Sync Your Calendar With the Solar System


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

The entries below these instruction 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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Email us at spacecalendar@nytimes.com.

The Russian space agency hopes to launch a lander toward the moon’s south pole this month.Credit…Peter Komka/EPA, via Shutterstock

Russia last visited the moon in 1976 when the robotic spacecraft Luna-24 collected lunar samples that were brought back to Earth. Roscosmos, the country’s space agency, is scheduled to send a mission again this summer with the Luna-25 lander heading to the Boguslawsky crater near the moon’s south pole. The launch will occur on Friday, Aug. 11 in Russia (it will be the night of Aug. 10 in the U.S.). It may be one of a series of robotic moon landings that could be attempted during the latter half of this year.

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 14 to Sept. 1. Peak night: Aug. 12 to 13

Warm summer nights and high rates of fireballs make the Perseids one of the most popular showers of the year. Originating from comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle, which comes back often through the inner solar system, the Perseids frequently put on a great show. The shower is visible only in the Northern Hemisphere, in latitudes below 60 degrees north.

This year, the moon will be a slim crescent in the sky, and our planet will be running into a trail of dust that Swift-Tuttle released in 68 B.C., meaning that conditions should be good for the shower. Nobody knows exactly how many meteors may be seen, though some predict around 100 per hour under dark skies.

A view of the Chandrayaan-3 mission rocket emitting fire and smoke as its lifts off from Earth in India.
Liftoff of India’s Chandrayaan-3 mission to the moon on July 14.Credit…/EPA, via Shutterstock

The Indian Space Research Organization’s Chandrayaan-3 mission launched to space successfully on July 14. It is on a journey to lunar orbit and at the end of August — either the 23rd or 24th — it will attempt to land on the moon’s southern polar region. A lander and rover from an earlier mission, Chandrayaan-2, crashed during a similar attempt in 2019.

A drawing of a spacecraft in space with yellow and green foil and solar panels.
An artist’s concept of the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency’s X-Ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission.Credit…JAXA

A Japanese rocket could launch the X-Ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission, or XRISM (pronounced chrism), a space observatory that uses X-ray spectroscopy to study plasma in space. The telescope will help scientists better understand the composition of the universe and how it was formed. Along for the ride will be a moon mission called SLIM, the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon. The 420-pound spacecraft will test lunar landing techniques for future missions. The launch was rescheduled from earlier this year after a Japanese rocket’s failure in flight. It will be Aug. 25 in the United States when the launch is currently scheduled to occur.

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.

The white arm of a spacecraft scatters debris in all directions ad it plunges into a surface.
Regolith dispersing as the Osiris-Rex spacecraft took a sample of the surface of asteroid Bennu in October 2020.Credit…NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona

In October 2020, a NASA spacecraft swooped in on Bennu, a near-Earth asteroid, and scooped up rock and dirt from its surface. It then packed away the material and prepared for return to Earth. It began that voyage home in May 2021. The spacecraft will eject a capsule full of asteroid samples that will then re-enter Earth’s atmosphere and parachute to the Utah Test and Training Range to be studied by scientists.

A red spacecraft model sits on a stand under a blue archway.
A scale model of the Indian Space. Research Organization’s Gaganyaan crew module in Bengaluru, IndiaCredit…Pallava Bagla/Corbis, via Getty Images

India has launched spacecraft to the moon and Mars, but the country’s space agency has not yet sent its astronauts — known as vyomanauts — to space. Before it can send people to orbit, India needs to conduct uncrewed test flights of its Gaganyaan spacecraft, the first of which it says will occur in the fourth quarter. We will provide a more precise launch date for this mission when the Indian Space Research Organization announces one.

Multiple people in white coats, blue face masks and hairnets inspect a spacecraft in a room, with one of them climbing a ladder to get a closer look.
NASA’s Psyche spacecraft in early 2022 on its way to thermal vacuum testing at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.Credit…NASA/JPL-Caltech

In the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, there is an object that is mostly made of metal, perhaps the leftover core of a would-be planet, called Psyche. A NASA mission of the same name aims to study it up close. A scheduled launch in 2022 was postponed because the spacecraft’s software was late. The mission will launch from a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and it will enter orbit around the asteroid in 2029, three years later than originally planned.

A partly cloudy sky turns orange as the sun is partially obscured by the moon.
An annular “ring of fire” eclipse over Manhattan in June 2021.Credit…Noam Galai/Getty Images

Some of the United States will be visited by what is sometimes called a “ring of fire” eclipse because the moon is too far from Earth to fully block the sun, creating a ring-like effect when it reaches totality. The eclipse’s path runs through parts of Oregon, California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas before dipping into Central and South America. Where the weather cooperates, it should be a great solar show and a nice lead up for the total eclipse on Apr. 8, 2024, which will cross the United States from Southwest to Northeast.

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 Sept. 26 to Nov. 22. Peak night: Oct. 20 to 21

After hitting the outbound trail of Halley’s comet in May, Earth every October runs into the debris the comet leaves as it heads toward the sun, producing the Orionid meteor shower. It is a medium-strength shower, usually producing 10 to 20 streaks per hour, although in exceptional years it can create up to 70 per hour.

The moon will be around a third full this year but will set around midnight, leaving the sky clear of its influence. The shower will be viewable all over the world between midnight and 4 a.m. local time.

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. 3 to Dec. 2. Peak night: Nov. 17 to 18

The Leonids are famous for occasionally producing meteor storms. In 1966, 1999 and 2001, the shower’s rates exceeded 1,000 fireballs per hour. This year’s show should be a more placid 15 meteors per hour or so, as the Earth hits debris fields released from its parent body, comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle. The moon will be around a quarter full on the night of peak activity. The shower will be best viewed in the Northern Hemisphere after midnight, and later at night for those in the Southern Hemisphere.

A drawing of a spacecraft orbiting planet Earth with a black lens cover on the left bottom side and blue-colored solar panels on the left top and bottom right sides.
An artist’s concept of the planned Chinese Survey Space Telescope.Credit…China National Space Administration

China is getting into the orbital space telescope business. Like a more sophisticated version of the Hubble Space Telescope, Xuntian will survey the universe at optical and ultraviolet wavelengths from an orbit around Earth close to the country’s Tiangong space station. We will provide a more precise launch date for this mission when the China National Space Administration announces it.

A drawing of a white comet over a black background.
A 19th century illustration of Biela’s Comet.Credit…Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The Andromedids are a historical shower previously thought to be defunct. Accounts by astronomers in China from 1872 and 1885 describe incredible meteor displays in which “stars fell like rain.” But the event had not produced much until 2011, when around 50 meteors per hour could be seen. It also produced a short and quite strong return in 2021.

Originating from comet 3D/Biela, the Andromedids are expected to flare once again this year, although nobody knows how strong they may be. If they appear, the meteors will be visible in Asia in the late evening just before midnight. The rising three-quarters-full moon is likely to hamper visibility after that.

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. 4 to 17. Peak night: Dec. 13 to 14

Often one of the best and most reliable showers of the year, the Geminids will occur during a new moon this year, providing ideal conditions as long as the weather cooperates.

Viewers in northern latitudes should be able to start seeing the shower in the evening after sunset, while the action begins for those in the Southern Hemisphere after midnight. Rates could be as high as 150 meteors per hour.

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. 22 to 23

Coming shortly after the Geminids, the Ursids are an often-overlooked minor shower that gets its name because they seem to spring from the Little Dipper, which is part of Ursa Minor.

The Ursid meteor shower will peak shortly after the new moon, meaning they will only be somewhat affected by its light. Viewers can expect to see seven to 10 meteors per hour, although it is strictly a Northern Hemisphere affair.

A drawing shows three solar panels projecting from a spacecraft orbiting the clouds and spots of the planet Jupiter.
An artist’s concept of the NASA Juno spacecraft over the north pole of Jupiter.Credit…NASA/JPL-Caltech

You wouldn’t want to live on Io, the rambunctious volcanic moon of Jupiter. But you might want to get a good look at its eruptions (from a safe distance). So would the scientists working on NASA’s Juno mission. After years of studying the atmosphere and interior of Jupiter, the spacecraft has conducted close flybys of two less perilous moons, Ganymede and Europa. The first close flyby of Io will bring Juno within 1,000 miles of the satellite world and its outbursts.

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

On any given night, far from bright city lights, there’s a chance that you’ll see a beautiful streak shoot across the sky as a meteor flies overhead. But on special dates scattered throughout the year, skywatchers can catch a multitude of flares as meteor showers burst in the darkness.

Meteor showers occur when our planet runs into the debris fields left behind by icy comets or rocky asteroids going around the sun. These small particles burn up in the atmosphere, leading to blazing trails of light. The regularity of orbital mechanics means that any given meteor shower happens at roughly the same time each year, with the changing phases of the bright moon being the main variable affecting their visibility.

The coming year should be a good one for meteor lovers. The biggest events — the summer Perseids and the winter Geminids — will peak when the moon is either waning or new, meaning its bright light won’t interfere much with the spectacular displays.

Those outside the United States may catch a glimpse of the Andromedids, a shower that astronomers had considered dead until it showed some activity in 2011 and is expected to potentially return again this year.

Subscribe to the Times Space and Astronomy Calendar to get a reminder ahead of these events.

The best practice is to head out to the countryside and get as far from artificial light sources as possible. People in rural areas may have the luxury of just stepping outside. But city-dwellers have options, too.

Many cities have an astronomical society that maintains a dedicated dark sky area. “I would suggest contacting them and finding out where they have their location,” Robert Lunsford, the secretary general of the International Meteor Organization, said in an interview with The New York Times in 2022.

Meteor showers are usually best viewed when the sky is darkest, after midnight but before sunrise. To see as many meteors as possible, wait 30 to 45 minutes after you get to your viewing location. That will allow your eyes to adjust to the dark. Then lie back and take in a large swath of the night sky. Clear nights, higher altitudes and times when the moon is slim or absent are best. Mr. Lunsford suggested a good rule of thumb: “The more stars you can see, the more meteors you can see.”

Binoculars or telescopes aren’t necessary for meteor showers, and in fact will limit your view.

Each shower peaks on a certain date when Earth is plowing into the densest portion of the debris field, though in some cases many meteors can still be seen before or after that specific night.

A shower is named for a constellation in the part of the sky it appears to streak from. But there’s no need to be perfectly versed in every detail of the celestial sphere. Meteors should be visible all over the sky during any given shower.



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