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Home > Articles > Observing > Solar System > Heavenly Life-Planner

Heavenly Life-Planner
By Wing Eng - 7/22/2005

All of us want to live a long, productive and enjoyable life! For those involved in amateur astronomy, looking forward to that next exciting eclipse, occultation or meteor shower may be just what we need to wake up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in eager anticipation to what celestially lies ahead.

In fact, why not plan out your "entire life" by noting those special sky event happenings that are of particular interest and then establish a personal written record of your upcoming "favorites?" You can do this for the days, months, years and even decades ahead.

For example, my favorite celestial events are meteor showers, close approaches of planets, transits of planets, lunar occultations, planetary conjuctions, total lunar eclipses and total solar eclipses.

I have used the following reference materials to assist me in forming my own "Heavenly Life-Planner."

*Astronomy's Explore the Universe, 8th Edition 2002, Highlights of the Next 25 Years by Richard Talcott, Astronomy Magazine, 2001.
*Celestron's The Sky, Entry Level Version 2.0, Celestron International, 1996.
*Sky and Telescope Website, http://www.skypub.com.
*Totality, Eclipses of the Sun, by Mark Littmann and Ken Willcox, University of Hawaii Press, 1991.

I would also like to encourage you to "share the universe" with your valued family, and friends, whether in your front or back yard or at a star party site. I was especially impressed by the acknowledgment of Ken Willcox, co-author of Totality, Eclipses of the Sun who, during his battle with the cancer that ultimately took his life, wrote in his book "Through it all has come a fuller realization that people are the most important creation in the universe, and that my Lord has put me in contact with some of His best."

Here is what I selected as my "favorites for life." Note: I live in Walnut Creek, California, which means I will tend to highlight the Pacific Time Zone for this article.
November 18, 2001 - Leonid Meteor Storm: This is supposed to be the biggest Leonid Shower since 1966. For the predicted secondary "peak" occurring at 5am EST, 4am CST, 3am MST and 2am PST, the United States is favored with up to 4,000 meteors per hour, although most predictions are for between several hundred to 1,000 to 2,000 meteors per hour. Note: the predicted primary "peak" is anticipated in the Western Pacific Ocean region. You can enjoy this event without a telescope or binoculars; simply use your eyes.

August 27, 2003 - Very Close Approach of Mars: Rising at opposition, in Aquarius, this is the Planet of War's closest approach to earth in over 1000 years as it shows off a disk of 25.1 arc seconds diameter. It will shine with a brilliance of magnitude -2.9, which is brighter than Jupiter at opposition. If "you can wait," don't worry too much if you miss this very close approach of Mars, because on July 27, 2018, it will appear at opposition in Capricornus displaying a disk of 24.3 arc seconds diameter and a magnitude of -2.8. You can get really great views of Martian surface details using a telescope.

November 8, 2006 - Transit of Mercury: Visible over both North and South America, this diminutive 10 arc second diameter planet crosses the solar disk in the constellation of Libra. For folks in the Pacific Time Zone, the transit begins around 10:50am PST and ends around 4:25pm PST. For reference, the disk of the sun will be about 180 times larger than the disk of Mercury. If you happen to miss this transit of Mercury, another opportunity awaits you on November 11, 2019, when another transit of Mercury will begin before the sun rises, again in Libra, for those in the Pacific Time Zone. Very Important: Always use protective solar filters when viewing the Sun.

April 22, 2009: Predawn Lunar Occultation of Venus: Both the Moon and Venus will be in their "waning" crescent phases, in Pisces, making this a most interesting event to view through a telescope. The event begins at 5:10am PDT, with the Moon and Venus only 3 degrees above the eastern horizon and ends at 6:09am PDT, with both celestial bodies 15 degrees above the eastern horizon, as seen in Northern California. Venus will be a very large 45.1 arc seconds in diameter, a slender 17.3% full, and will shine at magnitude -4.5. Appearing nearly 40 times larger than Venus, the moon will be only 8.4% full. Note: The Western United States is favored for this event since the occultation begins while the sky is still quite dark and is over a few minutes before the sun rises, which occurs about 6:22am PDT.

June 5, 2012 - Transit of Venus: Visible over North America, the Pacific Ocean, Asia and Australia. Only the beginning of this transit, and not the end of the transit, will be seen in the Pacific Time Zone. The sun will be in Taurus. The beginning of the transit is around 2:55pm PDT and it will end after sunset, at 9:55pm PDT. Venus will be a large 57.8 arc seconds in diameter, although still about 31 times smaller in diameter than the Sun. Very Important: Always use protective solar filters when viewing the sun.

October 22, 2015 - Morning Conjunction of Venus, Mars and Jupiter in Leo. About 45 minutes before sunrise, this trio of planets will lie within a 7 degree-wide-field binocular circle, centered about 33 degrees above the eastern horizon in Northern California. This conjunction will be visible throughout all the northern hemisphere and most of the southern hemisphere. Venus will be 25.1 arc seconds in diameter, 49% full and at magnitude -4.4. Jupiter will be 32.4 arc seconds in diameter and will shine at magnitude -1.8. Mars will be a tiny 4.1 arc seconds in diameter and will be at magnitude 1.7.

January 9, 2016 - Very Close Conjunction Between Venus & Saturn in Scorpius. About 45 minutes before sunrise, Venus and Saturn will be less than 1 degree apart, and will reside together about 17 degrees above the southeastern horizon as viewed from Northern California. Venus will be 13.7 arc seconds in diameter, 80% full and will shine at magnitude -4.0. Saturn will display its rings nearly fully wide open and will be 15.3 arc seconds in diameter, and present a magnitude of 0.5.
August 21, 2017 - The event many of us have been waiting for! This will be the first total solar eclipse that will be visible from the United States since July of 1991. Totality will last for a maximum of 2 minutes and 40 seconds. The Sun will reside in Leo. The Moon's shadow will sweep out a path from Oregon through Missouri to South Carolina, encouraging millions of us to view the event. Very Important: Always use protective solar filters when viewing the sun.

A Special Total Lunar Eclipse Extravaganza: In an incredible period of 23 years, lasting from 2003 through 2026, North Americans will be treated to no fewer than 10 Total Lunar Eclipses, with those in Western North America being fortunate enough to view 17 Total Lunar Eclipses! What a time to be alive! Listed, below are the dates, and constellation location of the moon during the total eclipses.

Total Lunar Eclipses Visible from North America with Western North America in...

*May 15/16, 2003 - Libra
*November 8/9, 2003 - Taurus
*October 27/28, 2004 - Pisces
*August 28, 2007(Western North America) - Aquarius
*February 20/21, 2008 - Leo
*December 21, 2010 - Gemini
*December 10, 2011(Western North America) - Taurus
*April 15, 2014 - Virgo
*October 8, 2014(Western North America) - Pisces
*April 4, 2015(Western North America) - Virgo
*September 27/28, 2015 - Pisces
*January 31, 2018(Western North America) - Leo
*January 20/21, 2019 - Cancer
*May 26, 2021(Western North America) - Scorpius
*May 15/16, 2022 - Libra
*March 13/14, 2025 - Virgo
*March 3, 2026(Western North America) - Virgo

A Special (Total-Segment-Portion) Solar Eclipse Series (Saros 136)

A "Family" of related-solar eclipses is called a saros cycle. This eclipse cycle has an interval of 18 years 11 1/3 days or 18 years 10 1/3 days if five leap years occur in the interval.

The eclipse family cycle known as Saros 136 began with a short duration partial eclipse near the South Pole on June 14, 1360, and will end with a short duration partial eclipse near the North Pole on July 30, 2622. What's really exciting about Saros 136 is its famed "long-duration" total solar eclipses during the middle of its eclipse cycle. For example, from May 18, 1901, to August 12, 2045, a total of nine(9) total solar eclipses of maximum totality duration of six(6) minutes or longer(maximum of 7:08) have/will occurred/occur.

Having never viewed a total solar eclipse, I would like to describe the six(6) long-duration total eclipses of Saros 136 during my hopeful-lifetime. If I am blessed to live to a ripe, ripe old age of 95+ years, I will be able to potentially view the last three(3) of the total solars of the six(6) described, below. The Date, Maximum Duration of Totality, area of Visibility and Constellation that the Sun will be located are listed.

Total Solar Eclipses (Saros 136)

*June 20, 1955 - Maximum Duration of Totality 7:08 - Southeast Asia - Gemini
*June 30, 1973 - Maximum Duration of Totality 7:04 - North-Central Africa - Gemini
*July 11, 1991 - Maximum Duration of Totality 6:53 - Hawaii and Mexico - Gemini
*July 22, 2009 - Maximum Duration of Totality 6:39 - China - Cancer
*August 2, 2027 - Maximum Duration of Totality 6:23 - Egypt - Cancer
*August 12, 2045 - Maximum Duration of Totality 6:06 - United States - Leo

I would feel most fortunate to view the eclipse of August 12, 2045, because I would only need to travel about 200 miles to see the event, which will be total in the Lassen Volcanic Park area; hopefully easy enough in my old age!
May you all have great fun charting out your Heavenly Life-Planner, as I have.

Best Wishes and Clear Skies!
Wing(1st name) Eng(last name)
Walnut Creek, CA
November 15, 2001

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