Speaking of Sports

By John Fragodt, Sports Reporter

I was reading an article the other day about all the great astronomical events set for 2024.  Being somewhat interested in astronomy, I read the article and thought I’d share some of the highlights to look forward to in 2024.

In fact, some astronomers predict that 2024 will be one of the best stargazing years in recent memory.

If you’ve ever been somewhat interested in astronomy, this might be your year.  However, remember that when things are planned to happen and you’re excited to see them happen, that might just be the time when it’s cloudy out; so don’t get your hopes up too high.

I still find it amazing that scientists are able to predict exactly when things happen in the sky.  Remember, the Earth spins around once every 24 hours, moving at a speed of around 1,000 miles per hour, while also revolving around the sun every year at about 65,000 miles per hour, and don’t forget that our entire galaxy travels around the Milky Way at speeds even higher than that.  Wow, no wonder I feel like my head is spinning when I close my eyes . . .

Among the highlights of 2024:

•  The highlight of the year is April 8 when a total solar eclipse cuts across North America, but there will also be comet fly-bys, meteor showers and even a lunar eclipse in 2024.  Although Minnesota won’t quite be in the direct path of the total solar eclipse, you can always catch a NASA livestream or plan a road trip.

•  Throughout January and into February, the comet 144P Kushida will be flying by.  This comet goes around the sun ever 7.4 years, swinging way past Jupiter’s orbit before diving back to a point between Earth and Mars.  The comet is expected to be the brightest Jan. 25, but unfortunately, that night also features a full moon.

And so, try scanning the skies with a pair of binoculars (can’t quite see it with unaided eye) a few days before and after Jan. 25 and look at a point just south of the constellation Pleiades.

•  On Sept. 17, there will be a partial lunar eclipse.  If we’re lucky enough to see it, it will appear that something took a huge bite out of the moon.  Best time for us will be about 7:30 p.m. through the peak around 9:45 p.m.

•  There is another close encounter with a comet Oct. 12 when comet Tsuchinshan-ATLAS flies by.  This comet makes a huge loop around the Sun once ever 80,000 years so yes, it has not been seen for a long time.

•  Meteor showers will be aplenty in 2024.  The Perseid meteor Shower, Aug. 12-13, is expected to be incredible this year so I’ve already decided I’m having a party one of those nights.  The Perseid meteor shower (look for the constellation Perseus) is normally one of the best meteor shows each year and is technically visible from mid-July to late August, but your best chance at seeing 50 or more meteors per hour will be Aug. 12-13.

In general, meteor showers are best viewed from the darkest vantage point you can safely and legally find.  Give your eyes about half an hour to adjust to the darkness and then lie on your back and look upward to take in the whole sky.

Other great meteor showers include the Lyrid Meteor Shower (look for Vega in the constellation Lyra and best time is April 21-22), the Orionid Meteor Shower (look for the constellation Orion on Oct. 20-21) and the Geminid Meteor Shower (look for the Gemini constellation, Dec. 13-14).

Either way, astronomy allows us to see some spectacular shows in the sky and the best part is that it’s totally free.