Whether it’s looking at your daily horoscope or camping to escape city lights, stars and astronomy filter into everyday life quite frequently. A great way to incorporate them into your travels is to coordinate your upcoming trips with the major star events occurring around the globe. With this in mind, VirtualTourist.com has found the best spots and dates for you to stargaze for the remainder of 2012.
May 20, Annual Solar Eclipse, Alaskan cruise or southwestern United States
An annular eclipse occurs when the Moon passes directly in front of the sun, but the lunar disk is not quite wide enough to cover the entire star. Though not as spectacular as a total solar eclipse, during the annual solar eclipse, you will notice the sun appears as a thin ring. While the nearest you can get to the greatest eclipse would be on an Alaskan cruise, there are also great spots along the eclipse’s path in the southwestern United States. A few locations to note are Reno, Nevada; Bryce Canyon, Utah and Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona. Albuquerque, New Mexico also lies directly in the path of the central eclipse. As with all solar eclipses, a solar filter is required for safe viewing, but it is relatively inexpensive.
June 5, Transit of Venus, Tahiti and June 6, Fiji
A planetary transit, such as the upcoming Transit of Venus, is essentially the passage of a planet across the disk of the sun, almost like a special kind of eclipse. From Earth, only transits of the inner planets Mercury and Venus are visible and they are far rarer than eclipses of the sun. For about six hours, Venus will be visible in silhouette crossing the disk of the Sun, with the most interesting parts being the beginning and ending. As with any viewing of the sun, a solar filter or protective glasses are needed for safe observing. An ideal place to see the transit on June 5 is Point Venus, Tahiti, the historic site where Captain James Cook established an improvised observatory centuries ago. Another popular honeymoon destination, Fiji, will have a great view of the Transit of Venus on June 6.
November 13, Total Solar Eclipse, Cairns, Australia
A total solar eclipse, which is quite a rare and unique sight, happens when the moon is completely blocking out the sun. The path of this year’s Total Solar Eclipse only crosses land in Northern Australia, meaning there are very limited spots for seeing the eclipse without chartering a boat or aircraft. While the path does cross the peninsula of the Northern Territory, the most recommended spot in the eclipse’s path is Port Douglas, about 42 miles (67 kilometers) north of Cairns, in the territory of Queensland. However, eclipse chasers have been looking forward to this occurrence for months, so accommodations may be difficult to find.
August 2012 through April 2013, Travel to Alaska, Canada, Iceland and Scandinavia
If you aren’t able to witness any of these special events, never fear, solar activity will be quite active from late August 2012 through early April 2013. While specific dates are neither predicted nor necessary, travelers looking for stargazing opportunities should remember to avoid nights with a bright moon. Travel to Alaska, Canada, Iceland, and Scandinavia for an opportunity to observe the aurora borealis. Summer is typically avoided because of the long polar daylight. If you miss this window, from April to August annually, the aurora australis is visible from South Island, New Zealand.
(VirtualTourist thanks Stephen Edberg of Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who contributed to this article.)
(c) 2012 VirtualTourist.com, Distributed by Tribune Media Services Inc.