Stargazing is simply observing the night sky. It’s an enjoyable hobby enjoyed by many outdoor enthusiasts and amateur astronomers. It’s an activity that can be done any time of the year, alone, with friends, or at a group “star party”. You can also pursue an interest in astronomy from your backyard or neighborhood park. We provide a list of important celestial events each month.
You can also join a public “star party”. This is a fun way to learn and see things for the first time or for the thousandth time. At a star party, you not only share great views of the sky, you have the opportunity to make new friends and learn more about astronomy.
Below we list some information about star parties throughout the Puget Sound region. Most are outdoors, but some have contingency plans for an indoor presentation. You know, just in case it’s cloudy or raining…. We also provide information about attending star parties, what to bring, plus some do’s and don’ts.
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Selected Celestial Event Highlights for 2024
Meteor Shower Viewing Tips
To view meteor showers, find an area well away from city lights and streetlights and an area with as large a view of the sky as possible. Dress for the weather! Lie flat on your back (on a lounge chair or blanket is recommended) with your feet facing south. Look up, taking in as much of the sky as possible. After about 30 minutes in the dark, your eyes will adapt, and you will begin to see meteors—be patient. The show should last until dawn, so you have plenty of opportunity to catch a glimpse, even when conditions are not ideal.
While the meteor showers are often named for a specific constellation, it is not the source of the meteors. They are visible throughout the night sky.
January 3, 4 – Quadrantids Meteor Shower. The Quadrantids have a narrow peak lasting only about 6 hours. Try observing late night January 3 to dawn January 4, in moonlight. The predicted peak is early morning January 4. A bright last quarter moon will rise around midnight and shine the rest of the night. The best time to look may be the hour or two before the Moon rises. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Boötes but can appear anywhere in the sky.
Can I see a full moon during the day? In short, no. A Full Moon occurs at the exact moment when the Sun and the Moon are lined up* on opposite sides of the Earth, and the Moon’s illuminated side faces the night side of Earth. So, by definition, a Full Moon can only be seen during the night, rising around sunset and setting around sunrise. If you have ever spotted a Full Moon just after sunrise or just before sunset, you saw it at least one day before or after the moment of Full Moon. Very rarely, if the conditions are just right, you may see an actual Full Moon very close to the horizon and opposite to the Sun, during sunrise or sunset. In general, however, the Moon is always below the horizon while the Sun is up at the moment of the Full Moon.
* Astronomers call this alignment a syzygy of the Sun-Earth-Moon system. While the Full Moon phase is technically a specific moment in time—the instant of the syzygy—the Moon looks fully illuminated for some days before and after the actual alignment.
January 25: Full Moon (Wolf Moon) peaks at January 25 at 9:54 AM PST. Called the Wolf Moon by some by Native Americans as the time when wolf packs were especially active. It is also known as the Old Moon and the Moon After Yule.
February 24: Full Moon (Snow Moon, Hunger Moon) peaks at 4:30 AM PST. Historically the time of heaviest snows and harsh weather that made hunting difficult.
What’s in a name? Many Full Moon names are English interpretations of Native American names, while others have Celtic, Anglo-Saxon, medieval English, and Neo-Pagan roots. The names are typically associated with seasonal activities or events, so can vary from one location to another.
March 20: March Equinox. The March equinox occurs at Tuesday, March 19, 2024 at 8:06 pm PDT. The Sun will shine directly on the equator and there will be nearly equal amounts of day and night throughout the world. This is also the first day of spring (vernal equinox) in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of fall (autumnal equinox) in the Southern Hemisphere.
March 24-25: Penumbral Lunar Eclipse. 9:53 pm Sun, Mar 24 Penumbral Eclipse begins when the Earth’s penumbra start touching the Moon’s face. 12:12 am Mon, Mar 25 Maximum Eclipse, when the Moon is closest to the center of the shadow. 2:32 am Mon, Mar 25 Penumbral Eclipse ends.
March 25: Full Moon (Worm moon, Paschal Moon) peaks at Midnight PST. The March Full Moon is always the Worm Moon, when the ground begins to thaw and worms become active. If the March Full Moon occurs on or after March 21, it is also the Paschal Moon. Other names include Lenten Moon, Crow Moon, Crust Moon, Chaste Moon, Sugar Moon, and Sap Moon.
April 8: Total Solar Eclipse will be visible in parts of Texas, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon completely blocks the Sun, revealing the Sun’s outer atmosphere known as the corona. The last total solar eclipse visible in the continental United States occurred in 2017 and the next one will not take place until 2045. Thinking you’ll make the trip? You might also like:
- Where and How to View the Total Solar Eclipse in Maine – Southern Maine on the Cheap
- Watching the April 8, 2024 Solar Eclipse from Charlotte – everything you need to know – Charlotte On The Cheap
April 22-23: Lyrids Meteor Shower runs annually from April 16-25. It peaks this year on the night of the night of the 22nd and morning of the 23rd. The Lyrids is an average shower, producing about 20 meteors per hour at its peak. These meteors can sometimes produce bright dust trails that last for several seconds. Unfortunately, the glare of the full moon will block out all but the brightest meteors this year. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Lyra, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
April 23: Full Moon (ink Moon) peaks at 4:48 pm PDT. Generally, the time when spring flowers begin to bloom. Around Seattle, we are graced with beautiful cherry blossoms wherever you go. Though historically, it refers to brightly colored pink phlox wildflowers that are native to North America.
May 6-7: Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower runs annually from April 19 to May 28. It peaks this year on the night of May 6 and the morning of the May 7. Most of the activity is seen in the Southern Hemisphere. In the Northern Hemisphere, the rate can reach about 30 meteors per hour. The nearly new moon means dark skies for what should be an excellent show this year. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Aquarius but can appear anywhere in the sky.
May 23: Full Moon (Flower Moon) peaks at 6:53 am PDT. This moon goes by many other names including the Planting Moon, Budding Moon, Egg Laying Moon, Milk Moon (when production typically increases), and Hare Moon.
June 20: Summer Solstice occurs on June 20 at 1:50 pm PDT. This is the first day of summer in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of winter (winter solstice) in the Southern Hemisphere.
June 21: Full Moon (Strawberry Moon) peaks at 6:07 pm PDT. Other names for the June Full Moon include Rose Moon, Hot Moon, Mead Moon, Green Corn Moon, Horse Moon, and Dyan Moon.
July 21: Full Moon (Buck Moon) peaks at 3:17 am PDT. Named after the new antlers that emerge from a buck’s forehead around this time of the year. It is also called Thunder Moon, Hay Moon, Wyrt Moon, Salmon Moon, Raspberry Moon, Claiming Moon, and Herb Moon.
July 28-29: Delta Aquarids Meteor Shower runs annually from July 12 to August 23. It peaks this year on the night of July 28 and morning of July 29. The Delta Aquarids is an average shower that can produce up to 20 meteors per hour at its peak. The second quarter moon will block many of the fainter meteors this year. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Aquarius, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
August 12-13: Perseids Meteor Shower runs annually from July 17 to August 24. It peaks this year on the night of August 11 and the morning of August 12. The Perseids is one of the best meteor showers, producing up to 60 meteors per hour at its peak. The first quarter moon will block out some of the fainter meteors in the early evening. But the Moon will set shortly after midnight leaving dark skies for what could be an excellent early morning show. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Perseus, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
August 19: Full Moon (Sturgeon Moon, seasonal Blue Moon) peaks at 11:25 am PDT. Also known as the Lynx Moon, Dispute Moon, and Lightning Moon. There is more than one definition of “Blue Moon”. A seasonal Blue Moon is the third Full Moon of an astronomical season that has four Full Moons. A monthly Blue Moon is the second Full Moon in a calendar month with two Full Moons—this is the definition most people know. The next monthly Blue Moon will not occur until May 31, 2026. The historical origins of the definitions for “blue moon” are vague and arguable, but generally mean something that rarely occurs.
What is a Supermoon? The Moon orbits Earth in an elliptical path. Therefore, one side of the path is closer to the Earth than the other. When the Moon’s orbit is closest to Earth, it is called perigee. When its orbit is farthest from Earth, it is known as apogee. When a Full occurs around perigee it is called a Supermoon! Because it’s so close to Earth, a Super Full Moon looks about 16% brighter than an average Full Moon.
September 17: Full Moon (Supermoon, Harvest Moon, Corn Moon) peaks at 7:34 pm PDT. Extra moonlight at this time of year meant that farmers could work and harvest their crops for a longer time in the evenings.
September 17-18: Partial Lunar Eclipse. A Lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes through the Earth’s partial shadow (penumbra) and only a portion of it passes through the darkest shadow (umbra). During this type of eclipse, a part of the Moon will darken as it moves through the Earth’s shadow. Although the Penumbral Eclipse begins at 5:41 pm on Tue, Sep 17, it is below the horizon and not visible in Seattle. At 7:44 pm on Tue, Sep 17 the eclipse will be at maximum, when the Moon is closest to the center of the shadow. However, the Moon will be close to the horizon, so make sure you have free sight to East. At 8:15 pm Tue, Sep 17, the Partial Eclipse ends.
September 22: Fall Equinox. The September equinox occurs on September 22 at 5:43 am PDT. The Sun will shine directly on the equator and there will be nearly equal amounts of day and night throughout the world. This is also the first day of fall (autumnal equinox) in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of spring (vernal equinox) in the Southern Hemisphere.
October 7: Draconids Meteor Shower runs annually from October 6-10 and peaks this year on the night of the 7th. The Draconids is a minor meteor shower producing only about 10 meteors per hour. However, it is an unusual shower because the best viewing is in the early evening instead of early morning like most other showers. The second quarter moon will ensure dark skies in the early evening for what could be a good show. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Draco but can appear anywhere in the sky.
October 17: Full Moon (Supermoon, Harvest Moon, Hunter’s Moon) peaks at 4:26 am PDT. October was the traditional season to prepare for winter by hunting and preserving meats. Native Americans named it for Drying Rice Moon, Falling Leaves Moon, and Freezing Moon.
October 21-22: Orionids Meteor Shower runs annually from October 2 to November 7. The shower peaks this year on the night of October 21 and the morning of October 22. The Orionids is an average shower producing up to 20 meteors per hour at its peak. The waning gibbous moon will block out most of the fainter meteors this year. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Orion, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
November 15: Full Moon (Beaver Moon) peaks at 1:28 pm PST. The nocturnal animal becomes particularly active under light of the full moon in building dams to prepare for winter.
November 4-5: Taurids Meteor Shower runs annually from September 7 to December 10. It peaks this year on the night of November 4. The Taurids is a long-running minor meteor shower but produces only about 5-10 meteors per hour. It is unusual in that it consists of two separate streams. The first quarter moon will block out all but the brightest meteors this year. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Taurus but can appear anywhere in the sky.
November 17-18: Leonids Meteor Shower runs annually from November 6-30. It peaks this year on the night of the 17th and morning of the 18th. The Leonids is an average shower, producing up to 15 meteors per hour at its peak. However, this shower is unique in that it has a cyclonic peak about every 33 years where hundreds of meteors per hour can be seen. That last of these occurred in 2001. Unfortunately, the nearly full moon will block all but the brightest meteors this year. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Leo but can appear anywhere in the sky.
December 15: Full Moon (Cold Moon….well, duh) peaks at 1:01 am PST. Also known as the Long Night Moon and Oak Moon.
December 13-14: Geminids Meteor Shower runs annually from December 7-17. It peaks this year on the night of the 13th and morning of the 14th. The Geminids is the king of the meteor showers, producing up to 120 multicolored meteors per hour at its peak. However, the nearly full moon will block out all but the brightest meteors this year. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Gemini but can appear anywhere in the sky.
For more information on these events, visit the Astronomy Calendar of Celestial Events (seasky.org), Moon Phases 2024 (timeanddate.com), EarthSky Tonight (earthsky.org), and Skywatching tips from NASA (olarsystem.nasa.gov).
Free stargazing events in Seattle-Tacoma
The following groups and organizations regularly hold free public stargazing events throughout the region.
Stargazing with Seattle Astronomical Society in public parks around King County
Seattle Astronomical Society (SAS) organizes monthly star parties in area parks. These outdoor stargazing events are free, family-friendly, and open to the public. A typical star party gathering features observing through two or more different types of telescopes provided by SAS members, along with the opportunity to ask questions, discuss the observation process, and learn about astronomical topics. Weather cancels the event; last minute updates are available on their website.
To enhance your experience, you may want to download and print your own copy of the current Evening Sky Map at http://www.skymaps.com/downloads.html. This 2-page guide contains a detailed sky map, the current monthly sky calendar, and a descriptive list of the best objects to see with binoculars, a telescope, or using just your eyes. It is suitable for all stargazers including newcomers to astronomy. And, unlike other star charts on the Web, The Evening Sky Map will print clearly on any printer.
See the list below for the Upcoming Astronomy and Stargazing Events, or visit: http://www.seattleastro.org/news_and_events/star_parties
Stargazing at UW Seattle Theodor Jacobsen Observatory
A dedicated group of SAS volunteers offer twice-monthly programs April through October at the Theodor Jacobsen Observatory (TJO) on the University of Washington Seattle campus. The program includes a short presentation by SAS members and/or UW undergrads, history of the observatory and its beautiful telescope (over 100 years old), and if the weather permits, the dome is opened for views through the telescope.
See the list below for the Upcoming Astronomy and Stargazing Events, or visit: http://depts.washington.edu/astron/outreach/jacobsen-observatory/#a2
Stargazing in Tacoma
Tacoma Astronomical Society (TAS) hosts free public viewing sessions each month at Pierce College near Fort Steilacoom in Lakewood (about 10 miles south of Tacoma). There is no charge for stargazing and observing the night sky through TAS telescopes. However, donations are gladly accepted. The donations are used to further public education and outreach programs.
- On nights with clear skies TAS volunteers provide telescopic observations of the Moon, planets, star clusters, nebulae, galaxies, double stars and more. Each season boasts something new and exciting for frequent guests.
- On cloudy nights, indoor lectures, demonstrations and workshops will be available at public events regardless of the weather.
- Cancelled 2020-201 until further notice.
Find stargazing clubs in your areas: Clubs & Events | Night Sky Network (nasa.gov)
What to bring to an outdoor stargazing event or “star party”
If you have a telescope or binoculars you want to share, bring it along.
If you don’t have any stargazing equipment, group star parties typically have several different telescopes or binoculars brought by people attending who are happy to share. If you are thinking about getting a telescope, it can be a great opportunity to try and compare equipment and ask questions about cost and features.
Even in summer, it can get chilly at night and you will be standing most of the time. So, dress in layers warmer than you think you might need and wear comfortable shoes. Bring a thermos with something warm to drink (such as coffee, tea, or hot cider), plus a snack if you think you might need some extra energy.
Bring a red flashlight. Red light has almost no effect on our night vision. If you don’t have a red flashlight, put red cellophane over a white lens with a rubber band, or paint the lens in red nail polish, or cut a circular piece out of a red plastic report binder and place it under the lens.
Star Party do’s and don’ts
Arrive before dark to orient and introduce yourself. Check the weather report and plan to arrive no later than sunset, or up to 30 minutes prior.
If you come to a star party without a telescope, leave the parking spots closest to the observing site for those with heavy equipment to carry.
After dark, be especially careful around the telescopes: don’t move or turnaround quickly. There are cables connecting equipment that are easy to trip over in the dark. And remember to not use any white light, only red light (see “what to bring” above).
Do not use white flashlights anytime during a star party. It takes 20 to 30 minutes for your eyes to get dark-adapted and only a second or two of white light to make you start over again.
Do not touch the glass eyepiece of a telescope or binoculars.
Do not talk loud or be rowdy. Star-gazing is a quiet, peaceful activity.
Do not litter…pack it in, pack it out!
Do ask questions of other more experienced attendees. Stargazers love to talk about their hobby and are usually happy to answer questions.
Other recent and exciting stargazing and space events
Every day since Nov. 2, 2000, people have been orbiting our planet inside the International Space Station (ISS), bringing together science, technology and human innovation to enable new technologies and research breakthroughs not possible on Earth. The ISS is a blueprint for global cooperation for future exploration beyond Earth – one that enables U.S.-led multinational partnerships and advances shared goals in space exploration. The station facilitates the growth of a robust commercial market in low-Earth orbit as the only U.S. National Laboratory in space. Commercial cargo resupply and commercial crew transportation to the station and low-Earth orbit will enable a space exploration economy.
International Space Station
As the third-brightest object in the sky (only the Sun and Moon are brighter!), the International Space Station is easy to see at dawn or dusk when it flies over your home. Sign up for text messages or emails to know when and where to look up and wave at the astronauts at NASA’s Spot the Station website. More info: Spot The Station | NASA and International Space Station | NASA
NASA Commercial Spaceflight Program
NASA’s Commercial Crew Program has worked with several American aerospace industry companies to facilitate the development of U.S. human spaceflight. The goal is to have safe, reliable, and cost-effective access to and from the International Space Station and to foster commercial access to other potential low-Earth orbit destinations. NASA selected Boeing and SpaceX in September 2014 to transport crew to the International Space Station from the United States. These integrated spacecraft, rockets and associated systems will carry up to four astronauts on NASA missions, maintaining a space station crew of seven to maximize time dedicated to scientific research on the orbiting laboratory. More info: Commercial Crew Program | NASA
- The next available launch attempt is at 12:34 a.m. EST Thursday, March 2, 2023. Follow along with launch activities and get more information about the mission at: Commercial Crew Blog (blogs.nasa.gov)
SpaceX’s Starlink satellite “chain of lights”
In 2019, SpaceX launched 60 Starlink satellites into orbit. The satellites are the first of a planned 12,000-satellite megaconstellation to provide internet access to people on Earth. Satellite observers are giddy with excitement. The satellites orbit at approximately 273 miles above the Earth. As they move across the night sky, they put on a spectacular show for ground observers. To the eye, the 60 satellites appear as a “moving train” of moderately faint stars usually visible to the naked eye under a dark, clear sky. Initially, the satellites were stretched out in a straight line. However, as the satellites revolve around Earth at 90-minute intervals, they should appear less “bunched” together and may get fainter as they are slowly raised to their operational orbits of 342 miles.
If you would like to try and see the Starlink satellites, you will need to consult an online satellite tracker, such as: SpaceX Starlink Satellites Tracker (findstarlink.com). Note: the horizon is 0°, the width of your fist is bout 10°, and the highest point directly overhead is 90° (so 10°-30° and above 50°-60° is high in the sky). We occasionally check findstarlink.com and post upcoming sightings in our monthly list above.
Upcoming Science & Nature Events
Listed below are all kinds of science and nature events on our calendar in the next 60 days.
Sunday, March 3, 2024
Monday, March 4, 2024
Tuesday, March 5, 2024
Wednesday, March 6, 2024
Thursday, March 7, 2024
Friday, March 8, 2024
Saturday, March 9, 2024
Sunday, March 10, 2024
Monday, March 11, 2024
Tuesday, March 12, 2024
Wednesday, March 13, 2024
Thursday, March 14, 2024
Friday, March 15, 2024
Saturday, March 16, 2024
Sunday, March 17, 2024
Monday, March 18, 2024
Tuesday, March 19, 2024
Wednesday, March 20, 2024
Thursday, March 21, 2024
Friday, March 22, 2024
Saturday, March 23, 2024
Sunday, March 24, 2024
Monday, March 25, 2024
Tuesday, March 26, 2024
Wednesday, March 27, 2024
Thursday, March 28, 2024
Friday, March 29, 2024
Saturday, March 30, 2024
Sunday, March 31, 2024
Saturday, April 20, 2024
Sunday, April 21, 2024
Monday, April 22, 2024
Tuesday, April 23, 2024
Wednesday, April 24, 2024
Thursday, April 25, 2024
Friday, April 26, 2024
Saturday, April 27, 2024
Sunday, April 28, 2024
Monday, April 29, 2024
Tuesday, April 30, 2024
Wednesday, May 1, 2024
But wait, there’s more!
- Planetarium shows in the Puget Sound region
- STEM for kids at home with Rosie Research
- Free local livestream, virtual tours, and online classes
- More free and cheap things to do every day: Greater Seattle on the Cheap event calendar.
- Still more ideas for frugal fun: Greater Seattle on the Cheap home page.
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