Here is an overview of the major celestial events you can watch for in 2012
Meteor Showers: These are regular occurrences throughout the year. I have a complete listing of them here ( Meteor Showers for 2012) . There are showers every month but some are better than others.
Quick definition: "Opposition" This is an astronomical term for when another planet is the closest to Earth for the entire year. This is the best time to view the planet. It happens to each planet each year. I have listed the opposition dates for the planets.
- January: The Quadrantids: Up to 120 Per hour and this shower can be seen as originating from the constellation Bootes. See a chart of the constellation Bootes here
- May: Eta Aquarids: up to 60 per hour; This meteor shower is associated with Halley's Comet and this shower can be seen originating from the constellation Aquarius. See a chart of Aquarius and the Eta Aquarids here
- June: Arietids: This is a fairly strong meteor shower that can be up to 60 an hour but it is spread out over a period of time rougly from May 22 to July 2. The peak is usually around June 7th. So, a few days before and after June 7 is typically the best time to view this meteor shower. You can see a star chart of Aries and the Arietids here
- July: The south Delta Aquarids. This meteor shower is spread out over a full month from around July 18 to August 19 and it usually peaks around July 28 & 29 with about 20 shooting stars per hour. You can see a star chart of aquarius here.
- August: The Perseids Meteor shower. This is a pretty good meteor shower that can produce up to 60 shooting stars per hour. It lasts about a month from July 23 to August 22 and it peaks around August 12 and 13. You can see a star chart of Perseus here
- October: The Orionids: Oct 17-25 This is a very interesting meteor shower. It typically has a medium rate of around 20 shooting stars per hour but it is known for producing meteors that are yellow and green which makes it quite unique and it often produces large meteors described as fireballs. It can be an erratic meteor shower that is spread out over a period of time but usually the best is from Oct 17-25 with a peak around Oct 21 and 22. You can see a star chart of Orion here.
- December: The Geminids. This is one of the most reliable meteor showers of the year. They typically come in at 120 shooting stars per hour and they range in color from white to yellow, blue, green and red! The time of the Geminids ranges from December 7 to 17 and they peak on December 13 and 14. I have a star chart of Gemini here.
May 20 : Annular Eclipse- Most of North America will see at least a partial eclipse, Some western states will see the whole eclipse.
Jun 5 : Venus in Transit - Near sunset on June 5 Venus will traverse across the face of the sun. This is a rare event that will not happen again this century.