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Sky Guide 2014

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No one has seen a total eclipse of the Moon since December 2011, but the long drought ends with a veritable flood in 2014. On the night of April 14/15, the Full Moon dips deeply into Earth’s shadow. People throughout North America will have ringside seats for the entire show. The eclipse’s partial phases begin at 1:58 a.m. EDT. For the next hour or so, the Moon darkens as totality approaches. This peak stage lasts from 3:06 a.m. to 4:25 a.m. Our satellite should appear orange-red during totality as sunlight filters through Earth’s atmosphere. The partial phases wrap up at 5:33 a.m.

As if one encounter with totality isn’t enough, the Moon returns to Earth’s shadow the morning of October 8. This event’s partial phases commence at 5:14 a.m. EDT with totality following at 6:24 a.m. After 60 minutes immersed completely in our planet’s shadow, the Moon re-emerges at 7:24 a.m. Residents of western North America will have the best view of this eclipse, although even those on the East Coast will see at least some of totality.

No total solar eclipses grace our skies in 2014, but a partial eclipse takes place across most of North America the afternoon of October 23. People in most of the United States will see the Moon block more than 40 percent of the Sun’s disk while those in the country’s northern states and in Canada will see more than 60 percent coverage. Maximum eclipse occurs in northern Canada, where 81 percent of the Sun will be hidden from view.

Planet-watchers can look forward to a dramatic appearance of Mars in the spring. The Red Planet reaches opposition April 8, when it shines at magnitude –1.3 and spans 15" when viewed through a telescope. It hasn’t appeared this big and bright since 2007. Meanwhile, Saturn looks gorgeous for a few months on either side of its May 10 opposition, and Jupiter reigns supreme around its early January peak. Watch for brilliant Venus to put on an impressive show before dawn in late winter and spring.

After a down year in 2013, meteor observers have better prospects in 2014. Although August’s Perseids must battle a nearly Full Moon, January’s Quadrantids have no lunar competition. And no other major meteor shower faces worse than a half-lit Moon. All in all, 2014 is shaping up as a stellar year for backyard skygazers.

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