Missed the aurora borealis? Watch for these upcoming celestial sights


Like a thief in the night, the aurora borealis arrived suddenly — and seemingly unannounced, if you weren't paying close attention — across the upper half of the globe this past weekend.

The strongest geomagnetic storm since 2003 pulled the dancing hues of pink, green and purple nearly halfway to the equator, allowing those in latitudes as low as Mexico, Chile and even Australia to look up in awe.

The dance waned through the weekend, so if you didn't catch the northern lights this time, you might be stuck with a feeling similar to the regret of not traveling for last month's total solar eclipse or the despair of just missing the sight of a shooting star.

But don't fret! Earth's phenomena are plentiful. Here are five upcoming celestial treats to train your eyes to the sky for this summer.

July 7: The crescent moon makes a friend

When to look: 40 minutes after sunset

Where to look: West

Mercury is the closest planet to the sun, and "consequently, it never appears far above either the morning or evening twilight," according to EarthSky writer John Jardine Goss.

But a whisker-thin crescent moon will be lying low in the twilight sky in early July, acting as a guide for finding little Mercury.

"Most people have never seen the planet Mercury, because it's kind of hard to find," Goss said. "In fact, most astronomers — I'll probably get yelled at if I say this — have never seen Mercury because you have to be in the right spot at the right time."

The elusive planet will appear between the moon and the horizon.

July 30 and 31: An astronomical breakfast buffet

When to look: 4-4:30 a.m.

Where to look: East

On the last two mornings of July, enjoy a smattering of planets, stars and the moon.

On July 30, the crescent moon will float among shining Jupiter, red Mars, the bright star Aldebaran and the pretty Pleiades star cluster (also known as the Seven Sisters) before sunrise.

Aug. 12-13: Prime time for the Perseids

When to look: 11 p.m. onward

Where to look: Northeast

The Perseid meteor shower in August might just be the most famous of shooting star shows, as summer weather conditions are typically ideal for viewing.

Every year in mid-August, the shower peaks, producing up to 100 meteors an hour, according to NASA. The moon will set near midnight, allowing even the dimmest of shooting stars to shine in 2024.

On Aug. 12 and 13, the shower is expected to be best viewed starting around midnight until dawn in Seattle, according to EarthSky.

Aug. 14: The god of war narrowly misses the king of planets

When to look: 2-5 a.m.

Where to look: East

After inching closer to each other in the eastern sky each evening from mid-July to mid-August, Mars will brush past Jupiter by less than the width of a full moon.

The brightness of both planets, the distance between them and their visibility to the unaided eye will make this the best planetary conjunction of the year.

Sept. 17: Darkness descends on the moon

When to look: 7:13-8:16 p.m.

Where to look: The moon

The Earth's shadow will take a nibble out of the moon at sunset, treating Seattle-area viewers to a very partial lunar eclipse, if the sky is clear.

The moon will be only about 9% covered by Earth's shadow, according to Goss.


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