Ever wondered about the Universe? Wondered about the possibility of multi-verses, extraterrestrial life and our own existence? Well frankly, who doesn’t! Our Universe is not only unfathomably big, but is also very complex and chaotic. Our universe is systematic chaos of gazillion astronomical bodies. At any given moment, millions of phenomena occur across the vast space. From planetary, to galactic and beyond; myriads of rare events occur. But a handful of them are known to human and can be observed and studied from the earth. Here’s a list of 10 astronomical phenomena observable from earth.(phenomena that is/will be observable)
Eclipses occur when a shadow of one heavenly body(moon or earth in our case) is cast upon another. There are, in general, three types of eclipses: partial, total and annular. For any given place, there might be 2 to 3 eclipses (solar or lunar) every year. Eclipses are, therefore, rare and important events for astronomers to study.
9. Meteor Showers
Every stargazer knows that sight of a shooting star is not a daily observing phenomenon. Nor the sight is a once in a lifetime moment. Meteor showers are the result of the cosmic debris entering into the earth’s atmosphere at very high speeds and burning due to friction offered by earth’s atmosphere. The frequency of occurrence of this event depends on various factors. However, there occur about 30 different meteor showers annually, visible to us.
A supermoon is a relatively rare phenomenon, which occurs when the full moon occurs in the perigee position (the shortest distant point in the elliptical orbit of the moon). One of the upcoming supermoons you probably don’t want to miss is on April 8, 2020; named the Super Pink moon. We will have to wait until Halloween (i.e. October) to observe the next supermoon.
A conjunction of two celestial bodies is another relatively rare phenomenon. It occurs when, from an observer’s point of view, two distinct astronomical bodies appear to come significantly close to one another. Speaking as of now, planet Venus is in conjunction with the moon. The rarity of conjunction depends on the two bodies. For instance, the conjunction of Mars and Jupiter occurs once every 2/3 year while that of Uranus and Neptune happens once in 171 years!
Transit of planets is another remarkably rare phenomenon, where the planets pass directly in between the observer and a bigger heavenly body(say the Sun). Different planets have different period of revolution. As a result, the transit of a particular planet can be seen extremely rarely, and it lasts only for hours. Thus, not all people across the globe are lucky enough to witness this phenomenon. The most recent planetary transit was a transit of mercury which happened on November 11, 2019. The next such transit is expected on November 13, 2032.
Every child, even adults, wish to see a shooting star and make a wish. Often, the shooting star you see is space debris being burnt by air resistance. While seeing a comet may seem common to you, turns out, it’s a rare phenomenon. Not everyone is lucky enough to see a comet fly by the earth in their lifetime. Comets usually have an elliptical orbit with a long period of revolution. Moreover, these bodies are easily deviated from their paths by gravitational influences of bigger bodies, like planets for instance. This makes the sighting of comets even rarer. One of the infamous comets, Helley’s comet is expected to fly by the earth in 2061 AD.
4. Planetary Alignment
The first picture that comes in our mind when we hear the Solar system is probably the one above, i.e. Sun and the eight planets. The planets orbit the sun in different elliptical orbits, in different planes, having different orbital period. Have you ever wondered whether all the planets could ever align linearly? Well, its not impossible. The last time it occurred, was in year 949 AD, and it won’t repeat until the year 2492 AD.
3. Supernova Explosion
Supernova is an explosion caused by the death of stars. Given the number of apparently infinite stars out there, supernova explosion should not be that uncommon right? True as well as false. Despite those extreme number of explosions, only the closest and biggest supernovae are visible from the earth. So chances are, you won’t see one in your lifetime. But one thing is for sure, it will be extremely beautiful to watch. Stars such as Betelgeuse and Eta Carinae will explode into brilliant supernovae probably 100,000 years from now, and the brightness perceived on earth will be more than that of the full moon. It can even be seen amidst daylight. It might be week-long of fireworks, painting the canvas of our sky.
2. Our collision with Andromeda Galaxy
Our next-door neighbour Andromeda, which is 2.5 million light-years away from us and is coming towards us at speed of 300km/sec. Applying elementary math 3.75 billion years from now, Andromeda will collide with our galaxy, The Milky Way, to form what scientists have named Milkdromeda. It won’t be a recurring event, neither will it occur in our lifespan. Either human species will become an intergalactic species till then, or we’ll have long gone. Either way, the collision should make a majestic event to observe.
1. The Mysterious Interstellar Traveller
The number one position is held by this seemingly odd, alien and nothing more than a rocky structure. This particular asteroid named A/2017 U1 or more commonly known as ‘Oumuamua’ (meaning messenger from afar arriving first) had left space enthusiasts and scientists awe-stricken. It was spotted by Hawaiian Pan-STARRS1 telescope system in October 19, 2017. It was the first interstellar “object” that ever managed to reach our solar system, and therefore caught the attention of media really quick. One more thing that makes it unique is its weird super hyperbolic shape. Unfortunately, scientists could not study much about this body, as it sped off with the same pace it came. Anyways, we do not expect any such similar thing to recur any time soon.
From such events, we happen to realize that there occur countless events in who knows, which part of the universe. Yet, a tiny bit of fraction, which we can observe from here, amuses us to a great extent and leads our curiosity to turn into explorations. Exploration to know the unknown, reach the inaccessible and achieve the unthinkable.
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