JUNE: Look for Mars just south of the waning crescent moon after midnight on June 6. Summer will arrive with the solstice at 10:48 a.m. EDT on June 21, the longest day, with 15 hours and 1 minute of sunlight.
JULY: This is a red-letter month for astronomers with big telescopes as 17 kilometer-size fragments of the comet,
Shoemaker-Levy 9, batter the backside of dense, gaseous Jupiter. The collisions will last from July 18 to July 23, socking the planet with huge quantities of kinetic energy. But it's a first for scientists, so nobody really knows what they'll see.
"It's a very dramatic concept," said Mr. Heyn, "but I'm a little bit afraid it might be some kind of letdown." Possibilities for amateurs with hefty scopes include storms in the cloud belts or flashes big enough to brighten Jupiter's moons. The Hubble Space Telescope may have the best seat.
On July 5, Earth is at its farthest (aphelion) distance from the sun (94.5 million miles).
AUGUST: The annual Perseid meteor shower is back on the night of Aug. 11-12. Millions were disappointed last August when predictions of a once-in-a-lifetime deluge fizzled. But those with clear skies saw a good show anyway. Find a dark spot after midnight, and take a lounge chair or a blanket. Expect 100 meteors per hour from the northeast. This may be the big one.
SEPTEMBER: Yellowish Saturn will rise at sunset on Sept. 1, the brightest "star" that doesn't twinkle. Look for Venus and Jupiter beside the crescent moon after sunset on Sept. 8. That's Venus to the south, and Jupiter to the north.
The Harvest Moon will rise on Sept. 19. Venus will be its most brilliant as the evening star Sept. 28. Autumn is late, arriving at 2:19 a.m. EDT on Sept. 23.
OCTOBER: Venus and Jupiter will be close to the crescent moon after sunset Oct. 7. The Hunter's Moon will rise on Oct. 19.
NOVEMBER: A total eclipse of the sun will occur on Nov. 3, but you'll have to go down to South America to see it. But that's a lot of trouble for 4 minutes and 23 seconds of totality and a risk of clouds.
DECEMBER: The year's earliest sunset will be at 4:41 p.m. on Dec. 7, Pearl Harbor Day. Venus will be brilliant as the morning star on Dec. 9. The Geminid meteor shower could bring 95 shooting stars an hour after midnight Dec. 14. Winter will arrive at 9:23 p.m. EST on Dec. 21. It's also the shortest day, just 9 hours and 20 minutes of sunlight. Jupiter and Venus will make a nice pair in the east before dawn after Christmas, crowding the waning moon on Dec. 29.