2019 is an OK year for stargazing here on Hawaii. The Quandrantids meteor shower and a total lunar eclipse are expected to put on quite a show, but that’s about it. Most other meteor shower are severely hampered by bright moonlight.
These are the most important 2019 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 promise to be especially apt for stargazing:
- January 3+4: Quadrantids meteor shower
- January 20: Total lunar eclipse
- April 22: Lyrids meteor shower
- May 5: Eta Aquariids meteor shower
- May 16-20: Lahaina noon (1/2)
- June 21: Summer solstice
- July 16-25: Lahaina noon (2/2)
- August 13: Perseids meteor shower
- October 22: Orionids meteor shower
- November 18: Leonids meteor shower
- December 13+14: Geminids meteor shower
- December 21: Winter solstice
This stargazing calendar will help you plan your nights to make the best of the biggest celestial events of 2019 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!
2019 Stargazing Calendar for Hawaii
Stargazing highlights for Hawaii in 2019 are hands down the total lunar eclipse on January 31st, and the Perseids (August) and and Geminids (December) meteor showers. Unfortunately, an almost full moon will make the Quadrantids difficult to observe.
January 3 + 4: Quadrantids Meteor Shower #
The Quadrantids are one of the 3 biggest meteor showers of the year, and 2019 is a GREAT year to see its shooting stars!
This meteor shower is expected to peak at January 3rd at around 4 PM HST (Hawaiian Standard Time), which means that the early mornings of January 3rd and 4th will be good times to look for meteors. The moon rises at 04:57 (January 3rd) and 05:49 (January 4th) but its light will at most be a minor annoyance as the new moon takes place on the 5th of January.
Taken together, we think the early morning of January 4th is the best night to go stargazing, closely followed by the early morning of the 4rd. Try to be out sometime between ~ midnight and 4 to 5 AM for the best viewing conditions.
The Quadrantids meteor shower is named after an abandoned constellation named Quadrans Muralis. This constellation was invented in 1795 by the astronomer Joseph Jérôme de Lalande to honor the wall-mounted instrument which he used for measuring star positions (a “Quadrant” is an improved astrolabe, and is used to measure angles up to 90°; “muralis” is Latin for wall). The constellation never really “caught on” and its use was quickly abandoned. However, it now is the most well known out-of-date constellation because it gives its name to the Quadrantids meteor shower.
The Quadrantids are special among meteor showers because this shower has a very ‘sharp’ peak intensity. The shower is most active for only a short amount of time (the meteor rates exceed one-half of their highest value for only about 8 hours). This means that the space debris that causes this shower has been left ‘on location’ pretty recently, within the last ±500 years.
January 20: Total lunar eclipse #
2019 starts truly stellar for stargazers with a total lunar eclipse to close the month of January.
This eclipse starts on January 20th before moonrise when the moon is not above the horizon yet, but luckily the complete total lunar eclipse will be visible here from all Hawaiian islands. The total phase of the lunar eclipse lasts between 18:41 and 19:43 HST and will be visible low on the eastern horizon.
Because the eclipse will take place just after moonrise the moon is very low on the eastern horizon during totality: between ~6 and 22 degrees. You can easily estimate this angle yourself! An object with 0 degrees altitude is right on the horizon, while an object at 90 degrees altitude is directly overhead. If you stretch out your arm and make a fist, then your fist covers about 10 degrees on your field of vision, so if the moon is at 20 degrees altitude, it is about 2 outstretched fists above the horizon (read more about measuring angles in the sky).
Because of this the best place to watch the eclipse is any place with an unobstructed view of the eastern horizon.
Fun fact: because the moon will be very low on the horizon during the eclipse it will actually *look* quite large. This is an optical illusion known as the “moon illusion“, and will make this eclipse look more spectacular than your “normal” lunar eclipse.
Pro tip: because this lunar eclipse takes place low on the horizon it will be easier to observe (and visible longer) from the eastern parts of the island, where the volcanoes don’t block out part of the horizon where the sun and moon rise.
If you want to know the ‘how and why’ of lunar eclipses we recommend you read our lunar eclipse 101 guide. More details on this lunar eclipse (including a video preview) can be found here. The next total lunar eclipse visible from Hawaii will take place on May 25/26th 2021.
April 22: Lyrids Meteor Shower#
2019 is a poor year to watch the Lyrids. This year’s peak is expected around noon (daytime) on April 22nd and the waning gibbous moon is still very bright (full moon will have taken place a few days earlier at April 19th) during nighttime.
Fun Facts about the Lyrids meteor shower
The shooting stars of the Lyrids are small parts of space-debris left behind by the comet Thatcher (C/1861 G1). They are (arguably) the first documented meteor shower with reports going back possibly up to 2600 years (687 BC, two years after King Sennacherib of Assyria sacked Babylon).
most years you can see between 10 and 20 shooting stars/hour at peak intensity, but there have been years where a true meteor shower took place, and peak rates of 90/hour were reported. The last time this happened was in 1982, but there is also a very interesting report from a newspaper in Richmond, Virginia on April 23rd, 1803. This newspaper described the shower as follows:
…Shooting stars. This electrical phenomenon was observed on Wednesday morning last at Richmond and its vicinity, in a manner that alarmed many, and astonished every person that beheld it.
From one until three in the morning, those starry meteors seemed to fall from every point in the heavens, in such numbers as to resemble a shower of sky rockets…
These outburst are quite rare, but the point we want to make is that you never know what to expect with the Lyrids.
May 5: Eta Aquariids Meteor Shower#
2019 is a good year to catch shooting stars belonging to the η-Aquariids meteor shower. Although this is not a very active meteor shower you will be able to see even the fainter ones because the new moon the night before (May 4th) leaves the night skies exceptionally dark.
Eta Aquariids Trivia
Did you know that the Eta Aquariids have a sister meteor shower? The Eta Aquariids meteor shower happens when earth passes through the space-debris left by Halley’s Comet. Because Halley’s comet and our planet orbit the sun in the same plane, there is another point in space where earth crosses the debris from this comet. When this happens, we see the meteor shower the Orionids (and not the Delta Aquariids as people often think).
Halley’s Comet is the most famous short period comet of our solar system, and returns every 75 or 76 years. The last time it flew by was in 1986, the next time will be in 2061. Right now Halley’s Comet is deep in the outer solar system (beyond Neptune!) but you will still be able to see little particles of it burn up into earths atmosphere twice a year during the Eta Aquariids and the Orionids meteor showers.
Each time it swings by the sun, solar heat vaporizes about 6(!) meters of ice and rock from the nucleus. The debris particles, about the size of sand grains, spread along the comet’s orbit, filling it with tiny meteoroids.
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 2019 Lahaina noon will happen at the following times for these cities:
- Hilo: 12:16 PM (May 18th) 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)
June 21st: Summer Solstice and Midsummer Night#
Happy Summer Solstice, today is the first day of astronomical summer! The summer solstice in 2019 takes place in Hawaii at June 21st just after midnight at 05:54 am 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 16-25: 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 2019 Lahaina noon will happen at the following times for these cities:
- Honolulu, (O‘ahu): 12:37 PM (July 16th)
- Kahalui (Maui): 12:32 PM (July 18th)
- Hilo (Big Island): 12:26 PM (July 24th)
- Kona (Big Island): 12:30 PM (July 24th)
- Volcano (Big Island): 12:27 PM (July 25th)
- Waimea (Big Island): 12:29 PM (July 23rd)
August 13: Perseids Meteor Shower#
2019 is not a very good year to watch the Perseids because there is only a small viewing window during which the skies are dark.
The best time to look for the Perseids is between 04:00 am and 06:00 am in the early mornings of August 13, 2019.
The Perseids have a broad peak which on Hawaii will be between ~5 pm August 12th and 04 am on August 13th. You should also be able to see shooting stars belonging to the Perseids meteor shower a few nights before and after this night but with lower intensity.
The Moon, however, spoils most of the Perseids with her light. Full moon on August 15th means that the moon is bright and sets late in the nights around the peak of the Perseids. The best time to see shooting stars is between ~half and hour after moonset and ~an hour before sunrise. You can look up what those times are in the following table:
|Date||Moonset||Sunrise||Moon illumination (%)|
|August 10||01:59 am||06:47 am||84|
|August 11||02:49 am||06:48 am||91|
|August 12||03:40 am||06:48 am||96|
|August 13||04:32 am||06:49 am||99|
|August 14||05:23 am||06:50 am||99|
If you live on another Hawaiian island you can also use the previous table to see what are the best times for stargazing the nights between August 10th and August 14th, 2019. To adapt the times for the moonset 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.
The Perseids happen each year as earth passes by a trail of dust, gas and ice left behind by the comet Swift-Tuttle. This comet was first documented in 1862, and returns to the sun every 130 years (the next time it will be visible from the earth will be in 2122). The earliest recorded sighting of Perseids dates back to 36 AD, when mention was made of “more than 100 meteors” in Chinese annals (source).
The Perseids are also referred to as the “tears of St. Lawrence”, because the festival of this saint is very close (August 10th) to the peak of the Perseids. The story of Laurentius (Lawrence), a Christian deacon, is the following: Laurentius was martyred by the Romans in 258 AD on an iron outdoor stove. It was in the midst of this torture that Laurentius cried out: (source)
I am already roasted on one side and, if thou wouldst have me well cooked, it is time to turn me on the other.
In honor of this history, one very appropriate midnight-snack to take out is the typically Hawaiian “Huli-Huli” (= turn-turn in Hawaiian) Chicken.
In Polynesia, Perseus was not commonly recognized as a separate constellation; the only people that named it were the people of the Society Islands, who called it Faa-iti, meaning “Little Valley” (more).
October 22: Orionids Meteor Shower #
2019 is an OK year to look for shooting stars belonging to the Orionids meteor shower.
The moon rises at 00:47 AM on the 22nd and on 01:49 AM on the 23rd of October which means you’d have to restrict your stargazing to the dark hours before midnight.
How to best see shooting stars from the Orionids meteor shower
Shooting stars from the Orionids meteor shower are easy to find: just find the Orion constellation, look in its general direction, and relax your gaze.
To find the Orion constellation you should look for the three bright stars in a line that make up the belt of Orion. These stars rise over the Eastern horizon just after sunset and will keep rising towards the east-south-east until they are almost overhead at dawn [how-to guide].
You can read more viewing tips in our meteor shower guide.
The Orionids are the brighter sibling of the Eta Aquarids meteor shower (early May). Both showers are caused by debris left by Halley’s comet.
Halley’s Comet is the most famous short period comet of our solar system, and returns every 75 or 76 years. The last time it flew by was in 1986, the next time will be in 2061. Right now Halley’s Comet is deep in the outer solar system (beyond Neptune!) but you will still be able to see little particles of it burn up into earths atmosphere twice a year during the Eta Aquarids and the Orionids meteor showers.
Each time it swings by the sun, solar heat vaporizes about 6(!) meters of ice and rock from the comet. The debris particles, about the size of sand grains, spread along the comet’s orbit, filling it with tiny meteoroids.
November 18: Leonids Meteor Shower#
The Leonids are not a very bright meteor shower, with an expected hourly rate of ~15 during the maximum. The peak of this shower from Hawaii will be November 18th.
The moon rises at 23:41 on the night of the 18th, making it even more difficult for this shower to find a dark sky than it was for this years Orionids.
December 13+14: Geminids Meteor Shower#
The Geminids are one of the three yearly “big” meteor showers with peak rates (again, under perfect viewing conditions) of over 100 / hour. 2019, however, is not a good year for this meteor shower.
December 21: Winter solstice#
This year on Hawaii, the winter solstice will take place on December 21st just after noon (at 12:23 pm 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].