Astronomical Calendar

Look up – there’s lots to see in 2023!

A month by month guide to exploring the sky in 2023. Look up for meteor showers, super-moons, conjunctions, eclipses and so much more!  Find out what to see in the sky this year and join at one of our special observing events.


January


Quadrantids Meteor Shower

4 January – While there are many meteor showers throughout the calendar year, most have very low rates. The Quadrantids is an above-average shower, thought to have come from dust grains left from a now-extinct comet, 2003 EH1.  In this shower, you might be able to see a meteor every minute or so, and the really bright ones are known as fireballs. The Quadrantids make an appearance every year at the start of January.

Meteor streaking across sky

Wolf Moon

6 January – The first Full Moon of the year is traditionally known as the Wolf Moon.  Some of the Moon’s features can be seen with the naked eye.  The dark patches are plains of basalt – similar to the rock that the Giant’s Causeway is made of.  They are hardened pools of lava, ejected from the Moon’s molten core by the impact of giant asteroids a long time ago.

Moon at Perigee / New Moon

21 January – Perigee describes the point in the Moon’s orbit around the Earth at which the two bodies are closest, in this case 356570 km – the nearest they’ll be in 2023. The Moon will be at New Moon phase – an ideal time to observe faint Deep Sky Objects like galaxies and nebulae since there’ll be no scattered light from the Moon to wash them out.

Saturn in conjunction with Venus

22 January – Saturn and Venus will appear very close together in the evening sky, visible low on the horizon after sunset. Saturn is to upper right of Venus.

Pleiades very close to Moon

30 January – The Open Star Cluster M45, better known as The Pleiades or The Seven Sisters, will be very close to the Moon tonight, lying roughly 5° from the upper right of the Moon, with Mars just a few degrees East too. 


February


Snow Moon

5 February – The moon is very close to Apogee, the point at which it is furthest from the Earth. This will be the furthest Full Moon of the year, a whopping 405829 km away. February’s Full Moon is traditionally known as the Snow Moon.

The moon covered by a snowy branh

New Moon

20 February – This is the best time of the month to go stargazing!  During a new moon, the Moon is located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun, so will not be visible in the night sky. It’s the best time to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.

Venus and Jupiter in conjunction with the Moon 

22 February – A very thin waxing crescent Moon will be joined in the sky by the planets Venus and Jupiter on this date. Jupiter will be placed 3.5° above the Moon, while Venus will be 4.5° to the lower right of the Moon. Should make for some lovely views! 

Pleiades very close to Moon

26 February – The Open Star Cluster M45, better known as The Pleiades or The Seven Sisters, will be very close to the Moon tonight – just 2.5° from its upper right.

Mars in conjunction with the Moon 

28 February – Mars will be less than 1° from the Moon as it sets in the very early morning. 


March


Jupiter in conjunction with Venus 

2 March – Both planets will appear less than 1° apart in the sky, before setting in the late evening around 8:45pm. 

Worm Moon

7 MarchMarch’s Full Moon is traditionally known as the Worm Moon. This will be the third and last full moon of the Winter season as it occurs before the spring equinox.

March Equinox

20 March – An equinox is when the sun shines directly onto the equator, meaning there are nearly equal amounts of day and night around the world. It also marks the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. 

Irish Astronomy Week

20 to 26 March – A new annual event. Look for astronomical-themed events across the whole island of Ireland, including at OM! Details of our event schedule for the week to follow. 

New Moon

21 March – This is the best time of the month to go stargazing!  During a new moon, the Moon is located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun, so will not be visible in the night sky. It’s the best time to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.

Mars Passes Above Betelgeuse & Crescent Moon Between Venus and Jupiter

23 March – Two of the reddest objects in the night sky, the planet Mars and the supergiant star Belegeuse will appear close together on this date and shine at similar brightness. The Waxing Crescent Moon lies between Venus and Jupiter on this night too. Lots of interesting things to look up at! 


April


Pink Moon

6 April – April’s Full Moon is traditionally known as the Pink Moon. This is the first full moon that marks the welcome of the Spring season.

Mercury at highest altitude in evening sky

11 April – The smallest planet in the solar system, Mercury will be 11.5° (about the size of a closed fist at arm’s length) from the horizon at the end of civil twilight. Civil twilight describes how low the sun has dipped out of view after sunset.

International Dark Sky Week

17 to 23 April – International Dark Sky Week, held during the week of the new moon in April, is a week during which people worldwide turn out their lights so as to observe the beauty of the night sky without light pollution. Check back for International Dark Sky Week events at OM.

New Moon

20 April – This is the best time of the month to go stargazing!  During a new moon, the Moon is located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun, so will not be visible in the night sky. It’s the best time to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.

Lyrids Meteor Shower (Peak)

22 to 23 April – Meteor season is back with the peak of the annual Lyrid meteor shower. The moon won’t be an issue for this year’s peak since it falls only a couple of days after New Moon. The Lyrids, which are active each year from about 14th – 30th April, can produce around 20 meteors per hour and originate from particles left by comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher.  Meteors will be most visible during its peak, which will be the evening of April 22nd into the early morning hours of April 23rd. You’ll have to stay up until after midnight to get the best views! 

Venus in Conjunction with the Moon

23 April – Venus will appear 3° from the lower right of the Moon. Venus will also be at its highest altitude in the evening sky, appearing 27.3° above the horizon at the end of civil twilight (around 9:25pm). Civil twilight describes how low the sun has dipped out of view after sunset. 

Mars in Conjunction with the Moon

25 April – Mars will appear very close to the Moon on this date, just 4.5° from the lower left of the Moon.


May


Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower

6 to 7 May – The Eta Aquarids is one of two meteor showers created by debris from Comet Halley.  This shower favours the Southern Hemisphere and will appear low in the sky for northerly latitudes in the early predawn hours.

Saturn in Conjunction with the Moon

13 May – Saturn will appear close to the Moon on this date, just 7° to the upper left of the Moon, as seen from Beaghmore.

New Moon

19 May – This is the best time of the month to go stargazing!  During a new moon, the Moon is located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun, so will not be visible in the night sky. It’s the best time to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.

Venus in conjunction with Moon 

23 May – Venus will appear close to the Moon on this date, just 4° to the upper left of the Moon, as seen from Beaghmore.


June


Strawberry Moon

4 June – June’s Full Moon is known as the Strawberry Moon. In 2023, the June Full Moon will be the last full moon of the Spring 2023 season.  It will occur before the Summer Solstice  in 2023.

New Moon

18 June – This is the best time of the month to go stargazing!  During a new moon, the Moon is located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun, so will not be visible in the night sky. It’s the best time to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.

Summer Solstice

21 June – This is the first day of summer in the Northern Hemisphere.  The summer solstice, which falls on 21st June, has special significance for us at OM. From what may have been the first observatory at Beaghmore Stone Circles, to our modern day version in Davagh. Many believe that Beaghmore was designed over 3500 years ago to align with the sun during the solstice, to celebrate the start of summer and the return to light.

A picture of Beaghmore at sunset

It is a day that has been celebrated since ancient times and is one of the earliest astronomical observations in human history. When we visit ancient sites we often look up in wonder at the sky and reflect that the people that built the monuments observed the same sky, sun, moon and stars.


July


Super Moon

3 July – The Moon will be very close to Earth on this date, at just 361934 km distant, meaning its disk will appear larger than usual. This Full Moon is known as the Buck Moon. 

Earth at Aphelion 

6 July – Earth is at aphelion on this date, its distance from the Sun will be 1.0166806 Astronomical Units (AU), the furthest it’ll reach this year. The variation is due to the Earth’s elliptical orbit around the Sun. 

Venus at it’s Brightest 

7 July – Venus will shine very brightly in the evening sky, appearing at Magnitude -4.7. The magnitude scale is a means of measuring the brightness of an object in the sky – the more negative the value the brighter it appears to us!

Jupiter in conjunction with Moon 

11 July – Jupiter will appear 7.75° to the left of the Moon, as viewed from Beaghmore. 

Delta Aquariids Meteor Shower

28 July – The Delta-Aquariids meteor shower is set to peak on this date. You can expect to see around 25 shooting stars per hour, making this shower a fairly prolific one. Conditions for viewing are quite favourable – the Moon is at waxing gibbous phase, but it will have set by the early hours of the morning, which is the best time for viewing the meteors.


August


Super Full Moon

1 August – Full Moon and a supermoon on this date, due to the Moon’s proximity to the Earth (357530 km). The Moon’s disk will appear larger than usual. This month’s Full Moon is known as the Sturgeon Moon.

Saturn in conjunction with Moon 

3 August – Saturn will appear close to the Moon on this date, just 7° to the upper right of the Moon, as seen from Beaghmore.