2021 is an OK year for stargazing here on Hawaiʻi as only 1/3 of the big meteor showers (the Perseids) happens during favorable viewing conditions.
These are the most important 2021 stargazing dates for Hawaii:
If you are in the mood of planning ahead you should reserve the following dates in your calendar for stargazing:
- January 3: Quadrantids meteor shower
- April 21: Lyrids meteor shower
- May 5: Eta Aquariids meteor shower
- May 16-31: Lahaina noon (1/2)
- May 25: Total lunar eclipse
- June 20: Summer solstice
- July 11-25: Lahaina noon (2/2)
- August 12: Perseids meteor shower
- October 20/21: Orionids meteor shower
- December 13: 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 2021. 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 MaunaKea volcano hosts some of the best telescopes of the world, and a visit to these telescopes is a must if you are into stargazing!
2021 Stargazing Calendar for Hawaii
Stargazing highlights for Hawaii in 2021 are hands down the May 25 total lunar eclipse and the August Perseids meteor shower.
January 3rd: Quadrantids Meteor Shower #
The Quadrantids are one of the 3 biggest meteor showers of the year, but 2021 is not a good year to see its shooting stars.
This meteor shower is expected to peak at January 3rd at around 04:30 AM HST (Hawaiian Standard Time). However, the still very bright moon (at 80% illumination during the peak) rises well before midnight, making 2021 conditions very unfavorable for Quadrantids stargazers.
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 However, it now is the most well known out-of-date constellation because it gives its name to the Quadrantids meteor shower.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.
April 21: Lyrids Meteor Shower#
This year peak activity of the meteor shower is expected be just after midnight on April 22nd at 3 AM HST. Because the almost full moon sets late that night (just after 3 am local time) the best time to watch the Lyrids is between moonset and the start of twilight at 5 am.
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#
The η-Aquariids meteor shower peaks late afternoon of May 5th on Hawaiʻi but has a broad peak activity, and shooting stars belonging to this shower can be observed between April 19th up to May 28th.
Because the radiant of this meteor shower rises shortly before morning twilight as the moon is already visible, 2021 is not a good year to catch the η-Aquariids meteor shower.
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 16-31: 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 03:17):
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 Hawaiian islands the 2021 Lahaina noon will happen at the following times for these cities:
- Honolulu (O‘ahu): 12:28 PM (May 26)
- Kahului (Maui): 12:22 PM (May 24)
- Līhuʻe (Kauai): 12:25 PM (May 30 + 31)
- Hilo: 12:16 PM (May 18)
- Kona: 12:20 PM (May 17 + 18)
- Volcano: 12:17 PM (May 16 + 17)
May 26: Total lunar eclipse #
On the night of May 25 into 26, Hawaiʻi will be treated to a total lunar eclipse! While the eclipse starts on May 25th just before midnight, totality will happen from 01:11 am to 01:25 am on May 26th 2021. Make sure to dress warm and try to find a place where clouds are unlikely to ruin your view, and enjoy seeing the blood-red moon!
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 15th 2022.
June 20th: Summer Solstice and Midsummer Night#
Happy Summer Solstice, today is the first day of astronomical summer! The 2021 summer solstice takes place in Hawaiʻi at June 20th at 17:32 am HST (calculated for Hilo).
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 11-25: 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 Hawaiian islands, the 2021 Lahaina noon will happen at the following times for these cities:
- Honolulu (O‘ahu): 12:37 PM (July 15 + 16)
- Kahului (Maui): 12:32 PM (July 18)
- Līhuʻe (Kauai): 12:43 (July 11)
- Hilo: 12:26 PM (July 24)
- Kona: 12:30 PM (July 24)
- Volcano: 12:27 PM (July 25)
August 12: Perseids Meteor Shower#
2021 is a good year to watch the Perseids, as the recent new Moon provides good viewing conditions throughout most of the night.
The Perseids have a broad peak which on Hawaii will fall between ~9 and 12 am August 12th, with most expected meteor activity between 3 AM and 6 AM the early morning of August 12th. The moon sets before midnight that day, leaving the skies dark and the viewing conditions excellent. 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 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 20: Orionids Meteor Shower #
2021 is not a good year to look for shooting stars belonging to the Orionids meteor shower and its expected maximum activity just after full moon.
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.
December 13: Geminids Meteor Shower#
2021 is at best an okay year to watch this meteor shower.
The Geminids are the best and most reliable of the major annual showers, and is predicted to reach its peaks peak activity on December 13th just before midnight (9 PM HST). The late setting moon (at 02:27 am on the 13th and 03:18 am on the 14th) however, leaves only a few hours before twilight (6 am), making the early mornings of December 13 and 14 the best time to look for Geminids.
December 21: Winter solstice#
This year the winter solstice will take place on December 21st just before sunrise (at 05:59 am HST) Hawaiian time (calculated for Hilo).
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 point relative to the celestial equator on the celestial sphere. You can find a good explanation of exactly what a solstice is here.
The Hawaiian term for winter solstice is “Ka māuikiʻikiʻi o ka hoʻoilo” [source].