Your stargazing guide to astronomical events in 2024

From total eclipses to blue moons, 2024 is a great year to watch the night sky. Make a plan and find local sites to see stars.

A photo of the starry night sky at the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute

Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute is a certified Dark Sky Park in Asheville, NC.

Photo by Tim Reaves

We’re seeing stars. Between this year’s total solar eclipse, four supermoons, and a host of other happenings in the night sky, 2024 will be a great year for stargazing. Here’s what, how, and where to watch.

What’s on the horizon

Solstices + equinoxes

Let’s start simple: You don’t get to “watch” this astronomical event, but these dates mark the official start of each season.

Equinoxes are the two days a year when the sun passes directly over the equator, resulting in days and nights of almost equal length.

Solstices describe when parts of the world receive the most (and least) sunshine.

  • Summer solstice | Thursday, June 20 (aka the start of summer, and the longest day of the year)
  • Winter solstice | Saturday, Dec. 21 (aka the start of winter, and the shortest day of the year)

By the way — these seasonal descriptors only apply to the Northern Hemisphere: for the Southern Hemisphere, they’re flipped. That’s why you’ll see them referred to as the June solstice, March equinox, etc.

A map of the US showing the paths of totality for the 2023 and 2024 Total Solar Ecplipses, with description text by NASA. The yellow 2023 line crosses from Oregon through Texas, while the blue 2024 line crosses up from Texas through Maine.

These calculations are heavy duty — you’re looking for the blue line. | Photo via NASA

Total solar eclipse

An eclipse is any event where an astronomical body gets obscured, either by a shadow or by another body.

This year will see a total solar eclipse cross the US on Monday, April 8, as the moon completely blocks out the sun. It will be visible in Texas, Missouri, Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio, to name a few states in its path.

If you’re anywhere near the path of totality, it’s worth the drive: total solar eclipses only occur at the same spot once every 375 years. Cola’s most recent totality was August 21, 2017 — and it won’t see another until May 11, 2078.

Totality will last only four minutes. Exact start times vary by state, but will range from 1:40 p.m. in Fort Worth, TX to 3:18 p.m. in Buffalo, NY (local time). Around those times — and in cities outside of the path of totality — a partial eclipse will be visible.

To safely view the whole eclipse, invest in a pair of solar viewers. These will help you safely watch the partial eclipse, though during totality it’s safe to catch the spectacle with the naked eye.

Supermoons, blue moons + lunar eclipses
There will be four supermoons in 2024, in which the moon will be full while at (or near) its closest point to Earth, or “perigee.”

The result: a bigger, brighter full moon.

  • Super Sturgeon Moon | Monday, Aug. 19 (this will also be a blue moon, a rare second full moon within a single month)
  • Super Harvest Moon | Wednesday, Sept. 18
  • Super Hunter’s Moon | Thursday, Oct. 17 (this will be the closest and brightest supermoon of the year)
  • Super Beaver Moon | Friday, Nov. 15

Between Tuesday, Sept. 17 and Wednesday, Sept. 18, you’ll also get to spot a partial lunar eclipse, where Earth’s shadow will fall over the moon between 10:44 p.m. and 11:17 p.m. (EST).

Meteor showers
At least a dozen annual meteor showers are visible across the world each year, according to the American Meteor Society. Here are a few to look forward to:

    • Eta Aquarids | Monday, April 15-Monday, May 27 | Peaks before dawn on Sunday, May 5
    • Perseids | Sunday, July 14-Sunday, Sept. 1 | Peaks Monday, Aug. 12
    • Geminids | Tuesday, Nov. 19-Tuesday, Dec. 24 | Peaks Friday, Dec. 13

    Typically only visible in polar regions, you’ll occasionally the Northern Lights in the continental US.

    Since aurora visibility is based on unpredictable solar activity, it’s hard to say where and when you can catch a glimpse. But if you’re really eager, you can follow the Space Weather Prediction Center’s short-term forecast, or download an app like My Aurora Forecast & Alerts.

    As for other solar events — flares, for example — we know that the sun’s 11-year solar cycle is predicted peak in 2024. The result could be more auroras. On the downside: Geomagnetic activity could cause noticeable disruptions in radio, electrical infrastructure, and satellites in upper orbit. No direct harm to humans, though.

    How to watch

    Light pollution in urban centers means that a clear night sky is hard to come by. Luckily, you have two options:

    As a long-term option, check out DarkSky International, an organization advocating for better lighting practices and clearer skies. See if you have a nearby chapter, and start protecting the night in your own backyard.