Sky Events

2024 Sky Event Planner

Solar events dominate the year with a major total solar eclipse over the Americas coinciding with the peak of Solar Cycle 25. On the other side of Earth’s terminator the nighttime sky features a brightening spring comet with hopes that other comets will brighten in summer and fall.

The Moon
The Moon this year will experience two lunar eclipses, a few Supermoons / Micromoons, and a Blue Moon (that probably won’t look blue). Use these events to take a fresh look at Earth’s nearest neighbor in space!

Best of November 19, 2021 Lunar Eclipse by Instagram user Stanley Williams. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

This is a partial eclipse image. The Earth’s umbra (deep shadow) covers most of the Moon. The blown out white and gray zones are deep in the penumbra (outer shadow). The penumbra is large enough that it is possible for the Moon to solely transit within it. This makes the penumbral shadow hard to see and appreciate.

Imaged with Tele Vue-85 APO through Tele Vue Ethos 13mm eyepiece using the Tele Vue FoneMate smartphone adapter carrying iPhone 12 Pro all mounted on Tele Vue Gibraltar HD-4. The 2x zoom was used on the iPhone and the shutter was triggered via Apple Watch camera app.

Lunar Eclipses
Let’s first review the types of Lunar Eclipses:

  • Total Lunar Eclipses happen when the Moon passes through the umbral (inner) shadow of the Earth. This is the deepest shadow and can cause the Moon to turn red.
  • Penumbral Lunar Eclipses happen when the Moon only passes through the large penumbral (outer) shadow of the Earth. This shadow is mixed with sunlight and only dims the Moon slightly.
  • Partial Lunar Eclipses and phases happen when the Moon is not entirely inside the umbral shadow.

Because the Earth’s penumbral and umbral shadows are large at the distance of the Moon, the alignment of the Sun, Earth, and Moon two weeks before or after a solar eclipse is often close enough to cause a lunar eclipse. So, this year’s two lunar eclipses each happen two weeks before a solar eclipses. Unfortunately, these lunar eclipses won’t be spectacular.

Lunar Eclipse maps and data courtesy of Fred Espenak and Jean Meeus, “Five Millennium Canon of Lunar Eclipses: -1999 to +3000”. The top graphic shows the path of the Moon (circles) as it moves through the Earth’s penumbral (grey) and umbral (red) shadows. On the outline map of the Earth’s continents, the dark shaded areas do not see the eclipse, the lighter shaded areas will see part of the event, and white areas see the whole event. The black dot shows where the Moon is highest in the sky at Greatest eclipse. “TD” differs from “UT” by slightly over a minute. See Explanation Of Lunar Eclipse Figures page on NASA website for more information.

The Penumbral lunar eclipse of March 25th saw the Moon immerse itself in Earth’s penumbral shadow. This produced a dimming of the lunar surface that most people did not notice. The best visibility was in the Western hemisphere.

September 18th is technically a partial lunar eclipse because the extreme limb of the Moon will dip into Earth’s umbral shadow. However, most of the event will find the Moon wallowing in the less spectacular penumbral shadow. Best visibility is in the eastern half of North America, all of Central and South America, as well as Western Europe and Africa.

Supermoons, Micromoons, & Blue Moons

Simulated Micro and Super Moons. (Full Moons furthest and nearest the earth). Super Moon is 14% greater in diameter than Micro. Simulated image created from Paul Cyr’s NP101is image of November 2016 Super Moon.

Due to the elliptical shape of the lunar orbit, the distance from the Earth to the Moon can vary by 50,200 km (31,200 mi). The term Supermoon describes a full Moon that occurs near the Moon’s closest approach to Earth (perigee) while Micromoon describes a full Moon near the point furthest from the Earth (apogee). A Supermoon can be 14% bigger than a Micromoon. The difference in size is very obvious in photographic comparisons.

There is no agreed-upon definition of how close and far a Moon needs to be to qualify for any of these designations, so sources may differ on the number of these Moons in a year. From our reckoning, these are the dates of the remaining Supermoons of the year with the date of perigee in parenthesis: September 17/18 (September 18), October 17 (October 16), November 15 (November 14), and December 15 (December 12). Remaining Micromoons for the year will happen on March 25 (March 23), April 23 (April 19/20), and May 23 (May 17).

The August 19 full Moon counts as a seasonal Blue Moon: the third of four full moons in a season. Blue moons occur on average once every 2.7 years Don’t expect the Moon to actually appear blue — unless you see it through a haze layer caused by a volcanic eruption.

Astronomical Event Imaging with FoneMate for Smartphone Imaging

Use FoneMate™ to record events through your telescope.

FoneMate™ can help to get steadier shots at the eyepiece with your smartphone camera. Unlike other phone mounts, FoneMate was designed to mount solidly to Tele Vue eyepieces via its Tele Vue compatible lock-ring connection. Use our FoneMate™ smartphone adapter (mobile site) on a compatible Tele Vue eyepiece to share lunar, solar, and eclipse views with friends or to do on-the-go imaging.

While your camera app displays the image on the screen, hit the shutter or video button to capture the moment. Use voice commands to avoid movement on night imaging. (If you’ve set up your iOS/Android phone to take voice commands, just say “Hey Siri/Ok Google, take a photo”.) Using a time-lapse photo app will allow you to capture longer events like eclipses/transits (use telescope filters for solar work).

The Sun
We are now in Solar Cycle 25, which was originally predicted to peak in July 2025. Most recent estimates say the peak will happen this year and have a higher sunspot count than the first prediction. In fact, we may be at Solar Maximum right now! We only know about the peak after the fact when solar activity dies down. See our Solar Update blog from March 2022 for more on the Solar Cycle and what solar features are visible through properly filtered solar telescopes.

Southwestern Surface and Limb of the Sun on 3/18/24 by Michael Caligiuri. All rights reserved. Used by permission. This Hydrogen-alpha light image displays prominences, sunspots and filaments along the Sun’s southwestern surface and limb. Sunspots are associated with Active Regions 3607 and 3613. Imaged with Lunt 100mm Double Stack using B1800 blocking filter with a Tele Vue 2.5x Powermate and FLIR Grasshopper 23S6M (Sony IMX174) monochrome video camera all carried on Losmandy GM-11 mount from Carlsbad, CA. Exposures were 161 fps for surface and 23 fps for prominence channels. Registered and combined 15% of the best 3000 frames from each channel and cropped.

Solar Eclipses
This is the third year in a row that a solar eclipse in April is followed by another one six months later in October. That three year cycle won’t repeat again until the year 2041. Let’s first review the types of Solar Eclipses:

  • A Total eclipse happens when the Moon completely obscures the Sun for an observer.
  • An Annular eclipse (from the word annulus or ring) happens when the Moon appears inside the disk of the Sun, but is too small to cover the Sun completely. This allows a ring of light from the Sun to shine around the lunar disk.
  • Hybrid events happen when the eclipse appears Annular in some parts of the eclipse path and Total in another part.
  • Partial eclipses and phases happen when the Moon obscures a part of the Sun while the lunar disk does not completely overlap the Solar disk.

Except for the moments of totality on the centerline of a total eclipse, viewers are cautioned to keep eclipse glasses on for these events.

Jim Stephens of Seattle, WA was in Madras, OR for the 2017 Great American Eclipse (Total) and photographed it with his Tele Vue TV-140 (700mm, f/5.0) using a Canon EOS 40D set to ISO 100. Shutter speed varied between photographs as the eclipse progressed. Top-right shows the Baily’s beads effect as the light of the Sun shines through mountain valleys on the Moon. Bottom right is the Diamond ring effect when a sliver of the solar disk is shining at the edge of the lunar limb.

Solar Eclipse maps and data courtesy of Fred Espenak and Jean Meeus, “Five Millennium Canon of Solar Eclipses: -1999 to +3000” (NASA/TP-2008-214170). Green lines denote limits of partial visibility. Blue line is the path of Totality. See Key to Solar Eclipse Figures for more information.

I’m sure many of our readers have researched the the Total Solar Eclipse of April 8 and have knowledge of the circumstances of the event (i.e., maximum duration will be 4′ 28″). But, how many of you knew the Moon will be at perigee the day before? Therefore, the event will feature a larger than average Super-New-Moon passing in front of the Sun. The eclipse will start in the warm waters of the South Pacific and head north to the Pacific beaches of Mexico. It will cross the border into Texas, where the shadow of totality will engulf or just skirt all major cities in the state save for Houston. It then passes though the Southern U.S. before entering the mid-West with the shadow of totality passing over Indianapolis and then over or close to every major city in Ohio before heading toward the Eastern Great Lakes region. Totality occurs over most of Lakes Erie and Ontario, along the highly populated U.S./Canada border, with the major metropolitan areas of Hamilton, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Montreal experiencing totality. The eclipse finishes its continental journey over southern Quebec, Northern Maine, then onto New Brunswick and Newfoundland, before ending in the cold waters of the North Atlantic. For many viewers, experiencing twilight at noon and sighting the Sun’s beautiful outer atmosphere, known as the corona, will be a once-in-a-lifetime event.

Six months later, on October 2, an Annular Solar Eclipse will create “ring of fire” around the darkened New Moon. Starting in the Northern Pacific Ocean, the path of totality will cross the equator and head south and cross the tip of South America into southern Chile and Argentina before ending off the coast in the chilly South Atlantic waters. While no solar corona will be visible, the duration will be a long 7′ 25″.

The Americas will have a bit of a wait before the next series of eclipses graces the skies. The next Total Eclipse over the Americas will take place in an arc encompassing Montana, Alberta, the Northwest Territories, and into Greenland in 2044. Just a year later, in 2045, a Total Eclipse will sweep over Pacific waters onto Northern California, and transit the U.S. before dipping into Gulf and Caribbean waters off the coast of Florida and heading into Guyana and northern Brazil. Please note these events down on your calendar so you don’t forget!

Powermates come in 1¼” (2.5x & 5x) and 2″ (2x, & 4x) format.

Powermates for Solar Imaging
Shots and animations of solar proms and detachments made by sticking a camera at the end of your longest focal length scope will likely produce tiny images. It’ll need a “boost” to achieve the solar images seen in this post. Tele Vue Powermate™ photo / visual amplifiers (mobile site) increase the focal length of your scope with reduced aberrations, greater magnification potential, and compact size compared to typical Barlow lenses.  They each also have a T-ring accessory adapter available for direct thread-on attachment of DSLR and M42 threaded astrocameras and accessories.

Prominences 19 March 2024 by Instagram user James Sinclair. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

“It seems like the two bottom prominences are chatting and the big prominence on top is crawling down to eat them, ” says James.

Imaged with Lunt 130mm Double Stack using B3400 blocking filter and Atmospheric Dispersion Corrector (ADC) followed by Tele Vue Powermate and Player One Apollo-M Max mono camera all mounted on Skywatcher EQ6 R Pro. Imaged from Southern Utah. Exposure was 1,000 Frames at 109 fps.

“The beauty of using the ADC with solar is that it eliminates Newton Rings and gives a more even dispersion of light. Using a tilt adapter to eliminate Newton rings prevents an even focus across the sensor frame. So an ADC is a must for solar imaging in my opinion.”

The Planets
Planets in opposition are in the sky opposite the Sun when viewed from Earth. They rise at sunset and are in the sky all night. Around opposition, the planets are closest to Earth and at their brightest. This makes opposition an opportune time to view and image a planet — especially the faint “ice giants” Uranus and Neptune. Note that only planets with orbits further away from the Sun than Earth’s orbit can be in opposition.

Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn June-03-2020 by flickr user Thomas Williamson. All rights reserved. Used by permission. “Good seeing at last!” Imaged with 12.5″ Newtonian through ZWO Atmospheric Dispersion Corrector and Tele Vue 2x Barlow (effective f/19) using a ZWO ASI290MC color camera.
Opposition: Earth and outer planet line up on same side as Sun (bottom of diagram). Solar Conjunction: Earth and outer planet line up on opposite sides of Sun (top of diagram). Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Mars won’t be in opposition until 2025 as we’re slowly chasing it around the Sun after sailing by it in 2022. But the slower-moving, major, outer planets will all have oppositions this year.

  • Saturn: September 8
  • Neptune: September 20/21
  • Uranus: November 17
  • Jupiter: December 7

Planetary Conjunctions and Occultations
Sometimes planets get close enough to each other to fit together in one eyepiece field or the Moon and a planet cozy up to each other. These are planetary conjunctions. There are also solar conjunctions (diagram above), but that just means that a body is near the Sun and impossible to see. Occultations happen when one body appears to go behind the other. The most easily visible of these events is when the Moon passes in front of a star or planet.

For the remainder of the year, here are some planetary conjunctions far enough from the Sun to be easily visible well above horizon obstructions for mid-northern latitude observers. Events listed are for objects within ½° (30′) of each other with at least one member of the pair easily visible naked eye, in binoculars, and low power telescope eyepieces. Objects will still be close in the days before and after the date given. In some parts of the world, the these conjunctions will be closer or even become lunar occultations where the object slides behind the Moon.

  • May 31 morning: Conjunction of Moon and Saturn with the Moon 22′ south of Saturn. For mid-northern latitudes the pair will rise by 2 A.M..
  • June 27 morning: Conjunction of Moon and Saturn with the Moon 4’38” north of Saturn. For mid-northern latitudes the pair will rise before midnight and be high in the sky by dawn.
  • July 15 morning: Conjunction of Mars and Uranus with Mars 33′ (a little over a full-Moon width) south of the Ice Giant planet. The pair will rise a few hours before sunrise.
  • July 24 morning: Conjunction of Moon and Saturn with the Moon 23′ north of Saturn. They will rise before 1 A.M. and be high in the sky by dawn.
  • August 14 morning: Conjunction of Jupiter and Mars with Jupiter passing 18′ to the south of Mars. The pair will rise at 1 A.M. at mid-northern latitudes and be visible high in the pre-dawn sky.
  • August 20: Conjunction of Moon and Saturn with the Moon 27′ north of Saturn. They will rise the previous night before 10 P.M and be highest in the sky after 2 A.M.
  • September 17: Conjunction of Moon and Saturn with the Moon 18′ north of Saturn. They will rise the previous night before 8 P.M and be highest in the sky after midnight.
  • October 14 evening: Conjunction of Moon and Saturn with the Moon 6’45” north of Saturn. They will be visible at sundown and set around 3 A.M. the next day.
  • November 10 evening: Conjunction of Moon and Saturn with the Moon 5’18” north of Saturn. They will be visible at sundown and set around midnight.
  • December 8 evening: Conjunction of Moon and Saturn with the Moon 18′ north of Saturn. They will be visible at sundown near their highest point in the sky and will set after 10 P.M.
Jupiter and Saturn in conjunction on 12/20/2020. by Instagram user Rodrigo Carvajal. All rights reserved. Used by permission. The planets were 7.5-minutes-of-arc apart. Imaging was done with 11-inch f/5 Newtonian Reflector using Tele Vue Paracorr type 2 corrector with a QHY5III 178C Camera. Two 60-second videos combined to correctly expose both planets. From Santiago, Chile. From there, the planets were 23.5-deg above the horizon at sunset.
Nagler 3-6 Planetary Zoom.

The Most Versatile Planetary Eyepiece!

The Nagler Zoom was conceived as our ideal planetary eyepiece.  Like all Tele Vue eyepieces, it’s designed for full-field sharpness in any speed telescope, as well as high contrast and transmission with natural color rendition, low scatter, and comfortable eye relief. Use it to fine-tune magnification for the seeing conditions — no need to swap eyepieces to find the highest usable power. It’s parfocal through the zoom range, maintains its eye relief, and has click-stops at each marked focal length.  Its constant 50° apparent field of view makes it more appropriate for scopes on tracking mounts. It is excellent for turning up the power to confirm that you’ve sighted an ice-giant planet like Uranus or Neptune and not a field star. Read more about it on our website Nagler 3-6-mm and (mobile site).

Comets of Interest
Comet 12P/Pons–Brooks in the evening sky is an easy object for northern hemisphere observers. In the last days of March and beginning of April it will be passing by 2nd magnitude Hamal (alpha Ari) the brightest star in Aries. It will be lost in the solar glare in mid-April and reach perihelion on April 21, 2024 when it will be a southern hemisphere object. It is barely naked-eye in dark skies but is known to have outbursts of brightening. It should show easily in a telescope or large binocular.

Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks by flickr user Alexander Surkov. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Imaged with Tele Vue TV-NP101is and ZWO ASI2600MC Pro color camera riding on ZWO AM5 mount. Exposures were 28 × 90″ for a total of 42′ on March 2, 2024 from Mitschurinsk, Tambovskaya Oblast, Russia.

In the autumn, comet C/2023 A3 Tsuchinshan–ATLAS, will swing through perihelion on 27 September 2024. Best viewing is around then and before sunrise when it is predicted to be easily naked eye. It will then become an evening object in October skies.

Tele Vue Refractors
Every Tele Vue refractor, from the Tele Vue-60 to the 5″ Tele Vue-NP127is, can give at least a 4° field with our low-power eyepieces and also render high contrast, diffraction limited images. They are perfect for observing all of the events in this blog from comets to conjunctions!

From the powder-coated tubes and anodized aluminum finishes to the silky-smooth, lash-free focusing, these scopes are rugged and easily transported to dark-sky locations. Tele Vue telescopes are engineered and built to be your life-long observing companions; and someday, your kids’ as well.  All Tele Vue telescopes come with a 5-year Limited Warranty and are built and serviced in our Chester, NY location.

Did you observe, sketch, or image with Tele Vue gear? We’ll like your social media post on that if you tag it #televue and the gear used. Example:

#televue #tv85 #ethos #jupiter

Do you want your Tele Vue images re-posted on Tele Vue Optics’ Social Media accounts? Use this hashtag for consideration: