You are currently viewing 2024 Space and Astronomy Events Calendar

2024 Space and Astronomy Events Calendar

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The New York Times has offered this calendar to readers since 2017. It’s a collection of newsworthy events in spaceflight and astronomy curated by the paper’s journalists.

The entries below these instructions will be updated regularly to adjust dates and revise information in the calendar’s entries. New events will be added and entries will be removed after they conclude or are indefinitely postponed.

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Eclipse-viewers in Newport, Ore., in 2017, the last time a total solar eclipse passed across the United States.Credit…Toni Greaves for The New York Times

Nearly seven years ago, the “Great American Eclipse” crossed from Oregon to South Carolina, prompting inspiration and wonder as the moon obscured the sun. On April 8, skygazers will stop and watch the “Great North American Eclipse” that will take a southwest-to-northeast path across the continent. Order your eclipse glasses while you can, and don’t wait any longer to book travel plans if you aim to be in the path of totality.

Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft, with a gray tip and a blue decoration around its surface, sits atop an Atlas V rocket at a launch site in Florida.
Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft on a launchpad at Cape Canaveral in 2022.Credit…Joel Kowsky/NASA, via Associated Press

Boeing and SpaceX once were racing to be the first to carry NASA astronauts to the International Space Station in a privately built spacecraft. That race ended in 2020, with SpaceX emerging as the victor. After technical problems in 2019 and 2021, Boeing finally sent an uncrewed Starliner to the space station in 2022. After even more delays prompted by problems with the capsule, it is scheduled to fly a crew of astronauts to the orbital outpost this spring, expanding the number of spacecraft capable of carrying humans into orbit.

Several white-coat wearing technicians work on a large, horizontal, silver and gold satellite structure in a clean room.
Work on the NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar satellite inside a spacecraft assembly facility clean room at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., in February 2023.Credit…Mario Tama/Getty Images

The NASA-ISRO SAR Mission, or NISAR, is a collaborative project between the American and Indian space agencies. Launching from an Indian rocket, the spacecraft will carry a variety of sensors, some provided by NASA, to study shifts in Earth’s land- and ice-covered surfaces using synthetic aperture radar. NASA says the launch will occur in early 2024, and ISRO has suggested it will be within the first quarter of the year. We will provide a more precise launch date for this mission when NASA and ISRO announce one.

A greenish comet seen against a starry night sky.
The comet Pons-Brooks in December 2023.Credit…Eliot Herman

Comet Pons-Brooks, which has a shape that has been compared to “devil horns” and even the Millennium Falcon of “Star Wars,” swings around the sun every 71 years, becoming brighter and developing a tail upon its approach.

In the few weeks of April leading up to this point, the comet could be visible in the Northern Hemisphere to the naked eye. However, by April 21, when the comet is set to be closest to the sun, it may be more difficult to discern. Experienced skywatchers may spot the comet during the solar eclipse on April 8. As Pons-Brooks moves away from the sun, observers in the Southern Hemisphere will get the chance to catch the comet before it swoops out of view for the next seven decades.

A swirl of streaks in a dark sky over trees in shadow, with a small number of streaks perpendicular to the others.
A long exposure of the night sky over Austria in April 2020 during a Lyrid meteor shower.Credit…Christian Bruna/EPA, via Shutterstock

Active from April 14 to 30. Peak night: April 21 to 22

Best seen from the Northern Hemisphere, the Lyrids are caused by the dusty debris from a comet named Thatcher and spring from the constellation Lyra.

During this year’s period of peak activity, viewers may have a more difficult time seeing meteors from this shower because the moon will be nearly full.

A crowd of people in the foreground lift up their phones, whose screens appear blue in the darkness, as they watch a rocket lift off from a launchpad in the distance at night.
The Chang’e-5 lunar probe mission launching from the Wenchang Space Launch Site in Hainan province, China, in 2020.Credit…Costfoto/Future Publishing, via Getty Images

China has landed on the moon three times, including one mission to the lunar far side and another that collected moon rocks and brought them to Earth. Its next mission, Chang’e-6, will combine these two feats, gathering materials from the side of the moon humans cannot see to allow scientists on Earth to study them. We will provide a more precise launch date for this mission when China’s space agency announces one.

A comet and its trail streak across a starry sky.
Halley’s comet over Easter Island in 1986. The Eta Aquariids meteor shower are the result of debris from Halley’s tail.Credit…W. Liller/NASA

Active from April 19 to May 28. Peak night: May 5 to 6

The Eta Aquarid meteor shower is known for its fast fireballs, which occur as Earth passes through the rubble left by Halley’s Comet.

Sometimes spelled Eta Aquariid, this shower is most easily seen from the southern tropics. But a lower rate of meteors will also be visible in the Northern Hemisphere close to sunrise. With the moon just a thin sliver in the sky, viewers could witness a strong show this year.

A worker stands behind a restricted area in front of a very large single rocket engine in a facility.
An Ariane 6 rocket’s Vulcain engine at a facility in Vernon, France, in 2021.Credit…Pool photo by Christophe Ena

Europe’s final Ariane 5 rocket completed its last mission in July 2023, and problems with other rockets have left the continent’s space program reliant on SpaceX and others for trips to space. The Ariane 6 rocket could lift off on a demonstration flight that aims to restore Europe’s ability to reach space on its own after a series of delays. Other customers are also waiting to fly on the rocket.

The Earth in black and white on the right side gives way to the planet in shadow on the left.
Earth at the summer solstice.Credit…Robert Simmon/NASA Earth Observatory

It’s the scientific start to summer in the Northern Hemisphere, when this half of the world tilts toward the sun. Read more about the importance of the solstice for life on Earth.

A group portrait of four private astronauts, all in dark gray jumpsuits with the mission insignia on the chest.
From left, the crew of the Polaris Dawn Mission: Jared Isaacman, mission commander; Anna Menon, mission specialist and medical officer; Sarah Gillis, mission specialist; and Scott Poteet, mission pilot.Credit…John Kraus/Polaris Program, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

In 2021, Jared Isaacman, the billionaire founder of the payments processor Shift4, took three people to space with him for a mission called Inspiration4. In 2022, he announced that there would be additional flights. This year, with a new crew in the SpaceX Dragon capsule, Mr. Isaacman wants to fly to a higher orbit and attempt a spacewalk. We will provide a more precise launch date for this mission when the Polaris Program announces one.

Three people sitting in shadow watch a sunset while a fourth stands to the right holding a cup.
Sunset in Albufera, Valencia, Spain, on July 4, 2020, when the Earth was at aphelion.Credit…Kai Foersterling/EPA, via Shutterstock

Even as the Northern Hemisphere experiences the heat of summer, our planet is at aphelion, the farthest it will get from the sun during its elliptical orbit. Read more about aphelion, and what it’s like on other worlds in our solar system.

A light streaks through a darkened sky between trees that stand next to an observatory.
The Southern Delta Aquariid meteor shower, which peaks in late July.Credit…John Chumack/Science Source

Southern Delta Aquarids active from July 12 to Aug. 23.

Alpha Capricornids active from July 3 to Aug. 15.

Peak night for both: July 30-31.

Two meteor showers peak at the end of July: the Southern Delta Aquarids, best seen in the Southern Hemisphere in the constellation Aquarius, and the Alpha Capricornids, which are visible from both hemispheres in Capricorn.

With the moon around 40 percent full, the already-faint Southern Delta Aquarids, sometimes spelled Aquariids, may be difficult to see. The Alpha Capricornids will be bright, but they rarely create more than five meteors an hour.

A view of Mars, half cached in shadow in space.
The ESCAPADE mission will study Mars’s magnetic bubble.Credit…Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center/UAE Space Agency, via Associated Press

ESCAPADE is a small NASA-funded mission involving a pair of orbiters, Blue and Gold, that are operated by the Berkeley Space Sciences Laboratory. As they travel around Mars, they will study the magnetic bubble around the red planet. Potentially, the two small satellites could launch on the first flight by New Glenn, the large orbital rocket built by Blue Origin, the space company founded by Jeff Bezos. We will provide a more precise launch date for this mission when NASA announces one.

A streak of light moves downward to the left of the Milky Way visible in a starry sky over a shadowed hillside.
Perseid meteors fell over northern Spain in August 2021.Credit…Pedro Puente Hoyos/EPA, via Shutterstock

Active from July 17 to Aug. 24. Peak night: Aug 11 to 12

A favorite among skywatchers, the Perseids are one of the strongest showers each year, with as many as 100 long, colorful streaks an hour.

It is a show best viewed from the Northern Hemisphere. This year, observers may have to compete with light from the moon, which will be nearly half full on the night the Perseids peak.

A large moon in the night sky partially obscured at lower right during an eclipse.
A view of a partial lunar eclipse seen over Salgotarjan, Hungary, in October 2023.Credit…Zsolt Czegledi/EPA, via Shutterstock

A partial lunar eclipse occurs when the sun, Earth and moon are positioned almost, but not quite, in a straight line. Unlike the penumbral eclipse in March, this time the moon will pass through a portion of the umbra, or the darkest part of Earth’s shadow cast by the sun. As a result, a part of the lunar surface will be completely obscured to viewers on Earth’s night side, which in this case will include the Americas, Africa and Europe.

A black and white Earth on the right gives way to the planet in shadow on the left.
Earth at the autumnal equinox.Credit…Robert Simmon/NASA Earth Observatory

The autumnal equinox is one of two points in Earth’s orbit where the sun creates equal periods of daytime and nighttime across the globe. Many mark it as the first day of the fall. See what it looks like from space.

A blue streak ending in a point of light in space.
The asteroid Dimorphos, seen by the Hubble Space Telescope in December 2022.Credit…NASA, ESA, David Jewitt (UCLA), Alyssa Pagan (STScI)

NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test slammed into Dimorphos in 2022 to test whether altering a space rock’s trajectory could protect Earth from future asteroid strikes. Europe’s Hera mission is a follow-up, providing a deeper assessment of the effects of the DART spacecraft’s collision. We will provide a more precise launch date for this mission when ESA announces one.

A spacecraft on a platform in an assembly facility clean room.
Work on the Europa Clipper spacecraft inside a spacecraft assembly facility clean room at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.Credit…Mario Tama/Getty Images

Europa Clipper is a major NASA mission headed to Jupiter’s moon, Europa, which has an icy exterior concealing a vast ocean that scientists say may have the right conditions for life. After it arrives at Europa in 2030, the spacecraft will attempt no landing there, but Clipper will study the moon during dozens of flybys. We will provide a more precise launch date for this mission when NASA announces one.

A black-and-white telescope image a comet, a small bright light in a starry field with an arrow superimposed to indicate the the comet apart from the stars. A small inset at upper right shows the comet in slightly more detail and with the blacks and whites inversed.
The comet Tscuchinshan-ATLAS observed in August 2023.Credit…Gianluca Masi/Virtual Telescope Project

First detected by Chinese astronomers in January 2023, Comet Tsuchinshan-ATLAS comes within 44 million miles of Earth just a couple weeks after a close encounter with the sun.

If the comet survives the rendezvous with our home star, scientists expect an impressive sight. Astute observers may have already spotted the comet in morning skies earlier in October, but it should be especially bright in the evening from now through Oct. 24.

A long streak of light passed through a starry sky over yellow tree branches.
Orionid meteors streaking over northern Lebanon in 2021.Credit…Ibrahim Chalhoub/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Active from Oct. 2 to Nov. 7. Peak night: Oct. 20 to 21

The Orionids are well-loved by meteor shower aficionados because of the bright, speedy streaks they make near the group of stars known as Orion’s Belt. Like the Eta Aquarid meteor shower, which peaked in early May, the Orionids result when Earth passes through debris from Halley’s Comet.

This shower can be seen from both hemispheres. But viewers this year may have trouble spotting some of the fainter streaks because the moon will be over 80 percent full.

A streak of light flies through a starry sky over blue-green rock formations.
The Leonid meteor shower viewed from North Macedonia in November 2020.Credit…Georgi Licovski/EPA, via Shutterstock

Active from Nov. 6 to 30. Peak night: Nov. 16 to 17

The Leonids produce some of the fastest meteors each year, at 44 miles per second, with bright, long tails.

Meteors from the Leonids can be spotted in the constellation Leo, and they will be visible from both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. This year, spotting the Leonids will be difficult because of the nearly full moon.

A light streaks downward over a darkened sky looming over an illuminated park and city next to a pond.
A Geminids meteor over Salgotarjan, Hungary, in 2021.Credit…Peter Komka/EPA, via Shutterstock

Active from Dec. 11 to 20. Peak night: Dec. 13 to 14

Caused by debris from an asteroid, the Geminids are one of the strongest and most popular meteor showers each year. This shower is best viewed from the Northern Hemisphere, but observers south of the Equator can also witness the show.

Like the Leonids last month, the Geminids peak during a nearly full moon, which may wash out the light from fainter streaks in the sky.

A black and white Earth on the right gives way to a planet in shadow on the top left side.
Earth at the winter solstice.Credit…Robert Simmon/NASA Earth Observatory

It’s the scientific start to winter in the Northern Hemisphere, when this half of the world tilts away from the sun. Read more about the solstice.

An illustration depicts the path of a meteor shower in white over lines showing other planets orbiting the sun, including Mars in red and Earth in blue.
A rendering of the orbit followed by the Ursids meteor shower. The white line shows the shower’s path, and the bright blue line in the middle represents the Earth’s orbit.Credit…Ian Webster and Peter Jenniskens

Active from Dec. 17 to 26. Peak night: Dec. 21 to 22

A winter solstice light show, meteors from the Ursids appear near the Little Dipper, which is part of the constellation Ursa Minor.

Only skywatchers in the Northern Hemisphere will have a chance of seeing this shower. The moon will be half full, making streaks in the sky even more challenging to spot.

A planet with brown and white swirls of clouds.
Rocket Lab’s probe will study Venus’s toxic atmosphere.Credit…NASA

In what could be the first private mission to another planet, the company Rocket Lab is sending a Photon spacecraft toward Venus, where it will fire a small probe to briefly study the toxic world’s atmosphere.

Two people lay on a piece of fabric on sand staring up at the sky. One has a hat and the other has long hair. In the distance lights can be seen.
Enjoying the Perseid meteor shower at Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado.Credit…Michael Ciaglo for The New York Times

Our universe might be chock-full of cosmic wonder, but you can only observe a fraction of astronomical phenomena with your naked eye. Meteor showers, natural fireworks that streak brightly across the night sky, are one of them.

There is a chance you might see a meteor on any given night, but you are most likely to catch one during a shower. Meteor showers are caused by Earth passing through the rubble trailing a comet or asteroid as it swings around the sun. This debris, which can be as small as a grain of sand, leaves behind a glowing stream of light as it burns up in Earth’s atmosphere.

Meteor showers occur around the same time every year and can last for days or weeks. But there is only a small window when each shower is at its peak, which happens when Earth reaches the densest part of the cosmic debris. The peak is the best time to look for a shower. From our point of view on Earth, the meteors will appear to come from the same point in the sky.

The Perseid meteor shower, for example, peaks in mid-August from the constellation Perseus. The Geminids, which occur every December, radiate from the constellation Gemini.

Michelle Nichols, the director of public observing at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, recommends forgoing the use of telescopes or binoculars while watching a meteor shower.

“You just need your eyes and, ideally, a dark sky,” she said.

That’s because meteors can shoot across large swaths of the sky, so observing equipment can limit your field of view.

Some showers are strong enough to produce up to 100 streaks an hour, according to the American Meteor Society, though you likely won’t see that many.

“Almost everybody is under a light polluted sky,” Ms. Nichols said. “You may think you’re under a dark sky, but in reality, even in a small town, you can have bright lights nearby.”

Planetariums, local astronomy clubs or even maps like this one can help you figure out where to get away from excessive light. The best conditions for catching a meteor shower are a clear sky with no moon or cloud cover, at sometime between midnight and sunrise. (Moonlight affects visibility in the same way as light pollution, washing out fainter sources of light in the sky.) Make sure to give your eyes at least 30 minutes to adjust to seeing in the dark.

Ms. Nichols also recommends wearing layers, even during the summer. “You’re going to be sitting there for quite a while, watching,” she said. “It’s going to get chilly, even in August.”

Bring a cup of cocoa or tea for even more warmth. Then sit back, scan the sky and enjoy the show.

Half of Earth is visible in black and white on the right, with the rest of the planet in shadow.
Earth at the vernal equinox.Credit…Robert Simmon/NASA Earth Observatory

The vernal equinox is one of two points in Earth’s orbit where the sun creates equal periods of daytime and nighttime across the globe. Many people mark it as the first day of the spring. In 2024, it begins Tuesday evening in American time zones but on March 20 in coordinated universal time. See what it looks like from space.

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