2019 is looking to be a pretty ordinary year for events, with a few decent events to look forward to. The highlights will be a sunset total lunar eclipse on January 20th, the η-Aquariids meteor shower in early May, a transit of Mercury in November, and a nice set of planetary conjunctions in the sunset and sunrise.
There are dozens of posts scheduled here on DarkerView to remind my readers of these and many more events before they occur. Frankly, I need the reminder myself. Stay tuned for all of the great events the sky of 2019 will offer us.
The remainder of this post is a quick summary of the events our sky has to offer in 2019.
All times and dates in this post are in Hawaiian Standard Time unless otherwise noted. Times are calculated for the Island of Hawaii, other locations in the islands may see these events at slightly different times, but for the most part these events apply to all islands.
Please keep in mind that other references may use universal or other local time zones and may show different times, or even different dates for events if they occur the other side of midnight.
|2019 Apsides and Seasons|
|Event||Universal Time||Hawaii Standard Time|
|Perihelion||Jan 03||05:20UT||Jan 02||19:20HST|
|Spring Equinox||Mar 20||21:58UT||Mar 20||11:58HST|
|Summer Solstice||Jun 21||15:54UT||Jun 21||05:54HST|
|Aphelion||Jul 04||22:11UT||Jul 04||12:11HST|
|Fall Equinox||Sep 23||07:50UT||Sep 22||21:50HST|
|Winter Solstice||Dec 22||04:19UT||Dec 21||18:19HST|
|Data from US Naval Observatory Data Services|
Lunar Events and Eclipses
The most notable perigee full Moon for the year will be on February 19th, with Perigee occurring about seven hours before Full. Perigee will occur at about 23:06HST on the night of the 18th for the islands. A perigee full Moon will appear a bit larger and brighter, sometimes known as a supermoon.
We get three solar eclipses in 2019, none are visible from our islands, even as a partial eclipse. The first is a partial eclipse on January 5th visible from northern China, japan, and the North Pacific. Next is a total eclipse on July 2nd visible across a swath of the south Pacific, Peru, and Argentina. the final solar eclipse of 2019 is an annular on Dec 25th visible across the Indian Ocean, the southern tip of India, and into Indonesia.
The islands fare slightly better for lunar eclipses. We start with a total eclipse on January 20th, just starting as the Sun sets and the eclipsed Moon rises. The islands will be able to witness most of this eclipse including all of totality. The only other lunar eclipse for 2019 is a partial lunar eclipse on July 16th, unfortunately none of this eclipse will be visible from the Pacific region.
|New Moons for 2019|
|Universal Time||Hawaii Standard Time|
|January*||Jan 5||01:28UT||Jan 5||15:28HST|
|February||Feb 4||21:04UT||Feb 4||11:04HST|
|March||Mar 6||16:04UT||Mar 6||16:04HST|
|April||Apr 5||08:50UT||Apr 4||22:50HST|
|May||May 4||22:45UT||May 4||12:45HST|
|June||Jun 3||10:02UT||Jun 3||00:02HST|
|July*||Jul 2||19:16UT||Jul 2||09:16HST|
|August||Aug 1||03:12UT||Jul 31||17:12HST|
|August||Aug 30||10:37UT||Aug 30||00:37HST|
|September||Sep 28||18:26UT||Sep 28||08:26HST|
|October||Oct 28||03:38UT||Oct 27||17:38HST|
|November||Nov 26||15:06UT||Nov 26||05:06HST|
|December*||Dec 26||05:13UT||Dec 25||19:13HST|
|Source: NASA Sky Calendar|
We remain in a very quiet solar minimum, thus sunspot activity remains quite low. Viewing the Sun with a solar telescope recently often reveals a solar disk completely devoid of sunspots.
Even during solar minimum geomagnetic storms are possible, usually due to coronal holes rather than the strong solar flares associated with sunspots. We may not get aurora this far south, but enhanced airglow and other effects are possible.
The current solar cycle should reach minimum this coming year and begin to grow more active in 2020 headed for a solar maximum in 2025 or 2026.
The most favorable evening apparition of Mercury will be June 23rd, with Oct 20th nearly as good. The best morning apparition will be April 11th. As is typical there will be three morning and three evening apparitions of Mercury in 2019.
|Mercury Events for 2019|
|Data from the Mercury Chaser’s Calculator by John Walker|
Venus begins the year high and bright in the morning sky. Indeed, most of the bright planets start the year in the morning sky. Venus will exit the morning sky for superior conjunction around the end of June to reemerge in the sunset in the first weeks of September. We can expect a few UFO reports when it does, shining bright and low on the horizon.
Mars passed through opposition in the summer of 2018, thus will remain distant and dim through all of 2019. The next opposition of Mars will be October 13th, 2020.
Jupiter and Saturn start the year low in the morning sky and will slowly rise through the year. Opposition for Jupiter will be June 10th, while Saturn will reach opposition on July 9th. Both planets will spend the remainder of the year in the evening sky well placed for viewing into November.
The year begins with a nice pairing of a 17% crescent Moon and a brilliant Venus just 2° apart before dawn on New year’s Day. Jupiter and Mercury are also visible in the glow of sunrise below the pair.
The month of January will feature a clutch of bright planets in the dawn. Mercury will disappear into the Sun’s glare to be replaced by Saturn emerging from superior conjunction mid-month, joining Venus and Jupiter. Venus and Jupiter will pass each other on January 24th, a pairing of the two most brilliant planets in the dawn.
For evening conjunctions one must wait until later in the year, when Venus and Mercury rise into the sunset together in early September. The pair will be obvious in the sunset glow through the middle of October after which Mercury dives back into the glare.
By the middle of November the rising Venus will meet Jupiter. They will rendezvous on November 24, passing about 1.4° from each other. Saturn will join the dance late in November as well, for a showing of three bright planets in the sunset. On the evening of December 11th Venus and Saturn will meet for a round, passing about 1.8° away from each other.
There is a transit of Mercury on November 11th,2019. Unfortunately for observers in the islands the timing favors the Atlantic, the eastern seaboard of the U.S., and Europe. The last hour of this transit is visible as the Sun rises on the Island of Hawaii.
The 2019 transit will be the last Transit of Mercury until 2032.
Lāhainā Noon is that moment when the Sun is directly overhead. At the moment of Lāhainā Noon shadows disappear.
As the islands lie south south of the Tropic of Cancer there is a day when the Sun will pass directly overhead as the summer solstice approaches, generally in late May. There is a second noon as the Sun’s position moves south again in July.
The term Lāhainā Noon is unique to the islands, being adopted by the Bishop Museum in the 1990’s to describe this event. The term lā hainā translates roughly as cruel Sun.
The exact date and time varies significantly across the islands and from year to year. The table below shows the time of Lāhainā Noon for various cities in 2019.
|Lahiana Noon for May 2019|
|Data from US Naval Observatory Data Services|
2019 is poor fare for meteor watchers in the islands, either timing or moonlight spoiling the reliable showers.
The moon phase is nearly perfect for the reliable Quadrantid Meteor shower peaking on January 4th. Unfortunately the sharp peak of the Quadrantids is forecast of 02:20UT or 16:20HST, favoring European observers. Unlike most showers where strong activity will last for days either side of the peak, the Quadrantids feature a short period of around 4 hours either side of the peak with strong activity.
|Meteor Showers for 2019|
|Quadrantids||Dec 28–Jan 12||Jan 4||110|
|Lyrids||Apr 14–Apr 30||Apr 23||18|
|η-Aquariids||Apr 19–May 28||May 6||50|
|S. δ-Aquariids||Jul 12–Aug 23||Jul 30||25|
|Perseids||Jul 17–Aug 24||Aug 13||110|
|Draconids||Oct 6–Oct 10||Oct 09||10|
|Orionids||Oct 2–Nov 7||Oct 22||20|
|Leonids||Nov 6–Nov 30||Nov 18||15|
|Puppid-Velids||Dec 1–Dec 15||Dec 07||10|
|Geminids||Dec 4–Dec 17||Dec 14||140|
|Ursids||Dec 17–Dec 26||Dec 23||10|
|Data from the IMO 2019 Meteor Shower Calendar|
Both the Persieds in August, and the Geminids in December will be hampered by bright moonlight at their traditional peaks this year. The days before peak may offer opportunities to view the Persieds after moonset and before sunrise. Given the bright fireballs of the Geminids it may be rewarding to watch despite the moonlight. The Leonids remain inactive due to poor gravitational interactions that will last for some years.
One of our best bets for a decent shower may be the η-Aquariids. With a decent ZHR, and a reputation for fast, bright meteors that leave glowing, persistent trains. The peak is expected to occur on May 6th at 14:00UT, or the morning hours of May 6th for observers in the islands. The southern radiant in Aquarius favors observers at southerly and tropical latitudes.
Comet 46P/Wirtanen remains bright into January, well placed for observing, high in the northern sky. There are no other bright comets predicted for 2019, though plenty of comets within reach of modest amateur telescopes. We can always hope for a surprise discovery, it does happen!
As usual most of the astronomical data used in this post comes from the excellent NASA Sky Events Website originally assembled by Fred Espenak. Some data comes from the U. S. Naval Observatory data services page also a great source of precision astronomical data. The U.S. Naval Observatory also maintains an almanac that is quite useful. For meteor showers the definitive source is the IMO yearly calendar. Likewise, far and away the best site for comet predictions is Seiichi Yoshida’s Comets Weekly.