moons”. Taking into account the occasional eclipse (solar – where the moon blocks sunlight from reaching Earth – or lunar – vice-versa), the Moon’s behavior is far to complex to adequately describe with a single table. A number of external sites maintain detailed lunar calendars:

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Meteor showers

Every day, millions of fragments of comets, asteroids, and other space objects enter the earth’s atmosphere burn up as they fall. A handful of meteoroids can be seen in the sky on any clear night, most visibly in rural areas without street lighting or other light pollution. At recurring intervals, the Earth passes through debris trails left behind by other objects that orbit the Sun, producing far larger showers. These are amazing to see, but very dependent on dark, clear skies. The potentially largest ones are listed here, along with key dates and times, but much greater and more practical detail is available from the source, the American Meteor Society calendar.

 Shower Period Peak  Peak rate Radiant
Quadrantids January 1-10 January 2-3 120/hour 15:18 +49.5°
Eta Aquariids April 19 – May 26 May 6-7 55/hour 22:32 -1°
Perseids July 13 – August 26 August 11-12 80/hour 03:12 +57.6°
Orionids October 4- November 14 October 21-22 25/hour 06:20 +15.5°
Geminids December 4-16 December 13-14 120/hour 07:28 +32.2°

 

And more!

Sea and Sky provides a diverse calendar of astronomical events covering all these topics. In-the-Sky.org’s calendar includes discoveries like supernovas. Scientific information on many of these topics is available from the US Naval Laboratory’s Astronomical Almanac.

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