Sky-watchers, you’re in for a treat next year!
Click start to play today’s Spell It, where streaking comets are just the ‘icing’ on the cake – 2024 is going to have some spectacular celestial events that you can watch from right here on Earth.
From dazzling meteor showers to giant comets, here’s what the year has in store for us:
1. A view of Jupiter and the moon
First in line is an eye-catching pair. The largest planet in our solar system will dominate the evening sky on January 18, according to a December 2023 report in National Geographic, appearing beside a glowing half-moon. If you have a pair of binoculars, be prepared to train them on the giant planet, and you might even spot Jupiter’s four moons lined up beside it.
2. Giant comet
Approximately three times the size of Mount Everest, a giant comet named 12P/Pons-Brooks is even now, quickly heading towards our inner solar system. This cryovolcanic comet is comprised mostly of ice, dust and gas. As it closes the distance to the sun in March 2024, it’s expected to pick up its pace from the increased pull of our sun’s gravity. By April 12, it’s likely you can view it with the naked eye, just as it passes by Jupiter. You can catch it again on April 21 when it will reach its closest point to the sun, and may peak in brightness.
3. Perseid meteor shower
Every August, the Earth passes through a cloud of debris, shed by the comet Swift-Tuttle, which is why we’re treated to a flurry of shooting stars in the sky as small meteors burn up in our atmosphere. It’s the Perseid meteor shower, which can generate up to 60 shooting stars per hour. In 2024, the meteor shower is expected to coincide with dark, moonless skies in mid-August, so there are excellent viewing conditions for the event in the northern hemisphere. Pick a viewing spot that’s as far from light pollution as possible, to increase your chances!
4. Arrival of comet A3 Tsuchinshan-ATLAS
First spotted in February 2023, the comet A3 Tsuchinshan-ATLAS is expected to offer stunning views in late 2024. In September, the comet’s orbit will bring it both near the sun and Earth for the first time in 80,000 years. Astronomers expect it to be so bright, it will be visible even to the naked eye. You can spot it around October 12 in the northern hemisphere, if the comet survives its journey around the sun.