Best star-gazing events of 2024 – Lonely Planet


The new year brings a plethora of celestial events for stargazers to look forward to. From meteor showers to equinox celebrations and a total solar eclipse, 2024 promises to be an exciting year for astronomy enthusiasts. The International Dark Sky Association (IDA) designates certified Dark Sky Places, which are locations free from light pollution, making them ideal for observing celestial events. However, even from the comfort of your own backyard, you can still enjoy the wonders of the night sky. So grab a seat, preferably with a telescope, and prepare to witness these astronomical spectacles.

The Quadrantids meteor shower, one of the brightest displays of the year, will peak on January 3-4. This shower will be visible from December 26 to January 16, with approximately 120 meteors per hour during its peak. The best viewing spots are in the northern hemisphere, so consider visiting a dark sky park north of the equator for an exceptional experience. Additionally, winter is an excellent time to catch a glimpse of the northern lights, so you might want to plan a trip to a remote Nordic destination famous for aurora chasing.

On March 20, the spring equinox will occur, marking the day when the sun passes directly over Earth’s equator. This event signifies the beginning of longer days and warmer weather in the northern hemisphere, while in the southern hemisphere, it marks the arrival of autumn. Ancient civilizations used to celebrate this celestial milestone with planet-aligned architecture, and you can still visit these sites to witness the seasonal shift. For a remarkable experience, head to Chichén Itzá in Mexico, where during the equinox, a shadow resembling a snake appears on the pyramid known as El Castillo.

One of the most highly anticipated events of 2024 is the total solar eclipse on April 8. This eclipse will darken parts of Mexico, the US, and Canada for approximately four minutes. To witness the total eclipse, you’ll need to be in the “path of totality,” where the moon completely blocks the sun. The eclipse will start near San Antonio, Texas, and travel northeast from Oklahoma to Maine. Check out the National Eclipse events page for a list of festivals and viewing parties to join.

The peak of the Lyrids meteor shower will occur on April 22-23. This shower has been observed for over 2700 years and is known for its reliability. During its peak, you can expect to see 10 to 20 meteors per hour. However, the full moon might make it harder to see the light show, so try to find a location that obstructs the moon for optimal viewing.

From April 15 to May 27, the Eta Aquarids meteor shower will grace the skies. These meteors are debris from Halley’s Comet and can be seen worldwide. However, the southern hemisphere is favored for the best views. Consider camping in places like Australia’s Warrumbungle National Park or Brazil’s Desengano State Park for a spectacular experience.

On June 20, the northern hemisphere will experience the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. In Alaska, this day is celebrated with a midnight baseball game, taking advantage of the 24 hours of natural light. For a more ancient form of sun worship, join the crowds at Stonehenge in England, where the monoliths align with the sun during the solstices. Thousands of people gather to witness the sun rise above the horizon, creating a stunning spectacle.

The Perseids meteor shower will peak on August 11-13, providing one of nature’s greatest fireworks displays. During its peak, you can expect to see 50 to 100 meteor streaks per hour. Although the moon will be 50% full, once it sets, skywatchers in lower latitudes will have plenty of pre-dawn hours to enjoy the show. Consider camping at a US national park like Joshua Tree in California for optimal observation conditions.

The autumnal equinox will occur on September 22, marking the start of autumn in the northern hemisphere. This is a perfect time to visit ancient temples like Machu Picchu in Peru or Angkor Wat in Cambodia, where the structures align with the sun during the equinoxes. Malta’s Mnajdra, a Neolithic complex, offers a unique experience as the first sunrays shine through its main entry during the equinox, filling the structure with light.

On October 2, a rare “ring of fire” solar eclipse will occur, visible in remote areas of Argentina, Chile, and Easter Island. The moon will create a frame around the sun, creating a stunning visual. If reaching these areas is challenging, you can still witness a partial eclipse in Hawaii.

The Orionids meteor shower will reach its peak on October 21-22. This medium-strength meteor shower is visible worldwide, with an expected 10 to 20 streaks per hour. Although a waning gibbous moon might cause interference, finding a dark area with little light pollution will enhance your viewing experience.

The Leonids meteor shower will peak on November 16-17. While not usually a showstopper, viewers can still expect to see a few meteors per hour. It’s best to find a dark location with little light pollution to maximize your chances of catching a glimpse of these shooting stars.

So mark your calendars and prepare for an exciting year of celestial wonders. Whether you choose to travel to certified Dark Sky Places or observe from your backyard, there’s something for everyone to enjoy in the night sky.



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