Millions of Americans go camping all throughout the year for multiple reasons, be it fishing, hiking, or simple relaxation and escape from their hectic city lives. While you’re enjoying time away from congested highways and city light pollution, you’ll have front row seats to some of the most exciting astronomical events for the rest of 2013. Stargazers can anticipate several meteor showers, bright full moons, and potentially a historic comet passing Earth.
We can expect several meteor showers before the end of the year, including the Taurids, Leonids, Ursids, and the popular Geminids meteor shower. The Taurids’ peak is happening right around the corner, on November 4th. There will be little moonlight this year and you can view the meteors almost anywhere in the sky. If you’re looking to catch the Leonids or Ursids meteor showers, this may not be the best year.
The glare from the moon will be bright enough to block most of the meteors from these showers, but they’ll still be visible during their peak periods. If you’re looking for a good show, try waiting until mid December to see about 100 meteors per hour during the Geminids meteor shower. Once again, light reflected from the moon will block some of the meteors from being seen by the naked eye, but you can still anticipate a good show in a clear sky.
Our moon and Venus will also be brighter than ever as we approach the end of 2013. We can anticipate two very bright full moons on the 17th of November and December. This would be an ideal time to go camping, as nature will provide considerable natural light in areas that are not well lit at nighttime. Venus will also be a bright light in the sky throughout the month of December, and it is said that Venus will not be as bright again until 2021.
One of the most anticipated astronomical spectacles of the year is Comet ISON as it approaches close to the sun. Astronomers are still uncertain if the comet will survive the proximity to the sun, but if it does, it’ll be one of the brightest comets in recent history. The comet is already visible to the naked eye in some areas of the planet, and by November 28th, it’ll be visible almost anywhere, even during daylight. The comet will be brightest during the early morning and early evening sky, so no matter where you’re camping, you’ll likely have a great view. Some astronomers are speculating that the comet could be as bright as a full moon during the peak period.
Remember, the best way to view anything in the sky at night is to distance yourself from city lights, pick a night free of clouds, and find a clear area where trees won’t block most of your view. A small handheld telescope would also help if you’re trying to focus on a smaller event.