Observations: Predictions

What might and will happen in 2020.

Hello Everyday Astronomer,

I’ve never done a predictions post before so this is something new. What I have learned in my thousand years of watching the press is that the best predictions are the outrageous ones and when they come to pass, the predictor gets glory for a few minutes, and when they don’t, nobody cares.

My predictions are not that complicated. I’m aiming for easy glory for me when they come true 😁.

Climate Change

Things will get worse. Those with the power to do something will continue to ignore it. The rest of us will get increasingly frustrated. This prediction will definitely happen.

If you want to know what I am doing to contribute to reducing emissions, sign up for Tiny Actions

Betelgeuse will not go super nova

I would love this to happen. People who know about exploding stars predict that if it explodes it will be visible even in the daytime. Right now it is dimming, and everyone is excited. It is a variable star, so dimming is routine. Stars do their thing on galactic timescales, that is, over millions and billions of years. Expecting one of our favourites to put on a show for us on our puny human timescale is hopeful, but it’s not likely to happen, but I still hope it does.

Starlink will mess up the sky

It’s controversial to not be a fan of Elon Musk. Arrogance is not a characteristic that I admire. He’s rich, he’s made electric cars, and he has an impressive rocket launch program. Good on him. But some of his ideas are bad.

Starlink is on the list of very bad ideas. Making the internet available to poor nations reeks of the colonialism that has ended so badly for so many. It is also one of those “just because you can doesn’t mean you should” thing. 12,000 tiny satellites in the sky will do two things:

  1. Really mess with ground based professional astronomy.

  2. Really mess with amateur astronomy.

  3. Really mess with astrophotography.

  4. Risk a space junk disaster.

My prediction for 2020: more launches of Starlink satellites will generate a lot of anger in the astronomy community, and Elon Musk will tell us all that it isn’t as bad as they think, and we should all build space telescopes instead.

Amazing things will be discovered

In December 2019, the Hubble Space Telescope discovered something with the nickname of “Sugar-puff”. It’s a young planet with the density of cotton candy, or fairy floss. These planets are close to their sun, with a puffed out atmosphere that will likely dissipate with time.

The universe if full of incredible unexpected things. In 2020 smart people will discover new and amazing things.

Astrophotography will continue to astound us

Every time I check my twitter feed someone has shared a new and incredible photo of a far away object. Astrophotography is well and truly in the hands of amateurs now, and people are taking stunning images. Here are a couple of my favourite photographers/sites:

  • Seán Doran. Seán takes data from space missions and processes them into extraordinary images and videos.

  • Astronomy Photo of the Day. APOD chooses a new image everyday to amaze us.

  • Mark Gee from NZ creates incredible time-lapses of the night sky from very dark places.

  • Peter Dunsby shares his images on Instagram.

  • Sara Wagner makes stunning images from her observatory in Spain.

  • Dylan O’Donnell from Byron Bay in Australia shares his knowledge and his images as public domain so I can share one with you here. You may recognise this as the Orion Nebula.

Please remember to credit the creator of any work that you share online. These people work hard and use their talents to create beautiful things for us to enjoy. If it is worth sharing, then they deserve the credit.

Astronomical Events for 2020

These predictions are based on science and will definitely happen. Whether you will be able to see them or not requires a weather prediction and I won’t make any promises there.

Here are 5 of the best events for 2020. Even if you can’t travel to see the events not visible from your place there will be plenty of coverage online.

1. Moon Occults Mars

Some parts of the world saw the Saturn pass behind the Moon last year and this year is the turn of Mars. This is called an occultation and because the Moon is so close to Earth, these events are not visible from everywhere on Earth.

In the early morning of February 18 the crescent moon will be rising and cover the bright planet Mars.

This will be visible from the western part of North America, Central America, Cuba, Haiti and the very northern part of South America. If you are in the eastern part of North America this will happen in daylight so it will not be visible.

If you can see it it will be awesome.

2. Venus in April

Venus is putting on a magnificent show this year. It is visible later than usual in the evening. For much of April it will be in Pleiades. With a good telescope and a wide field eyepiece you will see it’s beautiful crescent and the blue-white stars of Pleiades. This may be worth going to a dark site to see.

As usual, when Venus is in the evening sky, the New Moon and Venus will put on a beautiful show for naked eye viewers in the early months of 2020.

3. Eclipses. Annular in June and Total in December.

An Annular eclipse is when the Moon covers the face of the Sun, but not quite. This happens because the Moon is at the more distant part of its orbit, and not quite the same angular size as the Sun. This results in the part of the Sun still being visible. Along the path of the eclipse you will see a ring around the dark silhouette of the Moon.

This will be visible from parts of Africa, Middle East, Pakistan, northern India, southern China, Taiwan, the Philippine Sea and Pacific Ocean. The best view will be from northern India, even then the eclipse will only last 38 seconds. 

In December there is a total eclipse. This is visible from the lower part of South America and a little bit of southern Africa. The best spot is in remote Argentina where the eclipse will last nearly 2 minutes and 10 seconds. 

4. Mars in October

Mars is going to have an amazing year. It is at opposition on October 13 and it will be big and bright (relatively speaking). It will have a magnitude of -2.6 and will be even brighter than Jupiter. Only the Moon and Venus are brighter than Mars will be in October 2020.

The opportunity to see features on Mars through a good telescope will be the best you can get. The naked-eye view will be something to remember, especially if you watch it over the months before and after and see it become brighter and then dimmer.

5. Jupiter, meet Saturn

Conjunctions are one of the fun things about being an amateur astronomer. They are often naked-eye visible. They occur with objects that move around the sky, either with each other, or with stationary objects such as stars or star clusters.

On December 21 Jupiter and Saturn will be together in the sky, closer to each other in the sky than the width of the Moon, in fact just one fifth of this distance. With a good telescope and eyepiece you will see them both in the same view. They haven’t been this close since 1623.

This will be an opportunity to get some great images. Look out for some spectacular images online.

So there you have it: some of my predictions which may, or may not actually happen, and 5 that definitely will. I don’t mind if you trust science more than you trust me with these things.

I hope you are enjoying Observations. Please let me know what you think. You can reply to this email, though the return address is a bit scary! It will get to me. You can also join The Everyday Astronomers Community for free to discuss your thoughts with others.

Lisa Harvey
Founder and Host of Everyday Astronomers

How to find me.