Eclipses, supermoons and other astronomical highlights to look forward to, years into the future.
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On July 16, the 50th anniversary of the launch of Apollo 11, the moon will be darkened in night skies. A partial lunar eclipse will be visible to people across South America, Africa, Asia and Australia. (In the United States, we will miss most of the show.) This cosmic coincidence is a reminder of some of the awe we feel when looking up at the night sky, and some of what inspired America’s race to the moon. While humanity’s eventual lunar return may be some years off, there are many more events in the decades to come that will draw attention back toward our majestic moon.
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Lunar eclipses, when Earth moves between the moon and the sun, are enjoyable nighttime astronomical extravaganzas. But the moon really steals the spotlight during solar eclipses, when it moves in front of the sun.
The 2017 “Great American Eclipse” drew more than 215 million skywatchers. It was such a hit that it will return for a second tour across the United States on April 8, 2024. It will also be Canada’s first total solar eclipse since 1979 and Mexico’s since 1991.
There are more solar and lunar eclipses to look out for:
Nov. 19, 2021
The next total lunar eclipse will be visible from the Americas.
Aug. 12, 2026
Spain and other parts of Europe will receive a total solar eclipse.
Aug. 2, 2027
A total solar eclipse will sweep over parts of Northern Africa and the Middle East, briefly blotting out the sun in places like Luxor, Egypt, and Mecca in Saudi Arabia.
July 22, 2028
Australia, New Zealand and parts of Southeast Asia will enjoy a total solar eclipse. Sydney, Australia’s largest city, will be in the eclipse’s path.
When the moon is closest to Earth, a position known as perigee, it can appear at its biggest and brightest. When it is at its farthest position, known as apogee, it may appear dimmer and smaller than usual. We refer colloquially to a full moon near perigee as a supermoon.
On average, the moon is about 238,900 miles away from Earth. On Nov. 25, 2034, it will be only about 221,487 miles away, making it the largest supermoon since 2016. But the largest supermoon of the century will happen on Dec. 6, 2052, when the moon will be only about 221,475 miles away.
Some other eye-catching supermoons to check out include:
Feb. 9, 2020
If you cannot wait until 2034, this will be the next supermoon.
May 26, 2021
The super blood moon — which is just a lunar eclipse while the moon is near perigee — will be visible in Asia, Australia and parts of the Pacific. The next super blood moon visible in America will be on May 16, 2022.
As our nearest celestial neighbor, the moon dwarfs distant stars and planets in our night sky. It will occasionally pass in front of the shining dots and momentarily block them from our view in what is known as an occultation. During an occultation, the moon essentially acts as a guide, leading you to cosmic bodies that you might otherwise overlook. A proper telescope is often needed for the best of these viewings. But if you can learn to use one — or attend a public astronomy event — the show can be worth the trouble.
Saturn, the ringed planet, and our moon have already crossed paths a number of times this year and will continue to do so on several more occasions. This illustrates how occultations typically occur in a series, with the moon tracking objects — some millions of miles away and others hundreds of light years away — as they move across our night skies during Earth’s trip around the sun.
Sunlight reflected from Saturn travels more than 746 million miles to get to Earth. The moon interrupts that long journey — which takes over an hour — in its final 1.3 seconds. A video recorded in March through a telescope in South Africa shows how the moon can highlight a planet’s movement:
After this month, the moon will again occult Saturn this year on Aug. 12, Sept. 8, Oct. 5, Nov. 2 and Nov. 29. After that, the next meeting of Saturn and the moon will not come until April 6, 2024.
But if you want to see a real Saturn stunner, you will have to wait until June 17, 2076, when the moon occults that planet during a lunar eclipse. The last time that happened was in 1580, and the next time will not be until 2344.
The moon will occult the biggest planet in our solar system, Jupiter. Video captured in Brazil in 2012 hints at what kind of show it can be:
Nov. 8, 2022
Uranus, the solar system’s seventh planet, is usually difficult to make out in night skies. But on this date for people in parts of China, Japan, Korea and Russia, the planet will cross paths with the moon during a lunar eclipse.
Aug. 25, 2023
Antares, which is in the Scorpio constellation, is one of the brightest stars in the night sky. When it crosses paths with the moon in about four years, it will kick off a series of occultations occurring about every month and lasting until Aug. 27, 2028.
July 24, 2036
There will be a planetary block party as the moon gets in the way of Venus, Mars and Mercury over 24 hours, according to Earthsky.com. The last time that happened was on Sept. 18, 2017.
Nicholas St. Fleur is a science reporter who writes about archaeology, paleontology, space and other topics. He joined The Times in 2015. Before that, he was an assistant editor at The Atlantic. @scifleur • Facebook