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Look skyward in 2019

January 2, 2019

2019 is a better-than-average year for the astronomically inclined. This year, according to “Sky & Telescope Magazine,” will bring three solar eclipses and two lunar eclipses.

The first, occurring on Jan. 6, is a partial solar eclipse, but the best place you can view it is Siberia.

But do put this one on your calendar: There will be a total lunar eclipse January 20-21, and assuming no cloud cover, it will be prime viewing for those of us in North America. For East Coasters, the celestial event begins at 10:10 p.m. on the 20th and ends at 2:15 a.m. on the 21st. The most exciting viewing hours will be 11:41 p.m. the 20th to 12:44 a.m. the 21st. If you’re a sky watcher or want to broaden your or your children’s horizons, this one is worth taking a nap earlier in the day. This is also the one people refer to as the “Blood Moon,” because the moon sometimes appears red during this type of event.

The next heavenly event will occur July 2, but you can safely save space on your calendar. In order to get the full impact of this total solar eclipse, you will need to fly to Easter Island, which is way, way out in the South Pacific Ocean — and take your kayak, because after you land, you’ll need to row 700 miles north and watch while sharks and other dangerous creatures contemplate your meal value. The second best viewing spot is about a third of the way down in Chile.

On July 16, there will be a partial lunar eclipse, but unless you plan to be in Europe or Africa on that date, you might want to also leave this one off your calendar, as it’s only partial.

Finally, reserve airline tickets for Singapore for Dec. 26 (keep the time difference in mind). The little country is only 85 miles from the equator, and you’ll get to hang out on the main island or one of the 62 islets (baby islands) to see what’s called an annular solar eclipse. It might be worth the trip. An annular solar eclipse is when the moon blocks the sun at dead center, leaving a bright ring — the “ring of fire,” which is called an annulus — showing all around the edges.

Even if you can’t travel and you miss our big North American event this month, you can go out most nights of the year with a cheap pair of binoculars and some friends or kids or grandkids and see how cool the moon is — the real moon, in real life, in real time.

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