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2019 will have plenty in store for astronomy fans across the world, with a total solar eclipse, an annular solar eclipse, a total lunar eclipse and more.
The most exciting such event for U.S.-based stargazers may be the so-called “Super Blood Wolf Moon Eclipse” on Jan. 21, says Christian Veillet, an astronomer at the Large Binocular Telescope Observatory in Arizona.
“The January lunar eclipse will be special, at least for the U.S. It’s really seen by the whole of America and South America and nicely centered, so everyone will be able to see all the totality phase of it, so it’s a nice show,” he says.
Viellet says 2019 won’t have any solar or lunar events that are especially rare, like 2017’s total solar eclipse, which was the first of its kind to be visible exclusively from the United States since the country’s founding. Still, there’s plenty to see in the night sky over the next 12 months. Of course, like all celestial happenings, your ability to view these events can depend on your location on Earth as well as the local weather.
From the Super Blood Wolf Moon Eclipse in January to the total solar eclipse in July, here are five solar and lunar phenomena to watch in 2019:
January 6: Partial Solar Eclipse
On Jan. 6, stargazers in parts of East Asia and the Pacific will be able to witness a partial solar eclipse.
A solar eclipse occurs when the sun is obscured by the moon. If the sun, moon and Earth are lined up, you get a total solar eclipse. But if that alignment is off, it can result in a partial solar eclipse, and only part of the sun will appear to be blocked by the moon.
January’s partial solar eclipse will the last until April 2022, when another will be visible in parts of South America and Antarctica.
January 21: Super Blood Wolf Moon Eclipse
On Jan. 21, people in North America, South America, Greenland, Iceland and more will be able to view a lunar eclipse that some are calling the “Super Blood Wolf Moon Eclipse.”
The astronomical event, a simultaneous total lunar eclipse and a “supermoon,” will take place on the night of Jan. 20 into the morning of Jan. 21. During the event, the moon will fall completely into Earth’s shadow, and appear red-colored and slightly larger than usual for about an hour.
The Super Blood Wolf Moon Eclipse will be the last total lunar eclipse until 2021.
July 2: Total Solar Eclipse
On July 2, people in parts of Chile and Argentina will be able to witness a total solar eclipse just before sunset. Those in some other places, including Ecuador; Brazil; Uruguay and Paraguay, will only be able to witness a partial solar eclipse, according to Space.com.
A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon blocks the entire view of the sun, leaving just the corona visible to those viewing from Earth. (While the sun is 400 times bigger than the moon in diameter, the moon happens to be 400 times closer to Earth, giving it the relative size needed to block out the sun.)
July’s total solar eclipse will be relatively long, lasting almost two minutes in some places. According to NASA, the longest total solar eclipse of the 21st century occurred in July 2009, lasting six minutes and 39 seconds; it was visible through most of Southeast Asia.
July’s total solar eclipse is the last such event until December 2020, when another total solar eclipse will be visible over similar parts of South America.
July 16: Partial Lunar Eclipse
On July 16, people in much of Europe and Asia, as well as parts of south and east North America, South America and Antartica, will be able to view a partial lunar eclipse.
A partial lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth moves between the sun and the moon, but the bodies are not perfectly aligned. During a partial lunar eclipse, the moon falls partially into Earth’s shadow (also called the umbra), leaving only a portion of it visible to those on Earth.
July’s partial lunar eclipse will be the last until November 2021.
December 26: Annular Solar Eclipse
The day after Christmas 2019, people in eastern Europe, much of Asia, and northern and western Africa will be able to witness a “ring of fire” caused by an annular solar eclipse.
An annular solar eclipse occurs when the moon appears to cover the center of the sun, leaving just the sun’s outer edges visible — forming a so-called “ring of fire.” Annular comes from the Latin word for ring, “annulus.”
The difference between an annular solar eclipse and a total solar eclipse? During an annular solar eclipse, the moon is further away from the Earth. That means it appears to be smaller in the sky and does not completely cover the sun, leaving just the “ring of fire,” according to NASA.
The next annular eclipse will be in June 2020.