2013 Astronomy Highlights

Every year Bishop Museum’s J. Watumull Planetarium provides a calendar of astronomical events specifically for Hawaii’s location and time zone.  Most sources that list the times for moon phases, meteor shower peaks, the start of the seasons and other events provide that information in Universal Time (UT), which if ten hours ahead of Hawaiian time.  If the moon is full at 4:00 hours UT on August 26, for example, it will be full in Hawai‘i ten hours earlier, or at 6 PM on August 25 Hawai‘i Standard Time (HST). 

In addition, there are certain celestial events that are specific to Hawai‘i. These include the date of Makahiki (Hawaiian New Year), which is determined by the first visible sliver of a moon after the noon moon after the rising of the Pleiades at sunset (which occurs on November 17 each year).  This calendar also provides the dates and times for Lāhainā Noon for many locations in the islands.  Lāhainā Noon is the term for the two days each year when the sun is exactly overhead.  This only occurs in the tropics, and the dates vary depending on latitude. 

January 1
Earth at perihelion. This occurs at 7 p.m. January 1 Hawai‘i Standard Time, 5:00 January 2 Universal Time. Like all planets, the earth’s orbit is not a perfect circle but rather an oval.  Earth reaches perihelion, its closest approach to the sun, in early January each year. 

February 10
Chinese New Year.  Chinese New Year occurs two new moons before the first day of spring (which is March 20 this year Universal Time).

March 10
Start of Daylight Saving Time for most of continental US and Canada.  As of this day, the east coast is six hours ahead of the Hawaiian Islands and the west coast is three hours ahead of Hawai‘i.

March 20
Spring begins at 1:03 a.m. Hawai‘i Standard Time on March 20 (11:03 Universal Time).

March 31
Easter Sunday.  The Sunday after the first full moon after the first day of spring.

April 25
Partial lunar eclipse over Europe, Africa, Asia; not visible at all in Hawaiian Islands

The first eclipse of 2013 is a deep partial lunar eclipse that will be visible, weather permitting, in southern Europe, Africa and Asia.  In Rome, for example, the deepest moment of the partial eclipse occurs around 9:15 p.m. April 25 local time.  This would be 10:15 a.m. on the 25th in the Hawaiian Islands, for those who like to know such things, but of course we will not see this eclipse at all.  Hawai‘i is exactly opposite the part of the world where this lunar eclipse is visible.

In a partial lunar eclipse, part of the moon goes into the deep inner shadow of earth (the umbra).  The eclipse on April 25 is a very deep partial eclipse; viewers in Europe, Africa and Asia will see most of the moon turn dark during the deepest moments of the eclipse.  Most of Africa and all of the Middle East will see the eclipse from start to finish, which lasts several hours.  India, western China, Thailand and western Australia will also see the entire event.  The lunar eclipse will already be in progress at moonrise in most of Europe and western Africa. The moon will set while still in eclipse in eastern China, eastern Australia and Okinawa.


Note: The next lunar eclipse visible in the Hawaiian Islands occurs on April 14, 2014 Hawai‘i Standard Time.

April 28
Saturn in opposition.  The ringed planet rises at dusk, is overhead in the middle of the night, and sets at dawn. 

May 9
Partial solar eclipse (visible from Hawaiian Islands)
Hawai‘i is the only state that will see this first solar eclipse of 2013.  From Hawai‘i, this eclipse will start at 2:23 p.m. on May 9.  At the peak, around 3:48 p.m., about one-third of the sun will be blocked out by the moon.  The eclipse ends at 5:01 p.m.

While not visible at all in the other 50 states, most of Polynesia will see a partial eclipse as well.  Pape‘ete, Tahiti, for example, will also see about 1/3 of the sun covered at maximum, which occurs around 4 p.m. local time in Tahiti on the 9th of May.  The partial eclipse will also be visible in most of Australia, most of New Zealand, and Indonesia.

Viewers in a narrow band across the Pacific will see an annular solar eclipse.  An annular solar eclipse occurs when the moon moves in front of the sun’s disc at a time in the moon’s orbit when our moon is not large enough to block the entire sun. This occurs when the moon is at a distant point in its orbit around the earth. Being farther away than normal, the moon looks a little smaller, and is not large enough to block the entire sun.  Thus, while the moon seems dead center in the middle of the sun’s disc, a ring of sunshine appears around the moon.  The term “annular” comes from the Latin word for “ring.”
As with a total solar eclipse, only a small portion of the earth will see this annular eclipse.  This annular eclipse will be visible in northern Australia and eastern Papua New Guinea The path of the annular eclipse then passes over Basilaki Island, on the eastern end of the Papa New Guinea, and then the Solomon Islands. The center of the path of the annular eclipse passes over Choiseul Island in the Solomons. After that the annular eclipse passes over Tarawa Atoll in the Republic of Kiribati. Here, the annular phase will last nearly six minutes.  After this, the annular eclipse encounters no more land.  All of these places mentioned here are on the other side of the International Date Line, so in all cases the annular eclipse for these areas occurs on May 10.

May 24/25
Penumbral Lunar Eclipse
Not visible in Hawai‘i

Most penumbral lunar eclipses are of academic interest only.  This one on May 24/25 is worse than most!
In a penumbral lunar eclipse, the moon goes into the earth’s outer shadow (“penumbra”) only, and there is usually no visible change in the moon’s brightness.  In a partial lunar eclipse, part of the moon goes into the earth’s dark inner shadow, and you can see part of the moon go dark.  In a total lunar eclipse, the entire moon goes into the earth’s inner shadow, and the entire moon turns dark, or red. 

If you had hypersensitive super-eyes that could detect tiny changes in the full moon’s brightness, you could ‘see’ this penumbral eclipse in nearly all of North and South America and Western Europe of the night of May 24-25.   Only a small portion of the moon will pass into the penumbra at all, however, so this will be a true non-event.   The peak of this non-event will be 4:00 Universal Time on May 25.  This is 6 pm Hawai‘i Standard Time on May 24, but again we won’t see anything.  The moon’s not up by then, even putting aside the fact that people who can see the moon that night won’t see any change in the moon’s appearance.

June 20
Summer begins on June 20 at 7:05 p.m. Hawai‘i Standard Time (5:05 on June 21 Universal Time).  This is a good example of an important event that occurs on different days in Hawai‘i Standard time and Universal Time.  This is the longest day for the northern hemisphere and the shortest for the southern hemisphere.

July 5
Earth at aphelion (most distant point from the sun in our annual orbit around the sun). 5 am Hawai‘i Standard Time on July 5, 15:00 on July 5 Universal Time.

September 22
Autumn begins at 10:45 a.m. on September 22 Hawai‘i Standard Time (20:45 Universal Time on September 22.)

October 18
Penumbral Lunar Eclipse (not visible in Hawaiian Islands)
There is another penumbral lunar eclipse on October 18, though it will not be visible in the Hawaiian Islands; the peak will occur around 2 p.m. on October 18 Hawai‘i Standard Time, long before the moon rises above our horizon.  

Most of North and South America, Europe, Africa and Asia (except for Japan) will “see” this eclipse, but not the Pacific.
While penumbral eclipses of the moon are usually of only academic interest, the moon does go deep into the earth’s penumbra for this one, and viewers in Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas may be able to see a distinct shading of the moon’s southern half during the peak. This peak occurs around 23:50 Universal Time on October 18.  This means the peak occurs around 6:50 p.m. on October 18 in Chicago, for example, and 7:50 p.m. in New York.

November 3
Hybrid total/annular solar eclipse (not visible in Hawaiian Islands)
This is a rare event; a solar eclipse that appears as a total eclipse in some areas of its path across the earth, and as an annular or ‘ring’ eclipse elsewhere along this path.  In this case, the eclipse touches down in the Atlantic Ocean, about 600 miles east of Florida, as an annular eclipse.  The moon is just a little too far from the earth to cover the entire solar disc at this moment; so viewers in the ocean would see a ring of sunlight around the disc of the moon, even though the moons is dead center in the middle of that solar disc.  Soon after touching down, however, the eclipse turns into a total eclipse, the moon now just large enough to fully cover the sun’s blazing disc.   It will remain total for the rest of its path across earth.
The path of totality crosses the Atlantic, then crosses through the central part of Africa, the only continent where the total eclipse will be visible.  It passes over parts of Gabon, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and Kenya.  At its greatest duration on land, in Gabon in western Africa, the total phase will last about 1 minute and 7 seconds.  By the time the eclipse passes over Kenya, in the eastern side of the continent, the total phase lasts only 14 seconds. An indeed, at the eastern edge of the total eclipse’s path, in Somalia, the total phrase, at sunset, lasts only one second!

Hawai‘i is on the other side of the world for this event, and we’ll see nothing.  When the eclipse is going total in Gabon, for example, it’ll be 3:51 a.m. on November 3 here in the islands, no sun in sight.

However, this eclipse will be seen as an early-morning partial eclipse in the eastern US and Canada on November 3.   In Boston, for example, the sun rises is eclipse around 6:24 a.m., with nearly half the sun blocked by the moon.  (Interesting, this is the same morning that most of the continental US goes off of Daylight Saving Time).  The eclipse ends there around 7:17 a.m.   In Miami, the sun rises in eclipse on November 3 and the eclipse ends at 7:03 Eastern Standard time.  Virtually all of Africa will see a partial solar eclipse on November 3; so will all of Spain and Portugal, the southern third of Italy, most of Greece and most of Turkey. 

November 3
Daylight Saving Time ends at 2 a.m. for most of continental US and Canada.  As of this day, the east coast is 5 hours ahead of the Hawaiian Islands and the West Coast is two hours ahead.

December 4
Makahiki (start of the Hawaiian year).  To mark the start of the Makahiki season: 1) wait for the star cluster of the Pleiades to rise at sunset, which occurs every year on November 17; 2) wait for the new moon that follows this sunset rising of the Pleiades, which occurs in 2013 on December 2; 3) wait for the first visible crescent moon that follows this new moon.  This year, this slender crescent should be visible in the west at dusk on December 4, thus marking the start of the Makahiki season and of the Hawaiian year.

December 21
Winter starts at 7:12 a.m. Hawai‘i Standard Time on December 21 (17:12 Universal Time on December 21).

Meteor Showers

Quadrantid Meteor shower
Peak night: night of January 2-3, 2012
The Quadrantid meteor shower peaks on the morning of January 3 (i.e. stay up late on January 2, or get up on the 3rd before daybreak) Hawai‘i time.  Between 12:01 a.m. and dawn on the 3rd of January, look east.  During this shower you can see between 60 and 200 meteors per hour.  The streaks appear to come from the constellation of Bootes the Herdsman, in the northeast.  “Quadrants Muralis,” or “Mural Quadrant,” an old name for a constellation that is now part of the constellation of Bootes.  The shower is caused by debris left over from Asteroid 2003 EH1, one of the rare showers created by asteroid rather than comet debris.  The Quadrantids tend to be bright, so even with a waning gibbous moon, the view should be good for this shower. 

Lyrid Meteor Shower
Peak: night of April 21-22, 2012
The Lyrid Shower, the first significant meteor shower since the January Quadrantids, peaks on the night of April 21-22.  I.e. stay up late on April 21, past midnight, and look for shooting stars.  The shower is active from April 16 – 25.  While not one of the strongest showers, the Lyrids can produce up to twenty meteors per hour.    In 2013 the waxing gibbous moon provides interference until moonset early on April 22.  The moon goes down at 3:45 a/m/ early on April 22, so your best bet might be to get up early and try to catch the shower from 3:45 a.m. to dawn on April 22.  The Lyrids come from the debris of Comet C/1861 G Thatcher.

Eta Aquarid Shower
Peak: evenings of May 4-5 and May 5-6.  The portion of Aquarius where the shoot stars radiate rises above the horizon around 3:45 a.m.  This is a light shower, 10 meteors or so per hour.   The viewing gets better as you go south on the planet, so the view may be better in Hawai‘i than further north. One claim to fame: this shower is one of two showers caused by debris from Halley’s Comet, along with the Orionids in October.    There is a waning crescent moon during the peak nights of the shower, rising at 3:15 a.m. on May 5 and 3:50 a.m. on May 6.

Southern Delta Aquarid Meteor Shower
Peak: nights of July 28-29 and 29-30.  Active period: July 18–August 18.  Up to 20 meteors per hour.  The moon is waxing gibbous and sets around 2:30am early on July 29 and 3:40am early on 30th.   This one should be good from the Hawaiian Islands but the view will be better from the southern hemisphere.   This shower does not have a definite peak, being spread out over two mornings.  On July 28-29 the moon is third quarter, and rises at 11:55 p.m. The following night it rises at 12:40 a.m. Both nights, the moon will provide some interference.

Perseid Meteor Show
Peak: nights of August 10-11, 11-12, and 12-13. Active from July 23 – August 22. The most famous meteor shower, with up to 80 per hour.  The peak nights occur during a waxing crescent moon, which sets long before midnight, so viewing should be good.  The Perseids often leave long trails.   Generated by debris from Comet 109 P Swift Tuttle.

Orionid Meteor Shower
Peak: night of October 20-21.  Stay up late on the 20th and into the early hours of October 21. Active period: October 15-25.  A good shower, like the Eta Aquarids caused by debris from Halley’s Comet. Up to 20-25 meteors per hour.  Not a strong year for this shower due to the just-past-full moon, which rises at 8 p.m. on October 20 and is in the sky all night.  

Leonid Meteor Shower
Peak: Nights of November 16-17; active period is November 13 – 20.  The Leonids have an intense peak every 33 years and were responsible for the greatest meteor shower over Hawai‘i in recent times, the 2001 shower.  Prior to that 2001 spectacle, the 1966 shower was one of the greatest on record.
Don’t expect anything like those shows till 2034, that said.  In 2013 the full moon will be a major interference. Still, you can still look for up to 10 per hour.   

Geminid Meteor Shower
Peak: nights of December 12-13 and13-14.  Active period: December 6 – 19.  One of the best showers; and we in Hawai‘i often have good weather in December to see it. The moon is new, so viewing conditions are excellent.  This meteor shower is a rarity in that it is caused by debris from an asteroid (3200 Phaethon) rather than by comet debris.  The waxing Gibbous moon will provide interference till it sets at 3:45 a.m. on the morning of December 13 and 4:45 a.m. on December 14.

Lāhainā Noon

In the tropics, there are two dates a year where the sun passes exactly overhead at local noon.  One term in Hawai‘i for this phenomenon is “Lāhainā Noon.” The dates and times of “zenith noon” change depending on your location in the tropics.  Here are the timings for various locations in the Hawaiian Islands.

2013 Lāhaina Noon days and times


May 30 12:35 p.m.

July 11 12:42 p.m.


May 27 12:28 p.m.

July 15 12:37 p.m.


May 26 12:28 p.m.

July 15 12:37 p.m.


May 25 12:24 p.m.

July 16 12:34 p.m.

Lāna‘i City

May 24 12:24 p.m.

July 18 12:33 p.m.


May 24 12:23 p.m.

July 18 12:32 p.m.


May 24 12:22 p.m.

July 18 12:32 p.m.


May 18 12:16 p.m.

July 24 12:26 p.m.


May 18 12:20 p.m.

July 24 12:30 p.m.

2013 Moon phases      
Hawaii Standard Time      

New Moon

First Quarter

Full Moon

Third Quarter


Jan 4, 5:58 p.m.

Jan 11, 9:44 a.m.

Jan 18, 1:45 p.m.

Jan 26, 6:38 p.m.

Feb 3, 3:56 a.m.

Feb 9, 9:20 p.m.

Feb 17, 10:31 a.m.

Feb 25, 10:26 a.m.

March 4, 11:53 a.m.

Mar 11, 9:51 a.m.

Mar 19, 7:27 a.m.

Mar 26, 11:27 p.m.

April 2, 6:37 p.m.

April 9, 11:35 p.m.

April 18, 2:31 a.m.

April 25, 9:57 a.m.

May 2, 1:14 a.m.

May 9, 2:28 p.m.

May 17, 6:35 p.m.

May 24, 6:25 p.m.

May 31, 8:58 a.m.

June 8, 5:56 a.m.

June 16, 7:24a.m.

June 23, 1:32 a.m.

Jun 29, 6:54 p.m.

July 7, 9:14 p.m.

July 15, 5:18

July 23, 8:16 a.m.

July 29, 7:43 p.m.

Aug 6, 11:51 a.m.

Aug 14, 12:56 a.m.

Aug 20, 3:45 p.m.

Aug 27, 11:35 p.m.

Sept 5, 1:36 a.m.

Sept 12, 7:08 a.m.

Sept 19, 1:13 a.m.

Sept 26, 5:55 p.m.

Oct 4, 2:35 p.m.

Oct 11, 1:02 p.m.

Oct 18, 1:38 p.m.

Oct 26, 1:40 p.m.

Nov 3, 2:50 a.m.

Nov 9, 7:57 p.m.

Nov 17, 5:16 a.m.

Nov 25, 9:28 a.m.

Dec 2, 2:22 p.m.

Dec 9, 5:12 a.m.

Dec 16, 11:38 p.m.

Dec 25, 3:48 a.m.

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