December is a time of returns in the skies. Venus, Saturn and Mercury reappear; the Geminid meteor shower -- one of the year's most reliable -- comes back in the middle of December; and the Southern Cross makes its return to Hawaii's predawn sky.
There are several remarkable sky events in August, including gatherings of Jupiter with Venus in the morning sky and of Mars and Saturn in the evening. We also have the return of the Perseids, one of the most reliable meteor shows.
All five naked-eye planets are visible; the islands experience the first of the two "overhead sun" days of the year; moon conditions are good for one of the lesser-known meteor showers; and we say goodbye to Orion and the other great winter constellations.
The Hawaiian islands are perfectly situated to see all of the total lunar eclipse on April 14, a celestial event that runs from roughly 8 to 11:30 p.m. In addition, Mars reaches its brightest point in the past eight years.
Since Venus has moved to the morning sky, Jupiter stands unchallenged as the most brilliant dot in March's evening sky. The planet shines at minus 2.3 magnitude. Look for it at dusk in early March about two-thirds of the way up in the east.
While it’s not yet June, you may catch two special astronomy events today.
At 12:28 p.m. today in Honolulu, the sun will go ex- actly overhead, known as “Lahaina Noon.” An upright object such as a flagpole will have no shadow.
On May 9, Hawaii will be the only state to see the first solar eclipse of 2013. At the peak of the eclipse, at 3:48 p.m., a viewer using a safe filter will see 44 percent of the sun blocked by the moon.
The solar system's two biggest planets, Jupiter and Saturn, are well placed for viewing in April. Venus and Mars are lost in the light of the sun all month, and Mercury puts in a typically fleeting appearance.
We see a lot of changes in the planets this month: We lose two, gain one, and two planets hold steady in the night. The elusive planet Mercury appears in our skies for the first time in 2013, low in the west at dusk for much of the month.
There will be a brilliant pass of the International Space Station on New Year's Day. Look for the space station low in the northwest at about 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. When it first appears, the station will look as bright as a very bright star.
On Dec. 2, the planet Jupiter is in opposition. The sun and Jupiter will be on opposite sides of the Earth. So, when the sun sets in the west in early December, Jupiter will be exactly opposite, rising in the east.
In November, all five naked-eye planets will be visible, including the all-night appearance of Jupiter, and a morning gathering of Venus and Saturn. The Leonid meteor shower returns mid-month, and there will be a solar eclipse deep in the southern hemisphere.
NASA's Mars Science Laboratory, known as Curiosity, is scheduled to land on Mars in the early evening next Sunday. This is the largest and most complex rover we've sent to Mars, and arguably the most complex robot ever sent to any other world in the solar system.
March is a great month for planets. Mars peaks in brightness, and Venus and Jupiter are in conjunction in the middle of the month. Saturn shines in the early morning sky and Mercury shines at dusk for the early part of the month.
A video system that makes observers feel like they are flying through the rings of Saturn is part of an impending upgrade at the Bishop Museum's Watumull Planetarium. With a state appropriation of $1.5 million, we will install a hybrid system, in which a state-of-the-art star machine will work with a full-dome video system to provide a full astronomical educational experience.
A total lunar eclipse will take place early on Dec. 10. As seen from the islands, the moon will be in total eclipse for about 45 minutes, from 4:10 to 4:55 a.m. So, you either need to stay up late on Dec. 9 or set your alarm for very early Dec. 10.
The planet Mars shines in the early morning sky, rising in the east at 2 a.m. at the start of October and by 1:30 a.m. at the end of the month. The planet is at first magnitude, as bright as a bright star. If you look closely, you can see that it does have a pale orange color.
Each August brings the return of the year's most famous shower, the Perseid meteor shower. The Perseid shower is well-known because it's a reliable shower, and also because it occurs in mid-summer, when the weather is better.