If you are looking forward to next year's astronomical highlights, 2013 will offer some astonishing sights that will delight novice and experienced stargazers.
Venus' appearance in the morning sky will end in late January, when it sinks below the eastern horizon. It will resume its brilliant display in the evening sky in late May above the east-southeastern horizon. Our sister planet will climb to its highest point above the horizon in November and attain its greatest brilliancy in December. Mercury makes its best appearance in the evening sky in February and best appearance in the morning in November.
Mars ends it evening appearance in early February and returns to the morning sky in June. However, this will be an off year for Mars, as it brightens very slowly when it moves from a distance of 226 million miles to 127 million miles from Earth.
Jupiter will continue to put on a glittery display in the evening sky until June and return to the morning sky in July. Saturn starts the New Year in the morning sky and shifts to the evening sky in late April. The ring world will be at its brightest for the year when it arrives at opposition on April 28. One of the best conjunctions of the year occurs on May 27 when three bright planets -- Venus, Jupiter and Mercury -- gather to within 21/2 degrees of each other 45 minutes after sunset.
The astronomy community is currently abuzz with news about a recent comet discovery. The bright comet could make a spectacular flyby of the Earth in November. Stargazers should have a good year for observing the Perseid meteor shower in August. The moon, however, will interfere with the Leonids in November and the Geminids in December.
Be on the lookout for stunning auroral displays this year, as we approach the next peak in solar activity.
-- By Dan Malerbo, Buhl Planetarium and Observatorybookclub