Astronomy Events 2014

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.  .  Since the moon is full at 6:15 hours UT on April 28, 2014, for example, it will be full in Hawai‘i ten hours earlier, or at 8:15 p.m. on April 28 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 4
Earth at perihelion. This occurs at 1 a.m. January 4 Hawai‘i Standard 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. Some people think that the change in the seasons is due to how close we are to the sun.  However, what really matters here is the tilt of the earth.  Each January, while we are closer to the sun than at any other time of the year, the northern hemisphere is tilted away from the sun, and so we experience winter. 

January 31
Chinese New Year.  Chinese New Year occurs two new moons before the first day of spring, which occurs on March 21 this year.  The new moon that marks Chinese New Year occurs in Hawai‘i on January 30, 2014.  However, the determining factor for marking Chinese New Year is when the moon is new in China. The moon that is new in Hawai‘i on January 30 is new in China on January 31, on the other side of the international date line, so January 31 is the day around the world for marking Chinese New Year this year.  (This is a good example of a sky event that occurs on one day in the Hawaiian Islands and on a different day in another part of our planet.)

Full moon for Valentine’s Day
The moon is full for this Valentine’s Day, Friday February 14.  While there have been a few recent Valentine’s Days when the moon was very close to full, it’s been a very long time since the moon was actually full on February 14.  The last time the moon was full on February 14, both in Universal time and Hawai‘i Standard Time, was 36 years ago, on February 14, 1968.

February 15
Venus is at its brightest in the predawn sky.  Minus 4.64 magnitude.

March 9
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.  The Hawaiian Islands do not observe Daylight Saving Time.

March 20
Spring begins at 6:58 a.m. Hawai‘i Standard Time on March 20 (16:58 Universal Time).

April 8
Mars in opposition; rises at sunset, sets at dawn; brightest appearance since 2007.  The planet shines at magnitude minus 1.5, as bright as Sirius, the brightest star.

April 20
Easter Sunday.  The Sunday after the first full moon after the first day of spring.

April 14, 2014
Total lunar eclipse; visible in the Hawaiian Islands
Please note:  this event occurs on April 14 in Hawai‘i. However, it occurs in Universal Time on April 15.  It also occurs in the early hours of April 15 throughout North America.  But don’t be misled by news about the ‘April 15 total lunar eclipse.’  From the Hawaiian Islands this major event occurs during the evening hours of April 14; and, if you try to see if from the islands on April 15, you will be literally a day late.

The Hawaiian Islands are well-placed to get a view of this total lunar eclipse from start to finish.  During a lunar eclipse, the earth passes in between the sun and the full moon, and blocks much of the sun’s light from striking the moon.

The April 14 lunar eclipse will be visible from 7:58p.m. to 11:33 pm on April 14 in the Hawaiian Islands; the total phase, when the moon turns very dark and possibly blood red, will run from 9:06 p.m. to 10:24 p.m.

This eclipse technically starts at 6:53 p.m. HST, shortly after the full moon rises at 6:42 p.m. However, for this first hour, you will see no change in the full moon’s appearance. This first phase of the lunar eclipse is called the ‘penumbral phrase’, as the moon starts to move into the fainter outer shadow, or penumbra, of the earth.  The penumbral phase is of academic interest only; you will not see any change in the full moon’s brightness during this phase of the eclipseAt 7:58 p.m. HST the partial phase of the lunar eclipse will begin; from that point on, you should start to notice a change in the moon  During the partial phase, the moon begins to cross into the deep inner shadow of the earth, or the umbra.  For the next hour or so, you will see a deeper and deeper ‘bite’ taken out of the moon as more and more of the moon slides into the earth’s deep inner shadow. Meanwhile the part of the moon that is not yet in the umbra will remain as bright as a regular full moon. Depending on weather conditions, the darkened part of the moon could look reddish or black. 

At 9:06 p.m. HST the total phase of the eclipse begins.  At this point the entire moon is in the earth’s dark inner shadow.  The moon will be very dark at this point; sometimes it turns a deep red, sometimes it seems to vanish entirely.  The total phase will last over 75 minutes.  The stars will become much more visible than during a normal full moon, since the moon’s brightness is greatly reduced. The total phase of this lunar eclipse ends at 10:24 p.m. HST, as the moon starts to move out of the earth’s dark shadow. 

There will be another partial phase after this total phase ends, and it will last from 10:24 to 11:33 p.m. HST as more and more of the moon returns to ‘normal.’  By 11:33 pm the visible part of the eclipse will be over.  Though the moon will continue to pass through the earth’s outer shadow, or penumbra, from 11:33 pm till 12:37 a.m., the penumbral phase is again of academic interest only and the moon will look like a normal full moon during that whole phase. Weather permitting, virtually all North, Central and South America will see this lunar eclipse on April 14-15
More: eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/eclipse.html

April 29
Annular solar eclipse
NOT VISIBLE IN HAWAIIAN ISLANDS
While a spectacular year for lunar eclipses, 2014 is less so for solar eclipses.  There are no total eclipses of the sun in 2014.  The solar eclipse of April 29, 2014 will be visible as an annular eclipse from a very small part of Antarctica.  An annular eclipse occurs when the moon is a little more distant from the earth than usual on its orbit around our planet. Being a little more distant than usual, the moon does not appear big enough to block the entire sun running an eclipse, even when the moon’s disk is right in the middle of the sun’s disk.  Thus you see a ring of sunlight shining around the moon (‘annular’ comes from ‘annulus,’ the Latin word for ‘ring’).   The difference between an annular and a total eclipse is literally like day and night.  The sun’s disk is so bright that, if any part of it remains visible (even that little ring of the sun’s disk during an annular eclipse), you would not have that ‘darkness during the day’ effect that occurs during a total eclipse.

This April 29 annular eclipse will be visible from only a small part of Antarctica (on the side of the continent nearest to Australia).  Viewers in that area (using safe viewing filters), would see the sun go into an annular phase for as long as 49 seconds on the 29th of April, with a brilliant ring of sunlight shining around the moon.  The sun will be right on the horizon during this annular phase. 
All of Australia and the very southern edge of Indonesia will see a partial solar eclipse on this day.
More: eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/eclipse.html

May 10
Saturn in opposition; the ringed planet rises in the east at dusk,  is high overhead a midnight, sets in the west at dawn.  The ringed planet shines at 0.06 magnitude.

June 21
Summer begins on June 21 at 12:52 a.m a.m. Hawai‘i Standard Time (10:52 on June 21 Universal Time).  This is the longest day for the northern hemisphere and the shortest for the southern hemisphere.

July 3
Earth at aphelion (most distant point from the sun in our annual orbit around the sun). 2:00 pm Hawai‘i Standard Time on July 3, 0:00 on July 4 Universal Time.

August 18
Very close conjunction in morning sky of Venus and Jupiter, the brightest planets; at 5 a.m., rising in the east, the two planets appear less than half a degree apart. 

September 22
Autumn begins at 4:30 p.m. on September 22 Hawai‘i Standard Time (2:30 Universal Time on September 23.)

October 7-8
Total Lunar Eclipse
Visible from Hawaii
The Hawaiian Islands are well-placed for both of the total lunar eclipses of 2014.  As with the eclipse of April 14-15, we will see this entire October 6-8 eclipse from the islands, weather permitting,

The viewing of the lunar eclipse will run from 11:14 p.m. on October 7 to 2:34 a.m. on October 8. 14 in the Hawaiian Islands; the total phase, when the moon turns very dark and possibly blood red, will run from 12:21 a.m. to 1:24 a.m. early on October 8.
This eclipse actually starts at 10:15 p.m. on October 7, HST; however, for the first hour or so, you will see no change in the full moon’s appearance.  This will be the penumbral phrase, as the moon starts to move into the outer shadow, or penumbra, of the earth.

At 11:14 p.m. HST the partial phase of the lunar eclipse will begin.  During the partial phase, the moon begins to cross into the deep inner shadow of the earth, or the umbra.  For the next hour or so, you will see a deeper and deeper ‘bite’ taken out of the moon as more and more of the moon slides into the earth’s deep inner shadow.   Depending on weather conditions, the darkened part of the moon could look reddish or black. 

By 12:25 a.m. on October 8 HST the total phase of the eclipse begins.  At this point the entire moon is in the earth’s dark inner shadow.  The moon will be very dark at this point; sometimes it turns a deep red, sometimes it seems to vanish entirely.  The total phase will last over 75 minutes.  The total phase ends at 1:24 a.m. on October 8, HST as the moon starts to move out of the earth’s dark shadow. 

There will be another partial phase after this total phase ends, and it will last from 1:24 to 2:34 a.m. HST early on October 8 as more and more of the moon returns to ‘normal.’  By 2:34 a.m. the visible eclipse will be over.  Though the moon will continue to pass through the earth’s outer shadow, or penumbra, from 2:34 pm till 3:33 a.m., the penumbral phase is of academic interest only and the moon will look like a normal full moon during that whole phase.

The western half of the continental US will get a good view of this October 7-8 lunar eclipse, as well Japan, eastern Australia, and all of Polynesia including New Zealand.
More: eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/eclipse.html

October 23
Partial solar eclipse (not visible in Hawaiian Islands)
Hawai‘i won’t see this partial eclipse of the sun on October 23; we are just outside the zone on our planet where it will be visible.  An unusual aspect of this eclipse is that virtually all of North America will see it, weather permitting, but virtually no other part of the planet (except Siberia) will.  Maximum eclipse will occur in Los Angeles at about 3:40 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time on October 23, when about 1/3 of the sun will be covered and around 5:40 p.m. in Chicago Central Daylight Time, just before sunset.  From New York City eastward, the sun will be below the horizon by the time the eclipse starts and won’t be visible.
More: eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/eclipse.html

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

November 24
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 2014 on November 22; 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 November 24, thus marking the start of the Makahiki season and of the Hawaiian year.

December 21
Winter starts at 1:04 p.m. Hawai‘i Standard Time on December 21 (23:04 Universal Time on December 21).

Meteor Showers

For all meteor showers, the viewing will be better after midnight.  These repeating annual events are caused as the earth enters into debris left over from a specific comet (or, in the case of the Geminids, an asteroid).  As the earth goes around the sun, our planet runs into the same debris at the same time each year. This is why these showers occur at the same time each year.  After midnight, the part of the earth that you are on is facing toward the debris that causes the meteor shower.  This is why all meteor showers are better after midnight.

Meteor star showers are named for the constellation where the meteors appear to come from.  The Lyrid shower in named for Lyra, the harp, for example.  (The Quadrantid Shower refers to an old constellation called Quadrans Muralis, which is now part of Bootes). Generally these constellations are rising in the east during the prime post-midnight viewing time for a shower.  That said, don’t just look east – scan the entire sky for shooting stars.

To view shooting star showers, just find a dark location (as little city light as possible) and get comfortable (a lawn chair is a good idea). 

More on meteor showers: www.amsmeteors.org/meteor-showers/meteor-shower-calendar/

Quadrantid Meteor shower
Peak night: night of January 2-3, 2014
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).  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.  “Quadrant Muralis,” or “Mural Quadrant,” an old name for part of the constellation of Bootes.   The peak of this shower occurs around 3 a.m. Hawai‘i Standard Time.  The Quadrantids tend to be bright, and the lack of any lunar interference this year makes for promising meteor hunting.

Lyrid Meteor Shower
Peak: night of April 21-22, 2014
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.   On the prime viewing night of April 21-22 the third quarter moon does rise in the east at about 1:20 a.m. on 4/22, in the same general direction as where the meteors come from, so this will provide some interference. 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, 2014.  The portion of Aquarius where the shoot stars radiate rises above the horizon around 3:45 a.m.  This is a light shower, 10 to 30 meteors or so per hour when viewed from the northern half of our planet.   Activity is good for the week centered on those peak nights of May 4-5 and 5-6. The viewing gets better as you go south on the planet, and these shower is best seen from the southern tropics; that said, while the Hawaiian Islands are still 1500 miles north of the equator, the viewing may be better in Hawai‘i than further north in the northern hemisphere. 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 waxing crescent moon during the peak nights of the shower, but it sets well before for the peak meteor viewing; the moon lets at 11:30 p.m. on the night of May 4-5 and by 12:20 a.m. on the night of April 5-6.

Southern Delta Aquarid Meteor Shower
Peak: nights of July 28-29 and 29-30, 2014.  Active period: July 18–August 18.  Up to 20 meteors per hour.  The moon just past new during the peak and sets early in the evening, so there will be no lunar interference.   As with the Eta Aquarid shower in May, this other Aquarius shower is also better seen from the southern hemisphere.   Hawaii is well north of the equator but again we’re in a better position that much of the northern hemisphere to view it, since we’re pretty far south.   This shower does not have a definite peak, being spread out over two mornings.  The lack of moonlight is important, since the Southern Delta Aquarids are faint meteors.  This shower may be due to comet 96P/Machholz but the pedigree is not 100 per cent confirmed.

Perseid Meteor Show
Peak: nights of August 11-12; nights of August 10-11 and August 12-13 should also be good. Active from July 23 – August 22. The most famous meteor shower, with up to 80 per hour.  Unfortunately the moon will be a major interference throughout this year’s peak; the moon is full on August 10-11 and just past full the following two nights, which means it will be very bright and in the sky for the entire period of the shower.
The Perseids often leave long trails.   Generated by debris from Comet 109 P Swift Tuttle.

Orionid Meteor Shower
Peak: night of October 21-22; the night of October 20-21 should also be good.  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.  This should be a good year in terms of moon conditions, since the moon is almost new during the peak (a slender waning crescent) and in no position to interfere with meteor viewing.

Leonid Meteor Shower
Peak: Nights of November 16-17 and 17-18; 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 the end of our century that said.  At least the moon will not interfere this year; it is a waning crescent and not in the way.  For the Leonid this year, expect perhaps 10 meteors per hour.   

Geminid Meteor Shower
Peak: nights of December 12-13 and 13-14.  Active period: December 6 – 19.  One of the best showers; and we in Hawai‘i often have good weather in December to see it. This meteor shower is a rarity in that it is caused by debris from an asteroid (3200 Phaethon) rather than by comet debris.  The waning gibbous moon will provide interference this year.

Lāhainā Noon
In the tropics the sun passes overhead twice during the year. On these two days, at local noon, the sun will be exactly overhead and an upright object such as a flag pole will have no shadow. This phenomenon only occurs in the tropics; the sun is never overhead in any other part of the planet. The northern reaches of the Hawaiian Islands, such as Midway Island, are north of the tropics and do not experience the overhead sun.

The ‘overhead sun’ date varies depending on how far north or south you are in the tropics. Thus, for Līhu‘e on Kaua‘i, this occurs on July 11, at 12:42 p.m. Further south, on the Island of Hawai‘i, the overhead sun date occurs on July 24 (12:26 p.m. for Hilo, 12:30 p.m. for Kailua Kona). 

Due to popular demand, we have added the overhead sun dates for both Hana (Maui) and for South Point on the Island of Hawai‘i to the 2014 calendar.

Here in the islands a term we often use for zenith noon is “Lāhainā Noon.”  This is a modern term, selected by Bishop Museum in a 1990 contest held to select a name for the zenith noon phenomenon.  The term “Lā hainā” means ‘cruel sun’ in Hawaiian, and while the sun in the islands is almost never cruel, it can be pretty intense as it shines directly down from the zenith. 

Another phrase that one hears in Hawai‘i for the zenith sun is "kau ka lā i ka lolo," which translates as “the sun rests on the brains.”  This expression is discussed in the book 1972 book Nānā I Ke Kumu (Pukui et. al.) as being a “phrase designating high noon; the time when ‘the sun is directly overhead and the shadow retreats into the body’… In view of all this, what we now call ‘high noon’ was though to be a time of great mana (spiritual power).”   While this passage has be cited by some writers to suggest that "kau ka lā i ka lolo"  is thus the traditional Hawaiian term for the ‘zenith sun,’ the phrase seems to refer to “high noon” on any day, and not specifically to those two days a year when the sun is exactly overhead.   Thus, in Honolulu on May 26 at 12:28 p.m., one can certainly use the term "kau ka lā i ka lolo" to describe the sun’s position as it sits exactly overhead.   However, that same expression “kau ka lā i ka lolo “can be used to describe the sun’s position on any other day at local noon (at least for the non-winter months, when the sun is quite high in the sky at local noon), and does not specifically refer to the phenomenon of ‘zenith noon’ itself.


Nānā I Ke Kumu, V. 1. Mary Pukui, E.W. Haertig, Catherine E Lee; Honolulu, Hui Hānai Press, 1972 pp 123-4.

2014 Lāhainā Noon days and times

Līhue

May 31 12:35 p.m.

July 11 12:42 p.m.

Kāne‘ohe

May 27 12:28 p.m.

July 15 12:37 p.m.

Honolulu

May 26 12:28 p.m.

July 16 12:37 p.m.

Kaunakakai

May 25 12:24 p.m.

July 16 12:34 p.m.

Lāna‘i City

May 24 12:24 p.m.

July 18 12:34 p.m.

Lahaina

May 24 12:23 p.m.

July 18 12:33 p.m.

Kahului

May 24 12:22 p.m.

July 18 12:32 p.m.

Hana

May 23 12:20 p.m.

July 18 12:30 p.m.

Hilo

May 18 12:16 p.m.

July 24 12:26 p.m.

Kailua-Kona

May 18 12:20 p.m.

July 24 12:30 p.m.

South Point Island of Hawai‘i

May 15 12:19 p.m.

July 28 12:28 p.m.

Moon phases - All phases are Hawaiian Standard Time


New Moon

First Quarter

Full Moon

Third Quarter

1-Jan

1:14 a.m.

7-Jan

5:40 p.m.

15-Jan

6:53 p.m.

23-Jan

7:19 p.m.

30-Jan

11:39 a.m.

6-Feb

9:22 a.m.

14-Feb

1:53 p.m.

22-Feb

7:16 a.m.

28-Feb

10:00 p.m.

8-Mar

3:27 a.m.

16-Mar

7:09 a.m.

23-Mar

3:46 p.m.

30-Mar

8:45 a.m.

6-Apr

10:31 p.m.

14-Apr

9:43 p.m.

21-Apr

9:52 p.m.

28-Apr

8:15 p.m.

6-May

5:15 p.m.

14-May

9:16 a.m.

21-May

2:59 a.m.

28-May

8:40 a.m.

5-Jun

10:40 a.m.

12-Jun

6:12 p.m.

19-Jun

8:39 a.m.

26-Jun

10:09 p.m.

5-Jul

1:59 a.m.

12-Jul

1:25 a.m.

18-Jul

4:09 p.m.

26-Jul

12:42 p.m.

3-Aug

2:50 p.m.

10-Aug

8:10 a.m.

17-Aug

2:26 a.m.

25-Aug

4:13 a.m.

2-Sep

1:11 a.m.

8-Sep

3:38 p.m.

15-Sep

4:05 p.m.

23-Sep

8:14 p.m.

1-Oct

9:33 a.m.

8-Oct

12:51 a.m.

15-Oct

9:12 a.m.

23-Oct

11:57 a.m.

30-Oct

4:49 p.m.

6-Nov

12:23 p.m.

14-Nov

5:16 a.m.

22-Nov

2:33 a.m.

29-Nov

12:07 a.m.

6-Dec

2:27 a.m.

14-Dec

2:52 a.m.

21-Dec

3:36 p.m.

28-Dec

8:32 a.m.

 

 

 

 

Nānā I Ke Kumu, V. 1. Mary Pukui, E.W. Haertig, Catherine E Lee; Honolulu, Hui Hānai Press, 1972 pp 123-4.

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