Astronomical events worth watching over the summer

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Even though the high point of this year’s astronomical season (April’s solar eclipse) has passed, the summer of 2024 hosts numerous opportunities for additional show-stopping astronomical events. From meteors lighting up the night sky to a rare blue moon sighting, the summer season is set to host various astronomical feats.

June Solstice:

Marking the official beginning of summer, the June Solstice marks the day with the most sunlight in the year. The sun shines at its highest point in the sky, and Earth’s north pole is at its maximum tilt toward the sun. This year’s summer solstice occurs June 20, ushering in the summer heat and other cosmic events.

First full moon:

The first full moon of the summer season falls on the day after the summer solstice, and is the lowest-hanging full moon of the year. The moon gives off a bright orange hue that will engulf the night sky June 21.

Earth at Aphelion:

Opposing the Solstice, aphelion marks the point of Earth’s orbit that is farthest away from the sun. On average, it occurs around two weeks after the summer solstice in early July. This year, it will fall on July 5. 

Perseid meteor shower:

The annual Perseid meteor shower takes place from mid-July to late August. It indicates Earth’s passage through debris left behind by the Swift-Tuttle comet, which was more than twice the size of the object believed to have wiped out the dinosaurs. When the bits of debris it left behind interacts with the Earth’s atmosphere, the meteor shower begins and is visible to the naked eye. This year, it will peak around the night of Aug. 12 and pre-dawn Aug. 13. 

Blue moon:

Although the event has no relation to the color, a blue moon will shine through the night sky Aug 19. A blue moon means a full moon is visible two times in a single month. The moon cycle is slightly shorter than the length of a calendar month at 29.5 days, and a blue moon occurs because of the cycle’s short length. This phenomenon occurs every two to three years, leading to the common phrase “once in a blue moon.”

The Perseid meteor showers are visible throughout the northern hemisphere and have been sighted for hundreds of years. The above image was taken in 2021. (Photo/Eric Sanman via Pexels)