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City of Stars


Featured in Macquarie University’s Newsletter The Lighthouse, here is a guide to all the beautiful astronomical wonders to look out for this year, explained by Ángel R. López-Sánchez, resident astronomer of the Faculty of Science and Engineering.

As professional astronomers around the world will be observing meteor showers, visits from famous comets and two lunar events, a cool fact that perhaps you did not know is that many of the world’s largest telescopes operate using vital components designed and manufactured by Macquarie University’s Australian Astronomical Optics (AAO) division.

However, you do not need fancy equipment to enjoy the beautiful night sky! Mark the dates and events in your calendar for 2021, because you do not want to miss out on this once in a lifetime opportunity!

27th April 2021: Supermoon

While sometimes called a super pink moon, super moons are not really pink. The name came about because US astronomers are known to use Native American names for all full moons, and a pink North American wildflower called Moss phlox (Phlox subulata) blooms in April.

In April, we will be seeing the first of the two supermoons of 2021. A supermoon is a full moon – or a new moon – that nearly coincides with perigee, the nearest the moon comes to the Earth in its elliptical orbit (watch out for the werewolves!). This makes the moon look larger and brighter than usual when viewed from Earth.

7th May 2021: Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower

To get the best view of this amazing meteor shower, you need to find an area away from city or street lights. Lying down on a sleeping bag or a blanket, you need to look up and take in as much of the sky as possible. After about 15-20 minutes in the dark, your eyes will adapt and you will be able to see faint meteors. There will be plenty of time to catch the show, as it lasts till dawn.

The Eta Aquarids meteor shower is one of the best of the Southern Hemisphere, with dozens of meteors per hour visible from a dark place. The meteor show is extremely fast, travelling at about 66 kilometres a second into the Earth atmosphere. Make a date out of this beautiful night and don’t miss out on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!

26th May 2021: Supermoon and Total Lunar Eclipse

You will be witnessing the second supermoon this year, which is also sometimes called the super flower moon! While there are no flowers involved, it is related to the North American wildflowers blooming abundantly around this time.

A much bigger astronomical event will obscure the view of the super flower moon, because starting from 6:47pm and peaking at 9:18pm, there will be a total lunar eclipse. This means the supermoon will also be a blood moon – the perfect night for all of you witches to seek revenge!

23rd 24th June: Mars Crossing

Mars will be crossing the Beehive Cluster in Cancer during these two nights. This can be viewed with binoculars or low-magnification telescopes. However, the Beehive can be seen with the naked eye and it looks like a little fluffy cloud!

While looking at the Beehive, which is also known as M44, you can see stars that are nearly 600 light-years away! Apparently, there are about a thousand stars in the Beehive, some similar to the Sun. Many are red giants and white dwarfs, which are older than the rest of the stars in the cluster.


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