The Island Sky for 2019

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.

Awaiting dark with the 20" telescope
Andrew Unger beside the 20″ Obsession while waiting for properly dark skies at Kaʻohe

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 TimeHawaii Standard Time
Perihelion Jan 0305:20UTJan 0219:20HST
Spring Equinox Mar 2021:58UTMar 2011:58HST
Summer SolsticeJun 2115:54UTJun 2105:54HST
Aphelion Jul 0422:11UTJul 0412:11HST
Fall Equinox Sep 2307:50UTSep 2221:50HST
Winter SolsticeDec 2204:19UTDec 2118:19HST
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.

Lunar Eclipse 28Aug2007
Total lunar eclipse August 28, 2007

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 TimeHawaii Standard Time
January* Jan 5 01:28UTJan 5 15:28HST
February Feb 4 21:04UTFeb 4 11:04HST
March Mar 6 16:04UTMar 6 16:04HST
April Apr 5 08:50UTApr 4 22:50HST
May May 4 22:45UTMay 4 12:45HST
June Jun 3 10:02UTJun 3 00:02HST
July* Jul 2 19:16UTJul 2 09:16HST
August Aug 1 03:12UTJul 3117:12HST
August Aug 3010:37UTAug 3000:37HST
September Sep 2818:26UTSep 2808:26HST
October Oct 2803:38UTOct 2717:38HST
November Nov 2615:06UTNov 2605:06HST
December* Dec 2605:13UTDec 2519:13HST
*Solar Eclipse
Source: NASA Sky Calendar

Solar Activity

Sun on Aug 10, 2017
The Sun as it appeared August 10, 2017 with sunspot AR2670

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.

Planetary Events

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
ApparitionDate ElongationMagnitude
Evening Feb 2718.1°E -0.2
Morning Apr 1127.7°W +0.6
Evening Jun 2325.2°E +0.7
Morning Aug 919.0°W +0.3
Evening Oct 2024.6°E +0.1
Morning Nov 2820.1°W -0.3
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.

Conjunctions

e Moon, Venus and Aldebaran
The Moon, Venus and Aldebaran join up for an evening conjunction

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.

Transits

Mercury Transit 9May2016
Mercury transiting the Sun on May 9, 2016

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

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
CityLong.Lat.DateTimeElevation
Naalehu 155°35’W19°03’NMay1512:19HST89.9
Hilo 155°05’W19°42’NMay1812:17HST89.9
Kona 155°59’W19°39’NMay1812:20HST89.9
Waimea 155°40’W20°01’NMay2012:19HST89.9
Hawi 155°50’W20°14’NMay2112:20HST90.0
Hana 156°00’W20°46’NMay2312:21HST89.9
Kihei 156°27’W20°45’NMay2312:23HST89.9
Kahalui 156°28’W20°53’NMay2412:23HST89.9
Lahaina 156°40’W20°53’NMay2412:23HST89.9
Lanai City156°55’W20°50’NMay2412:24HST89.9
Kaunakakai157°01’W21°05’NMay2512:25HST89.9
Honolulu 157°49’W21°18’NMay2612:28HST89.9
Kaneohe 157°48’W21°25’NMay2712:28HST89.9
Waialua 158°08’W21°34’NMay2812:30HST89.9
Lihue 159°22’W21°58’NMay3112:35HST90.0
Data from US Naval Observatory Data Services

Meteor Showers

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
Shower Active Peak ZHR
Quadrantids Dec 28–Jan 12Jan 4110
Lyrids Apr 14–Apr 30Apr 23 18
η-Aquariids Apr 19–May 28May 6 50
S. δ-AquariidsJul 12–Aug 23Jul 30 25
Perseids Jul 17–Aug 24Aug 13110
Draconids Oct 6–Oct 10Oct 09 10
Orionids Oct 2–Nov 7Oct 22 20
Leonids Nov 6–Nov 30Nov 18 15
Puppid-Velids Dec 1–Dec 15Dec 07 10
Geminids Dec 4–Dec 17Dec 14140
Ursids Dec 17–Dec 26Dec 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.

Comets

C2/014 Q2 Lovejoy
Comet C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy

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!

Data Sources

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.

Author: Andrew

An electrical engineer, amateur astronomer, and diver, living and working on Mauna Kea, Hawai'i.

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