The biggest upcoming celestial events to watch in 2023

Meteor showers, eclipses and more are coming to the skies

Perseid meteor shower in 2021
From Nov. 19 to Dec. 24, the Geminid meteor shower will fill the sky.
(Image credit: Bill Ingalls / NASA via Getty Images)

The cosmos are always moving and changing, letting us witness exciting astronomical phenomena. These are the exciting events to watch for in the coming months.

Comet Nishimura (Sept. 12 - 17)

You have the opportunity to see a rare green comet in September. It was discovered on August 11 by amateur astronomer Hideo Nishimura.  "It's getting harder and harder for amateur astronomers to scan the sky and see something that isn't on the star chart. But that's what Nishimura has done," astronomer Andrew Fraknoi told NPR

This is the only opportunity to view the comet in the next 400 years, Space.com reported. It will be closest to the sun on September 17 and will be more visible from the Southern hemisphere. You can view it with binoculars in the constellation Leo.

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Final supermoon of the year (Sept. 29)

The final supermoon of 2023 will be visible on Sept. 29, also called the Harvest Moon. Supermoons occur at “the point in the Moon’s orbit where it’s closest to Earth,” BBC wrote. The Harvest Moon is named “for the time when many crops in the Northern Hemisphere typically reach their peak,” occurring either in September or October in correspondence with the autumnal equinox, Fox Weather reported.

Since the moon is closer to Earth, it appears larger in the sky. Supermoons occur multiple times a year, but not every full moon is a supermoon.

Annular solar eclipse (Oct. 14)

This year's annular solar eclipse occurs on Oct. 14 and will be visible across North, Central and South America. This type of eclipse is when the "moon passes between the sun and Earth while it's at its farthest point from Earth," as defined by NASA. Since the moon appears to be smaller, a "ring of fire" surrounds the moon. This is different from a total solar eclipse, when the moon completely blocks the sun.

This is the second rare solar eclipse to occur this year. A hybrid eclipse, when an eclipse is both a total solar eclipse and a partial solar eclipse at the same time, occurred in the South Pacific Ocean in April. This annular eclipse will be visible in Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, Utah and parts of California, Idaho, Colorado, and Arizona before moving through Central and South America, NASA wrote. Solar eclipses are never safe to look at directly "without specialized eye protection designed for solar viewing."

Partial lunar eclipse (Oct. 28)

The end of October will bring a partial lunar eclipse that can be seen from Europe, Asia, Australia, Africa, North America, and much of South America, according to Time and Date. A partial lunar eclipse is "when part of the moon enters Earth's shadow," as defined by NASA. The agency added that, "in a partial eclipse, Earth's shadow appears very dark on the side of the moon facing Earth."

Lunar eclipses tend to occur twice a year, and the first one occurred in May. Unlike solar eclipses, lunar eclipses can be viewed directly and last a few hours.

Geminid meteor shower (Nov. 19 - Dec. 24)

One of the last meteor showers of the year, the Geminids will fill the sky with 120 meteors per hour at its peak, which is expected on Dec. 14, according to EarthSky. The meteors travel at 78,000 miles per hour on average and tend to be yellow in color. NASA calls it "one of the best and most reliable annual meteor showers."

Unlike the aforementioned meteor showers, the Geminids come from an asteroid called Phaethon rather than a comet. The asteroid is only about three miles in length but produces a surprising amount of debris. The shower can be seen all over the world and starts around 9 or 10 p.m. but is best viewed right before dawn.

Total solar eclipse (April 8, 2024)

A total solar eclipse will be making an appearance over North America in April 2024, and another "won't be visible across the contiguous U.S. again until August 2044," CNN reported.

During the eclipse, the moon will completely cover the sun, causing the sky to briefly become darker as the moon passes through. In addition, "bright stars or planets may shine in the dark sky, and the air temperature will drop as the sun disappears," CNN continued. Viewers should not look at the eclipse directly, especially when any amount of sunlight is visible.

The last total solar eclipse occurred in August 2017 and was known as the "Great American Eclipse."

Updated Sept. 14, 2023: This article has been updated throughout.

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