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2017 Stargazing Calendar for Hawaii

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2017 is a very good year for stargazing because almost all meteor showers have favorable viewing conditions. We even have one lunar and one solar eclipse scheduled within two weeks in August!

The lunar eclipse this year can be easily skipped because it is barely visible from the Hawaiian Islands. The solar eclipse in contrast, is a must-see!

These are the most important 2017 stargazing dates for Hawaii:

If you are in the mood of planning ahead you should reserve the following dates in your calendar for stargazing. The Quadrantids in January and the Geminids in December promise to be especially apt for stargazing:

This stargazing calendar will help you plan your nights to make the best of the biggest celestial events of 2017. To make the most of your time we recommend that you read our Meteor shower guide, which is filled to the brim with viewing tips and background information about shooting stars.

Also, don’t forget to have a look at our guide: stargazing on the Big Island. The Mauna Kea volcano on the Big Island hosts some of the best telescopes of the world, and a visit to these telescopes is a must if you are into stargazing!

2017 Stargazing Calendar for Hawaii

Stargazing highlights for Hawaii in 2017 are hands down the partial solar eclipse and the Quadrantids and Geminids meteor showers.

January 3rd: Quadrantids Meteor Shower#

2017 is a good year to try to watch the Quadrantids shooting stars. This meteor shower is expected to peak at January 3rd at around 04:00 HST (Hawaiian Standard Time). This is good news because the best time to see meteors is during the early hours of the morning! The peak of this meteor shower is typically short-lived, so make sure to catch these shooting stars at the early hours of January 3rd.
The radiant of the Quadrantids rises over the Eastern horizon around midnight, and the moon sets early these nights, at 22:11 the evening before (details). This makes the early hours of January 3rd a great time to catch some shooting stars!

skymap, Quadrantids, hawaii, 2017
Skymap showing the Hilo night sky at 3 am, January 3rd 2017. Made using the free planetarium software Stellarium

April 21-22: Lyrids Meteor Shower#

2017 is a good year to try to see meteors from the Lyrids meteor shower. This year’s peak is expected at 02:00 am HST on the night of April 22nd. That night the moon rises at a quarter past 3 in the morning. Although it wont be bright (new moon the night of the 26th), it would be better to get your stargazing done before.

The Lyrids are not the most active meteor shower. With a ZHR of ~18 the expected amount of visible shooting stars is about 5 times lower than that of for example the more active Perseids.

The best time to watch the Lyrids meteor shower from Hawaii in 2017 is between midnight and 3 am on April 22nd.

skymap, lyrids, hawaii, 2017
The best time to watch the Lyrids from Hawaii is April 22nd between midnight and 3 am. Skymap showing the Hilo nightsky at 1 am, April 22nd 2017. made using the free planetarium software Stellarium

May 5: Eta Aquariids Meteor Shower#

2017 is a good year for the Eta Aquariids. This year, the shower will peak in the late afternoon hours of May 5th (Hawaiian time). The peak of this shower however is quite broad, and both the night before and after will be good times to try and catch some shooting stars from this meteor shower.
The waxing gibbous Moon sets the night of May 6th at 03:20, and the night before at 02:40. The radiant for the shower itself will rise above the eastern horizon around 04:00 am. This makes the dark morning hours towards dawn perfect for stargazing.

skymap, eta aquariids, hawaii, 2017
Skymap showing the Hilo nightsky at 6 am, May 5th 2017. made using the free planetarium software Stellarium

May 16-20: Lahaina noon#

Hawai’i is the only tropical state in the USA. This comes with certain perks such as tropical weather and the two times each year when you don’t cast any shadow!

Lahaina noon is a recent (1990) term introduced to give a name to the time of day on which the sun is directly overhead.  The term “Lā haina” means “cruel sun” in the Hawaiian language. Lahaina noon is known on the rest of the planet as being at the ‘sub-solar point’, i.e. that point where the sun is standing directly above you and thus you don’t cast any shadow. This is elegantly explained in the following video by vsause (skip to 3:17):

But don’t worry, the sun isn’t that cruel on Hawaii! Unless you are on the hot lava plains without enough water to drink, that is. Better yet, Lahaina moon is a very cool photo opportunity and a time to  stop and think about how exactly our earth revolves around the sun. Because of this, Lahaina noon occurs on slightly different times for different places.

On the Big Island, the 2017 Lahaina noon will happen at the following times for these cities:

  • Hilo: 12:16 PM  (May 16th) and 12:26 PM  (July 24th)
  • Kona: 12:20 PM (May 18th) and 12:30 PM  (July 24th)
  • Volcano: 12:17 PM (May 17th) and 12:27 PM  (July 25th)
  • Waimea: 12:19 PM (May 20th) and 12:29 PM  (July 23rd)
If you’d like to look up the Lahaina noon for any other place the easiest way to do so is to look up the time and date of solar noon on which the altitude of the sun is exactly 90 degrees. You can do this for example on the timeanddate website. Or, go to this website to see the point on out planet where Lahaina moon is happening right now.

June 20th: Summer Solstice and Midsummer Night#

>Happy Summer Solstice, today is the first day of astronomical summer! The summer solstice in 2017 takes place in Hawaii at June 20th in the late afternoon, at 18:24 HST.

The Hawaiian term for summer solstice is “Ka māuikiʻikiʻi o ke kauwela” [source].

Midsummer night is the shortest night of the year, and you could try to make your midsummer night a special one. What better excuse is there for a celebration? Many cultures have festivities linked to the summer solstice, so what about organizing your own midsummer night party or pau hana’s?

July 23-25: Lahaina noon (2/2)#

Lahaina noon is the moment when the sun is standing directly above you. This means that the only shadow you cast is directly below you, and that tall vertical objects. such as for example phone poles and beer bottles, won’t cast a shadow at all!

You can read a more elaborate explanation about the Lahaina noon at the may listing of this event(1/2).

On the Big Island, the 2017 Lahaina noon will happen at the following times for these cities:

  • Hilo: 12:16 PM  (May 16th) and 12:26 PM  (July 24th)
  • Kona: 12:20 PM (May 18th) and 12:30 PM  (July 24th)
  • Volcano: 12:17 PM (May 17th) and 12:27 PM  (July 25th)
  • Waimea: 12:19 PM (May 20th) and 12:29 PM  (July 23rd)

August 7th: Partial lunar eclipse#

This lunar eclipse will not be noticeable on Hawaii for all but the most motivated observer.

This years eclipse is a penumbral eclipse, which means that the moon doesn’t pass through the Earths full shadow. (“Penumbra” is a combination of the Latin words “paene” (almost, nearly) and “umbra” (shadow)). Because of this, the moon won’t turn red and will be only a bit less bright at those parts where is passes through the penumbra of the Earth.

If you want to know the ‘how and why’ of lunar eclipses we recommend our lunar eclipse 101 guide.

 

For the motivated stargazer: This eclipse starts on August 7th at 05:50 in the morning. The moon sets a few minutes later. More details can be found here.

Cartoon of what the August 2017 penumbral lunar eclipse will look like from Hawaii. This image has been adapted from timeanddate.com (source)

The next total lunar eclipse visible from Hawaii will be on January 31st 2018.

August 12-13: Perseids Meteor Shower#

2017 is not a very good year to watch the Perseids meteor shower because of the relatively bright moon which only can be avoided during the first few hours of the night.

The Perseids have a broad peak which on Hawaii will be in the early hours of August 12th. These nights, however, fall just after full moon (August 7th), and the bright moon rises only a few hours after the beginning of the night. After the moon has risen all but the brightest shooting stars will be outshone by the moonlight.

The best time to look for the Perseids is between sunset and moonrise in the weekend of August 12 and 13, 2017.

If you live on another Hawaiian island you can use the following table to see what are the best times for stargazing the nights between August 10th and August 14th, 2017.

To convert these times to your location on Hawaii you should add some minutes depending on how far west you are. For example, 4 minutes for Kona, 7 minutes for Kahului on Maui, and 13 minutes for Honolulu on O’ahu.

Date Sunset Moonrise Moon illumination (%)
August 10 18:51 21:13 92.1
August 11 18:50 21:54 85.1
August 12 18:50 22:37 76.3
August 13 18:49 23:22 66.0
August 14 18:49 00:10 (on August 15) 54.6
Moon illumination and Sunset and moonrise times for Hilo on the Big Island. The Perseids peak during the early hours of August 12th.  source

Note that it takes about 1 hour after sunset to become completely dark. Similarly, the moon will illuminate the sky a bit even before it rises over the horizon.  With this in mind you see that the window you have to see shooting stars is small, but longest the days after the peak of the Perseids.

skymap, Perseids, hawaii, 2017
Skymap showing the Hilo nightsky at 2 am, August12th 2017. The moon is not to scale. Made using the free planetarium software Stellarium

August 21st: Solar Eclipse (partial)#

This partial solar eclipse is our stargazing highlight of the year!

This eclipse, nicknamed the “Great American Eclipse” because of the coast-to-coast total eclipse visible on the mainland, is only visible as a partial solar eclipse from Hawaii. This means that the eclipse will be visible from here as a “bite out of the sun”, rather than a total eclipse of the sun.

You can see the solar eclipse from Hawaii yourself on August 21st 2017 between 06:02 and 07:22 in the morning. The peak of the eclipse (when the moon is closest to the center of the sun) will be at 06:35 HST.

In Hawaii the partial eclipse will be happening very early: during and just after the sunrise. This means that on whatever of the islands you are, your best chances of seeing this eclipse will be from the east side of the island. In general every place that allows you to see the sunrise will be OK.

Cartoon of what the March 2017 partial solar eclipse will look like from Hawaii. This image has been adapted from timeanddate.com (source)

Stargazing (the sun is also a star!) is most enjoyable when done with friends. How about viewing this eclipse with friends during and early breakfast or a good cup of Kona coffee?

You can easily share this with your friends on twitter via the button below:

The Great American Eclipse (Aug 21) happens during sunrise in #Hawaii. #SolarEclipse with #Coffee anyone? click to tweet

Solar eclipses are pretty rare, so even a partial solar eclipse is quite the event. For example, the last total solar eclipse visible from the Hawaiian islands happened in 1991, and the next one will only happen in the 22nd century! Here is a selection of solar eclipse events visible from the Hawaiian islands in the coming 100 years:

Background: what exactly is a solar eclipse?

A solar eclipse happens when the moon passes precisely in between the Sun and the Earth. When this happens, the Moon casts a shadow on the Earth, and if you happen to be this shadow, you will see the sun being eclipsed. This is the same principle as when you for example hold your hand between your eyes and a bright light source to block out the light. If you’d like to read more comprehensively about solar eclipses, we recommend this guide.

Solar eclipse viewing safety information (important!)

Looking directly at the sun (even if it is partially eclipsed) is dangerous, and can permanently damage your eyes. For safe viewing “at home” you should wear eclipse glasses or consider indirect viewing methods such as building your own pinhole projector.

You can see a very interesting simulation from NASA about this solar eclipse in the video below. In it, you see the shadow cast by the moon move over the surface of the earth. It crosses the Hawaiian islands almost at the end of the video.

October 21: Orionids Meteor Shower#

The peak of the Orionids meteor shower falls just after the new moon, at October 21st. This makes 2017 a very good year to watch this meteor shower.

skymap, Orionids, hawaii, 2017
Skymap showing the Hilo nightsky at 3 am, October 21st 2017. Made using the free planetarium software Stellarium

November 17: Leonids Meteor Shower#

The Leonids are not a very bright meteor shower, with an expected hourly rate of ~10 during the maximum. The peak of this shower from Hawaii will be during the hours before sunrise on November 17th.

The almost new moon will leave the night sky very dark, which makes viewing conditions this year good. It might be worth it to get up very early this morning to try to get lucky and see some Leonids!

skymap, Leonids, hawaii, 2017
Skymap showing the Hilo nightsky at 5 am, November 17th 2017. Made using the free planetarium software Stellarium

December 13: Geminids Meteor Shower#

The Geminids are one of the three yearly “big” meteor showers, with peak rates (again, under perfect viewing conditions) or over 100 / hour. This year, it is the meteor shower that will most likely steal the show!

The Geminids will peak at 20:30 HST on December 13th, but their peak activity is spread over at least a few days. The moon rises the early morning of the 14th, at 03:50 (50 minutes before the morning of the 13th, 50 minutes after the morning of the 15th). This makes the time between midnight and moonrise the nights of December 12, 13, 14 and 15 a good time to watch the Geminids in 2017.

Compared to all other showers visible form Hawaii, the Geminids have their radiant very high up in the sky, almost straight overhead. The meteors belonging to this shower are often bright and leave trails that can be visible for a few seconds. Watching the, promises to be a rewarding event for all stargazers!

skymap, Geminids, hawaii, 2017
Skymap showing the Hilo nightsky just after midnight, in the first hours of December 14th 2017. Made using the free planetarium software Stellarium

December 21: Winter solstice#

This year on Hawaii, the winter solstice will take place on December 21st at 10:28 HST.

The winter solstice represents the shortest day and thus the longest night on the Northern hemisphere. A solstice is an event that occurs twice each year as the Sun reaches its highest or lowest excursion relative to the celestial equator on the celestial sphere. You can read a more palatable explanation of exactly what a solstice is here.

The Hawaiian term for winter solstice is “Ka māuikiʻikiʻi o ka hoʻoilo” [source].

Resources used for the 2017 stargazing calendar

All dates were selected from the International Meteor Organization Shower Calendar for 2017 (PDF). Moon rise and moon set times were retrieved from the timeanddate lunar calendar.