Driftless Dark Skies

It has been a great joy sharing stargazing with you these last eight years in Voice. I started this gig in 2014 as I was ending work as a high school English teacher for an encore career as an astronomy educator. Some months I struggled to find my topic. Other months I knew my topic well ahead of time. For a finale, I would like to share some of the coming astronomical events I am most anticipating. Feel free to clip and post on your fridge. Times are for the River Valley.

Nov. 8, 2022: Total Lunar Eclipse 3:09 a.m.-6:49 a.m. There will be more lunar eclipses this decade on March 13, 2025, March 3, 2026, June 25, 2029, and Dec. 20, 2029.

Oct. 14, 2023: Partial Solar Eclipse 10:33 a.m.-1:17 p.m. If you travel to the path from Oregon to Texas, you can see a “Ring of Fire” Annular Eclipse. Protect your eyes with eclipse glasses.

April 8, 2024: Partial Solar Eclipse 12:50 p.m.-3:18 p.m. If it is at all possible, journey to the eclipse path from Texas to Maine to be awed by a Total Solar Eclipse. It’s really something you should experience once in a lifetime. The path is closest to us as it passes through southeastern Missouri and southern Illinois.

Jan. 14, 2029: Partial Solar Eclipse 9:51 a.m.-12:53 p.m.

Sept. 15, 2035: Close approach of Mars to Earth. If it’s cloudy that night, Mars will be just as bright and glowing like an ember all month in the southern sky. Just as close August 2050.

Sept. 8, 2040: All five visible planets (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn) will be close together in the western evening sky along with a crescent moon.

Summer 2061: Halley’s Comet returns after 76 years and will be bright and beautiful after sunset in the northern sky.

Nov. 10, 2084: Transit of Earth. Head to Mars to be wowed by Earth and Moon passing in front of the sun.

Sept. 14, 2099: Total Solar Eclipse passes through the Driftless Area on a Monday morning! 

Those are the predicted events. But there are so many other random events like northern lights and meteors and comets and maybe even a supernova that are more challenging to predict. I appreciate that not everyone reading this will remain in life long enough for all these events. But we all know younger people with us now who will be there to greet the 22nd century. I hope they are watching for us. I hope they remember us as good ancestors. I hope we are all outside looking up as much as possible to be awed by the dark skies of the Driftless.

John Heasley is an astronomy educator and stargazer who enjoys connecting people with the cosmos. He volunteers with NASA/JPL as a Solar System Ambassador, with the IAU as a Dark Skies Ambassador, and with International Dark-Sky Association as an Advocate. For more information about stargazing in southwestern Wisconsin, like Driftless Stargazing LLC on Facebook and find out whenever there’s something awesome happening in the skies.