Astronomical Almanac 1994

The astronomical almanac for 1994 includes one partial solar eclipse, three lunar eclipses, and a comet crashing into Jupiter.

| February/March 1994

January was a month of few special events in the heavens, but the rest of the 1994 astronomical almanac offers a variety of celestial wonders. The May solar eclipse is the most visible event for the contiguous United States to occur in several decades. The impact of a large comet on Jupiter this July has never before been witnessed, and may have never even occurred in the thousands of years of human history.

Eclipses: Three of 1994's four eclipses will be visible from all 50 states except for Alaska and Hawaii. The first, on May 10, is an "annular eclipse" of the Sun as seen from a wide band bisecting the country from New Mexico to Maine, and a large partial eclipse for the rest of the country. Most Americans will notice an impressive darkening of sky and landscape. (Remember: Only look at the Sun with proper protection.) I will give details about making such observations and the eclipse in general in the upcoming issue.

If you want to see a total eclipse of the Sun in 1994, check astronomical magazines for tours to South America to view the total solar eclipse there on November 3.

Meanwhile, this year's lunar eclipses include a small partial eclipse on May 25 and a large penumbra (almost partial) eclipse on November 18. Neither will be spectacular, but both will still be good examples of the shadow of the world we live on, touching the face of the Moon.

Planets and Conjunctions: This will be a very intriguing year to watch Jupiter and Saturn by telescope, and—at certain times—Venus, Mars, and Mercury with the naked eye. We will be treated to an unusual number of close "conjunctions" (i.e., meetings) of planets with each other and with the Moon and stars.

Jupiter is at its brightest in 1994 during late April, but if you have a telescope, the date to mark on your calendar is July 7th. On that day comet Shoemaker-Levy will strike Jupiter. No one is sure exactly what we will see. But the blast may light up the moons of Jupiter, creating long-lasting disruptions in the clouds of Jupiter, which will be easily visible with small telescopes (and perhaps even visible to the naked eye).

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