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Happy New Year!



Howdy Earthlings, and Happy New Year! 2023 was a pretty decent year, but 2024 is shaping up to be pretty interesting! Here’s what’s coming up in the night skies this year, and a little bit about what I have planned for Texas Dark Skies.


The new year will be starting off with the night sky’s own fireworks show! On January 3rd & 4th we’ll be able to see the QUADRANTID METEOR SHOWER. It’s not the most prolific meteor shower, with only about 40 meteors an hour at its peak, they have been known to produce random fireballs. With the moon being in last quarter, it’ll be easier to spot them than if there were a full moon. If you’ve got clear skies and a good set of binoculars, this is the perfect time to sit out and enjoy the night sky.


We’re expecting a dozen meteor showers this year, from the major showers like the Perseids and Geminids to minor showers like the Draconids and Ursids. Most will be obscured by a quarter or full moon this year, but the Eta Aquarid showers, associated with Halley’s Comet, can be seen on May 4th & 5th, which will be between 3rd quarter and the new moon. The Aquarids average about 10 meteors an hour on a clear, moonless night, and the best time to view them will be just before dawn on May 5th.


August 12th we’ll get the Perseid meteor shower, This is one of the more exciting ones, producing up to 60 meteors an hour. The moon will be at first quarter, so you may want to time your meteor-watching for after the moon sets. In Texas, that’ll be after midnight, but you can check timeanddate.com to see what time the moon will set where you live.


The Orionid meteor shower, which will be on October 20th this year, typically produces 10-20 shooting stars every hour, but on rare occasions has been known to produce three to four times as many. With the moon waning, fainter meteors might not be visible, so you may want to try watching around the time the moon is still low in the sky.


The big deal of the year comes on April 8-the total solar eclipse. April’s total solar eclipse cuts a path up from Mexico, through Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, and Maine. It then moves across New Brunswick and Newfoundland before coming to an end in the Atlantic, to the west of Europe. This means the whole of Mexico, the contiguous United States, and Canada will experience at least a partial eclipse. I recommend going to timeanddate.com; they have great tools for finding exactly where the path of totality will be in relation to you.


In March, we have a Penumbral Full Moon on the 25th if you’re on the east coast, or the 24th if you’re on the west coast. A penumbral eclipse happens when the Moon passes through the outer portion of the Earth’s shadow. You may or may not see the difference, but it’ll be a little more shadowy than usual.


The moon may be trying to outshine the meteor showers in 2024, but it can’t outshine me here at Texas Dark Skies! As a matter of fact, checking out the moon is one of the many things I’m gonna be doing this year!


On the YouTube channel, I have a couple of regular series planned.


The first is going to be Look Up This Month, posting the first weekend of the month. I’ll be giving you the info you need for stargazing here in Texas, including moon phases and possible weather conditions based on NOAA forecasting. The plan is to get y’all in the know so you can plan your own stargazing.


I’m also planning a series on different constellations viewable in the sky each month, starting with Orion in January. These constellation videos will be poted the second weekend of each month, and include information such as the major stars in the constellations and their apparent magnitude, as well as other fun facts. They’ll also include original art from Louis Bressie, Texas Dark Skies’ resident graphic designer.


I have some other ideas in the works for the YouTube channel, such as highlights on space news. Last but not least, I’m hoping to be able to drop a webcam into the eyepiece of one of the telescopes and livestream the stars for everyone out there who wants to get a closer look but doesn’t have a telescope of their own. Before that happens, I’ll be running tests to see what kind of clarity we can get, so stay tuned for videos of my test sessions!


I’m still running the live weathercast from Liberty Hill, Texas, but now it’s on both YouTube and Twitch. Once I get the stagrazing livestreaming up I’ll be that streaming from both platforms as well.


As always, there will be blog posts every Wednesday over at TexasDarkSkies.com on random subjects-astronomy, amateur radio, weather, and other topics. You can also find astronomy and nightscape photos on the Instagram page @texasdarkskies.


And finally, there are two new ways to interact with Texas Dark Skies. You can join Texas Dark Skies on Patreon to support my efforts in exploring and preserving the night skies in Texas. I’ve also set up a Discord channel in the hopes of building a community for amateur astronomers to connect and share their adventures.


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