UPDATE : 2017.10.17 화 20:55

[Vol. 77] La La Land on the Sky: Must-See Sky Events in 2017

엄해인 기자l승인2017.05.31

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When you feel lonely walking down the street alone at night, gaze into the sky. Some stars are glittering, smiling down on you. Some are coming closer to you leaving one of the most beautiful traces at their tails. Maybe you may see splendid shows in which the moon and other planets dance the waltz in the night sky. Here are 2017 Must-See Sky Events!

In January, you can see Quadrantids Meteor Shower. A meteor shower is one of the celestial events that a number of meteors are observed to radiate from one point, and it looks as if it is like raining. There is some debris when comets or asteroids orbit the Sun, and when the Earth passes through the path of them, a lot of those small pieces fall into the atmosphere influenced by the gravity. Observed during the first week of the new year, this January’s shower is believed to be the remains of the extinct comet 2003 EH1. You do not have to worry because they break up in space and never hit the Earth’s surface as they are smaller than a grain of sand. They just present us the beautiful space show - night raining. Quadrantids is reliably abundant meteor shower with the Perseids in August and the Geminids in December. You can see approximately 120 meteors falling in an hour at its peak! The best place and time for watching it is the area that is entirely dark, about 11 p.m. on 3rd in Korea respectively.

In March, you can observe the Encke’s comet which has the shortest rotation cycle (3.31 years). On 10th of March, Comet Encke passes through the perihelion. Perihelion is the point in an object’s orbit around the sun at which the object is closest to the sun. For the comet, when the perihelion passage happens, its tail becomes bigger and wider which makes us easier to see it. Unfortunately, it is impossible for us to observe the exact scene of the passage in Korea. However, with the help of an astronomical telescope, you can watch the movement of Encke’s comet before it passes the perihelion until the late February.

Can planets stand in a row just like humans? You can find an answer in June. On June 15th, Saturn is at its closest approach to the Earth and its face is fully illuminated by the Sun. Saturn and the Sun are on opposite sides of Earth, and it makes Saturn brighter than at any other time of the year and visible all night long. Saturn rises when the sun sets, and it goes down when the sun comes up. You can watch Saturn’s tilted ring at this time even with a basic telescope.

August is full of fantastic night shows. Have you heard of solar eclipse and lunar eclipse? On August 8th, there is a partial lunar eclipse in which the shadow of the Earth covers some parts of the moon. This eclipse can be seen aound Asia, Africa, Europe and Australia including Korea. Especially, Koreans can observe all the process starting from the penumbral eclipse of the moon with the naked eye. 25 percent of the moon is expected to be shaded by the Earth’s shadows.

Different from the lunar eclipse, in a solar eclipse, the Sun, the Earth, and the moon stand in a line sequentially and the moon is in the middle of the Sun and the Earth. On August 21st, there is a total solar eclipse which has a nickname, the Great American Eclipse, because its entire path travels through the center of the United States. In a total solar eclipse, the moon completely blocks the Sun thereby revealing the Sun’s dazzling outer atmosphere known as the corona. The last visible total solar eclipse in the continental United States occurred in 1979, so this is very rare and anticipated show. A solar eclipse is usually shorter than a lunar eclipse, and can only be observed in some particular areas.

Have you ever seen Supermoon? 2017’s the biggest moon appears on December 4th. The supermoon appears when the moon is at the closest approach to the Earth on its elliptical orbit. A supermoon looks around 12 to 14 percent larger and about 30 percent brighter than its counterpart, the Micromoon. Micromoon appears when the moon is at the farthest approach to the Earth just contrary to the supermoon. So far, the supermoon on November 14th, 2016, was the closest since January 26th, 1948. The supermoon on November 25th, 2034, is going to break the record the moon coming even closer to the Earth.

The night sky in the year 2017 is the best concert hall for the celestial objects and the best theater for you. If you pay a little more attention to the sky, you will find much more brilliant and meaningful events. Be ready to take up your pen and mark down these schedules. They are already preparing, and it is your time to clap for their impressive movements!


엄해인 기자  umhaein@naver.com
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