Astronomical Events To See in Alberta in 2019
The Lakeland offers resident and visitors so many opportunities for indoor and outdoor adventure that sometimes people forget to look up at one of our most scenic wonders. No, really. With a minimum of light pollution, flat terrain, and an enormous sky overhead, The Lakeland offers some of Alberta’s most spectacular stargazing.
Here is a calendar of a just few of the many astronomical events visitors can look forward to spotting in the heavens above the Province in 2019. And, if you want to experience the night sky in all its glory, check out the Dark Sky Preserve at Lakeland Provincial Park.
January 20, 2019 – A “Blood Moon” to Start the Year
Between 20:35 and 21:53, check out the year’s first total lunar eclipse! The sight of the moon passing through the earth’s shadow will be visible from anywhere in Alberta. Thanks to how the sun’s light bends around the Earth, some people refer to a total lunar eclipse as a “blood moon” for the rusty hue the moon seems to take on as it makes its transit.
February 12-13, 2019 – Mars and Uranus Make a Pretty Pair
Have you ever seen Mars and Uranus so close together in the night sky? They make a cute couple. The two nights before Valentines Day are your only chance in 2019 to see what is known as the “conjunction” of the two planets. Just look to the southwest sky starting just after sunset and you’ll see both planets within a degree arc of each other. Over the next six hours, they’ll slowly sink, side-by-side, toward the horizon. Bring binoculars to get a better look at these star-crossed, er, crossing, planets.
March 20, 2019 – Spring At Last!
Ah, Spring. Today is the Equinox, when every spot on planet Earth receives an equal amount of daylight. There’s not much to look skyward for, necessarily, but it sure does feel nice to think of warmer weather on the way…
April 1 and 14, 2019 – Galaxy Guessing Game
Two of our favourite galaxies will be visible to anyone with a pair of strong binoculars, or better yet a small telescope, this month. From 23:00 on April 1 to about 01:30 on April 2, the so-called “Sombrero” galaxy (a.k.a. M104) will be visible about 20 degrees above the southern horizon. Then, on April 14, the “Whirlpool” galaxy (or M51) will be visible all night almost directly overhead, just a few degrees to the south. Can you guess how they earned their names?
May 18, 2019 – Blue Moon, You Saw Me Standing Alone…
You don’t to be a crooner to enjoy this next celestial wonder. On May 18, Alberta residents will be treated to a “Blue Moon” – a rare fourth full moon in a single season (in this case, spring). On nights with a Blue Moon, the moon shines bright and full nearly all night long, casting what many insist is a magical blue light that inspires romance in the heart of even the most jaded cynic.
June 21, 2019 – Sun’s Still Up, Get Your Adventure On!
The first day of summer. The longest day of the year. The sun rises before 04:00 and doesn’t set until after 21:00. Get out there and enjoy every second of it by hiking, biking, or exploring The Lakeland!
July 4, 2019 – It Might Be Aphelion, But It’ll Still Burn
While our neighbours to the south celebrate their Independence Day with fireworks in the night sky, here in Alberta we’ll take note of a slightly more obscure event during the daytime hours. Today is “aphelion,” the day the Earth is furthest from the Sun in its annual orbit. Our home star is 3% smaller in the sky today than when it’s at its closest point (called “perihelion, and which, if you were wondering, happened on January 4). But, don’t put away your sunscreen just yet! The difference in the sun’s size doesn’t have much practical effect on how hot it feels outside today.
August 13, 2019 – Summer Shooting Stars
Get ready for the first of two major meteor showers of 2019, and the only one you’re likely to be able to watch in Alberta while wearing a t-shirt and shorts. Look to the northeast part of the sky after dark and you’ll see the Perseid meteor shower at its height. Even without binoculars, we bet you’ll make dozens of wishes on shooting stars before you turn in.
September 23, 2019 – The Last Hurrah
The 12 hours of sun you get on this, the fall Equinox, is the most you’ll see for the next six months. Don’t miss out on the spectacular beauty of The Lakeland at this time of year!
October 2, 2019 – Hey There, Neighbour
Get those binoculars and telescopes out again, because tonight offers a prime chance to see our closest galactic neighbour, the Andromeda galaxy (known to astronomers as M31) in all of its glory. It should be visible all night above the eastern sky. If you’re far enough from light pollution, you might even spot it with your naked eye.
November 11, 2019 – You’ll Have To Wait Another 13 Years To See This Again
You’ll need some specialty equipment for this astronomical event, but we promise it’s your time. Today isn’t just Remembrance Day, it’s also the “transit of Mercury,” when the sizzling hot planet passes in front of the Sun from our vantage point here on Earth. With the right lens filters and a strong-enough telescope (the Edmonton RASC can likely tell you where to find these), you can watch the little planet make its journey anytime after sunrise between 05:34 and 11:34. Don’t miss out! The next transit of Mercury doesn’t happen until November 2032.
December 14, 2019 – It’s Raining Meteors!
Close out your year of stargazing in The Lakeland by enjoying the most active meteor display on the calendar. All night long in the southeastern sky, the Geminid meteor shower will rain upwards of 80 shooting stars per hour over Alberta. Because the Geminids happen so close in time to the Winter Solstice (on December 21), you’ll have plenty of dark hours to pop outdoors to take them in. Luckily, there are so many of them that you probably won’t have to wait long to get your fill and head back indoors.
Come See The Stars in The Lakeland | Astronomical Events Alberta 2019
The night sky above The Lakeland is a year-round delight. Plan your trip to marvel at our celestial wonders and explore our northern lights and dark skies.