Nine Dazzling Celestial Events to Watch in 2024

Skywatchers can expect spectacular meteor showers, a comet soaring past Earth and a long-anticipated total solar eclipse

Solar Eclipse Viewers
Solar eclipse viewers at NASA’s Johnson Space Center on October 14, 2023 Kirk Sides / Houston Chronicle via Getty Images

Last year, observers across the U.S. witnessed an array of spectacular celestial events, including a beautiful “ring of fire” eclipse, dazzling meteor showers and a partial lunar eclipse. The newly discovered Comet Nishimura even made a surprise flyby of our planet before disappearing again for the next 400 years.

This year, a long-awaited total solar eclipse joins a list of phenomena visible from the Earth. With minimal equipment needed to enjoy the night (or day) sky, watching celestial events is the perfect activity for anyone who wants to spend time outside and marvel at the mysteries of the universe. To help you plan your year of stargazing ahead, here are ten must-see events of 2024.

December 12, 2023, to January 12, 2024: Quadrantid meteor shower

Quadrantid Meteor Shower
The Quadrantid meteor shower in Canada’s Banff National Park in 2009 Stocktrek Images via Getty Images

The new year will kick off with a spectacular burst of meteors known as the Quadrantid meteor shower. The Quadrantids are “one of the best annual meteor showers,” per NASA.

These meteors are known for their short, intense peak, which will happen this year on the night of January 3 to 4. Unlike other showers, which tend to peak over a few days, this shower’s peak will only last a few hours, making it easy to miss. However, viewers can see from 60 to as many as 200 shooting stars per hour under perfect conditions, so heading out could yield big rewards.

This year, the moon will be 47 percent illuminated during the peak, providing much less of a hindrance to viewers than the highly illuminated moon last year.

For ideal viewing, head to a cozy spot away from any light interference between the night and predawn hours. NASA recommends lying on your back with your feet facing northeast, looking up, taking in as much sky as possible and allowing your eyes 30 minutes to adjust. And remember to dress for the weather and bring extra warm layers.

April 8: Total solar eclipse

Total Solar Eclipse
Path of the total eclipse on April 8, 2024 Michael Zeiler,

On April 8, the moon will pass directly between the Earth and the sun, completely blocking out the sun during a breathtaking total eclipse. Viewers anywhere along the 115-mile-wide path of totality will witness the sky darkening in the midafternoon as the sun disappears.

“It’s an event unlike anything else that you will ever witness,” Jeff Rich, an astronomer and outreach coordinator at the Carnegie Observatories, says in a video. “It’s a real surreal feeling.”

Total solar eclipses are quite rare. On average, one will occur at a given location every 375 years. In the lower 48 states, the last visible total eclipse occurred in 2017, and, before that, in 1979. Your next chance to witness this phenomenon within the contiguous United States won’t be until August 23, 2044.

The sun’s disappearance can last anywhere from ten seconds to seven and a half minutes, write Victoria Jaggard and Emily Martin for National Geographic. This year, it will last more than four minutes at most—nearly two minutes longer than the eclipse of 2017. To safely view the total eclipse, you’ll need a pair of eclipse glasses, a handheld solar viewer or a homemade eclipse projector. You can remove your eye protection only when the sun completely disappears, but be sure to put it back on as soon as the sun peeks out again! Eclipses are the only time you can easily spot the outermost part of the sun’s atmosphere, also known as its corona, without any special equipment.

The eclipse will cut diagonally through the United States, beginning at 1:27 p.m. Central Time in Texas and ending at 3:35 p.m. Eastern Time in Maine. For specific times and information about the eclipse in your state, visit this interactive eclipse map from (And if you want to know more, Smithsonian magazine had a veteran eclipse chaser put together a guide on everything you need to know about the eclipse.)

April 16 to April 25: Lyrids meteor shower

The Lyrids meteor shower and Milky Way in California on April 24, 2023 Photo by Tayfun Coskun / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The Lyrids meteor shower is one of our more moderate annual showers, with about 10 to 15 meteors soaring across the sky under ideal conditions. Unfortunately, the peak of this year’s shower on April 22 will fall just before the full moon on the 23rd, so the bright moon may obscure viewing.

Meteor showers occur as the Earth passes through debris left behind by a comet or asteroid. As these particles enter the Earth’s atmosphere, they burn up at high speeds and leave a bright streak across the sky.

The parent comet of the Lyrids is Comet Thatcher, which was discovered in 1861 by A.E. Thatcher. This comet is a long-period comet—meaning it takes more than 200 years to complete an orbit around the sun. Thatcher completes its orbit in about 415 years. The Lyrids meteor shower is one of our oldest known showers, with records from China dating back to 687 B.C.E., per NASA.

The radiant for the Lyrids—or the point from where the meteors appear to come—is the constellation Lyra, the harp. For best viewing, however, NASA recommends watching this shower away from the radiant because the meteors will appear “longer and more spectacular from this perspective.”

April 15 to May 27: Eta Aquarid meteor shower

Eta Aquarid Meteor Shower
The Eta Aquarid meteor shower in Florida’s Babcock/Webb wildlife refuge Diana Robinson Photography via Getty Images

The Eta Aquarids are active every year in April and May as the Earth passes through debris left behind by the Comet Halley. The shower is usually better viewed in the Southern Hemisphere, where it’s one of the most prolific showers of the year.

Farther north, the Eta Aquarids will appear lower in the sky, and they’ll peak at about 10 to 30 meteors per hour. This year, the new moon will take place around the shower peak on the morning of May 6, providing good viewing conditions. This shower is known for its speedy meteors, which travel at about 148,000 miles per hour through the Earth’s atmosphere and sometimes leave glowing “trains” behind, per NASA.

Skywatchers should go outside in the hours before dawn for best viewing. Make sure you’re in a dark spot away from city lights, lie on your back with your feet facing east and look up into the sky.

August 11 to August 13: Perseid meteor shower

Perseid Meteor Shower
The Perseid meteor shower near Lone Pine, California, on August 20, 2022 Photo by David McNew / Getty Images

Along with the Geminids in December, the Perseid meteor shower is usually one of the most spectacular of the year. Swift and bright meteors combine with pleasant summer night temperatures to make this a show you certainly won’t want to miss.

In ideal conditions, viewers can expect to see about 50 to 100 shooting stars crossing the sky per hour, according to NASA. This year, the peak is expected on the night of August 12 and dawn of August 13, per Daisy Dobrijevic. Although the moon will be about 50 percent illuminated, it will set at midnight, so optimal viewing conditions are early in the morning until dawn.

The Perseids are caused by the comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle, named for the two astronomers who separately discovered it in 1862. With a nucleus of 16 miles in diameter, Swift-Tuttle is the largest near-Earth object to cross our planet’s orbit—and it’s about two and a half times the size of the comet that led to the mass dinosaur extinction.

September 18: Partial lunar eclipse

Partial Lunar Eclipse
A portion of the moon will pass through the Earth’s shadow on September 18, 2024. Cavan Images via Getty Images

Skywatchers in North and South America, Europe and Africa will have the opportunity to witness a partial lunar eclipse starting at 10:12 p.m. Eastern Time on September 17.

A partial lunar eclipse occurs when a portion of the moon passes through the Earth’s shadow. Because the moon orbits the Earth at an angle of about five degrees—rather than along a flat plane—the shadow is often cast above or below the moon’s orbit. About twice a year during the full moon, however, the angle is just right for an eclipse.

Unlike a solar eclipse, special eye protection is not needed to view a lunar eclipse. This one will be visible across almost all of the U.S. after the moon rises. It will peak at 10:44 p.m. Eastern Time and end at 11:17 p.m.

October 12 to October 19: Comet Tsuchinshan-ATLAS passes close to Earth

Comet Tsuchinshan-ATLAS
Comet Tsuchinshan-ATLAS’s position as it passes closest by Earth

A comet known as Tsuchinshan-ATLAS, or A3, will pass close to both the Earth and sun in the fall of 2024. This comet was first discovered in January 2023 by the Purple Mountain Observatory in China and independently observed just a few weeks later in February 2023 during a sky survey by the Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System (ATLAS), writes Stuart Atkinson for BBC Sky at Night magazine.

Calculations determined that this comet will pass closest to the sun on September 28, 2024, and closest to the Earth on October 12, per the Sky Live. A3 will be about 44 million miles away from our planet at its closest point.

Some astronomers have excitedly predicted the comet could be visible to the naked eye and could become brighter than Comet NEOWISE, which skywatchers saw in 2020. It may even rival Comet Hyakutake, which passed close to Earth in 1996, reported Meghan Bartels for Scientific American in June 2023.

But others warn that comet brightness is notoriously hard to anticipate ahead of time.

“Comets are like cats: They have tails; they do what they want,” Quanzhi Ye, a planetary astronomer at the University of Maryland, tells Scientific American. “Almost for every case, it’s not going to end the way that you predicted … We won’t know until we get there.”

As A3 draws closer to Earth, however, observations and photographs will give us a better idea whether forecasts will hold true. For now, mark your calendars and keep an eye out for reports coming in the fall.

September 26 to November 22: Orionid meteor shower

Orionid Meteor Shower
The Orionid meteor shower in China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region on October 22, 2023 VCG / Contributor via Getty Images

The Orionids are the second shower of the year produced from Halley, one of our most famous comets. Named for the astronomer Edmond Halley (1656-1742), this comet completes its orbit around the sun every 76 years, according to NASA.

This year, the Orionids will peak on the night of October 20 and morning of the 21st. Under ideal conditions, viewers can expect a maximum of about 10 to 20 meteors per hour, per EarthSky’s Deborah Byrd. However, the full moon will fall on October 17, which means a waning gibbous moon will compete with the shower at its peak.

These meteors will appear across the whole sky, so try to find a dark, wide-open clearing and look up in any direction.

December 4 to December 17: The Geminid meteor shower

Geminid Meteor Shower
Geminid shower in Utah harpazo_hope via Getty Images

As the year comes to a close, viewers can watch the breathtaking Geminid meteor shower. With a high number of bright, visible meteors, this shower is widely considered to be one of the best of the year. Viewers can see up to about 120 shooting stars streaking across the sky per hour under perfect conditions.

The highest number of meteors will shower down on December 14, writes Dominic Ford for On this day, the moon will be about 96 percent illuminated, which may interfere with viewing. Still, this shower isn’t one you’ll want to miss.

While most meteor showers originate from comets, which are made of ice and dust, the Geminids come from a rocky asteroid called 3200 Phaethon. Scientists aren’t certain how to classify this asteroid, because, like a comet, it brightens as it nears the sun, and it has a tail. Last year, researchers discovered that Phaethon’s tail is not made of dust, but rather of sodium gas.

Though the Geminids originate from the constellation Gemini, these meteors will be visible throughout the entire night sky. Remember to bundle up and keep warm with a hot drink, blankets or a sleeping bag.

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