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