Space calendar for 2016: Must-see star gazing events

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Views of the Solar Eclipse from All Over, in Under a Minute

If you're an astronomy or space enthusiast, you've had a lot of reasons to look up in 2015, from a total eclipse that slipped across the northern reaches of Norway in March to a gorgeous blood moon lunar eclipse in September -- and some spectacular meteor showers along the way.

Fortunately, 2016 promises just as much fun, and maybe even a little more. Here's a quick look at what's happening in space next year ... at least the events that us humans here on Earth can enjoy.

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Space calendar for 2016: Must-see star gazing events

January 3, 4 - Quadrantids Meteor Shower

You may still have some leftovers from that New Years Eve when the first meteor shower of the year hits its peak. On Sunday evening you'll have a chance to catch up to 40 meteors per hour at peak, but the shower runs annually from January 1-5. Keep your eye on the constellation Bootes for the best chance of seeing one. 

(Photo via NASA/MSFC/MEO) 

March (date uncertain)

This one will likely be easier to watch on your smartphone via livestream, but sometime in March Astronaut Scott Kelly and Cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko are scheduled to return to Earth after their groundbreaking "Year in Space" mission on board the International Space Station -- they've already been having a blast.  

(Photo via AOL)

March 9 - Total Solar Eclipse

Skywatchers will be treated to a total solar eclipse in early March. The best views will be seen in central Indonesia and the Pacific Ocean where the sun will be fully blocked. A partial eclipse will be visible in most parts of northern Australia and southeast Asia. If you can't be in that part of the world, keep your eye out for the livestream. 

(Photo via GREG WOOD/AFP/Getty Images)

March 20 - Spring Equinox

The vernal or spring equinox (for the Northern Hemisphere, at least) occurs when the Sun shines directly on the equator and there is nearly equal amounts of day and night throughout the world. It also signals first day of spring for those north of the equator and the first day of fall (autumnal equinox) in the Southern Hemisphere. For those with the freedom to travel who are looking for a great view, Stonehenge is one of the best places in the world to mark this day.

(AP Photo/Dan Joling)

March 23 - Penumbral Lunar Eclipse

The Moon will darken slightly but not completely during this eclipse which occurs when the Moon passes through the Earth's partial shadow, or penumbra. The eclipse will be visible throughout most of extreme eastern Asia, eastern Australia, the Pacific Ocean, and the west coast of North America including Alaska.

(AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

April 22 - Full Pink Moon

One of many full moons in 2016, the April moon was known by Native American tribes as the Full Pink Moon because it typically shows up when the pink flowers of spring return. This year's will be noteworthy because it coincides with a meteor shower.

(Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)

April 22, 23 - Lyrids Meteor Shower

 The Lyrids shower runs from April 16-25. This year it will peak on the same night as as the full moon, which will make all but the brightest meteors hard to see. For the best chance, keep your eye on the constellation Lyra.

(Photo by Fatma Selma Kocabas Aydin/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

May 6, 7 - Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower

You might not know this shower well, but you probably know the celestial body that causes it: Halley's Comet. For those in the Southern Hemisphere, this is a big shower, with up to 60 meteors per hour at its peak. Up north, expect more like 30 meteors per hour. The shower runs from April 19 to May 28 and peaks on the evening of May 6 and coincides with a new moon (no moon) which means darker skies and likely a better show. Look to the constellation Aquarius for this one.

(Photo via NASA)

May 9 - Rare Transit of Mercury Across the Sun

You'll want to find a telescope and good solar filter to check out this view, as Mercury will passes between the Earth and the Sun. This is extremely rare event occurs only once every few years, and other than one other transit in 2019, we won't have a chance to see Mercury pass over the Sun until 2039. While this one will be visible throughout North America, Mexico, Central America, South America, and parts of Europe, Asia, and Africa, those on the East Coast of the U.S. and east side of South America will get the best views. 

(Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)

May 21 - Blue Moon

The the third of four full moons in this season, the May 21 full moon is known as a blue moon. This rare calendar event only happens once every few years, giving rise to the term, “once in a blue moon.” There are normally only three full moons in each season of the year, but fourth "blue" moons pop up every 2.7 years on average. Unfortunately, they are not actually blue. 

(Photo credit should read ROBERT ATANASOVSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

May 22 - Mars at Opposition

If you want to snap a picture of Mars, this is your best chance in 2016 (unless you happen to be a robot on Mars). The red planet will be at its closest point to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. A great time to photograph the planet, it's also a great time to capture some of the details on the surface with a medium-sized telescope.

(Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

June 3 - Saturn at Opposition

Mere days after Mars comes in for its close up, Saturn swings on by too. The ringed planet will be brighter than any other time of the year on the 3rd -- and you'll be able to see not only its famed rings, but also a handful of bright moons as well if you pick up a telescope.  

(Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

June 20 - June Solstice

The longest day and official start of summer in the Northern Hemipshere brings the shortest day in the Southern Hemisphere. It's another great chance to visit Stonehenge (you definitely won't be alone) or if you're the type of person who never wants the day to end, head up to somewhere like Anchorage, Alaska, where the day will last a full 22 hours. 

(Photo credit should read DESIREE MARTIN/AFP/Getty Images)

July 4 - Juno at Jupiter

Hello Jupiter! NASA's Juno spacecraft is on pace to arrive at Jupiter after a five year journey on July 4, 2016. Launched on August 5, 2011, Juno will be inserted into a polar orbit around the giant planet to begin studying Jupiter’s atmosphere and magnetic field until October 2017, when it will go out in a blaze of glory as it crashes onto the planet's surface.

(Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA via Getty Images)

July 28, 29 - Delta Aquarids Meteor Shower

Another great meteor shower that focuses on the constellation Aquarius, this one runs annually from July 12 to August 23 and peaks the night of July 28. The visible moon will block fainter meteors more than a few good ones should shine through. 

(Photo via dtana/Flickr)

August 12, 13 - Perseids Meteor Shower

The Perseids is consistently one of the best meteor showers for those who like to count "shooting stars" with up to 60 meteors per hour at its peak. This year's conditions are especially good for anyone willing to stay up late, since the waxing moon should set shortly after midnight. The meteors are produced by comet Swift-Tuttle, lasting from July 17 to August 24 and peaking on the night of August 12. Look to the constellation of Perseus for the best sight. 

(Photo credit should read SERGEY BALAY/AFP/Getty Images)

August 27 - Conjunction of Venus and Jupiter

Though they are more than 400 million miles from each other typically, Venus and Jupiter will look like they're about to high five each other in August during a special conjunction. The two bright planets will appear to be only 0.06 degrees apart, if you keep your eyes to the west after sunset. 

(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

September 1 - Annular Solar Eclipse

Annular solar eclipses occur when the Moon is further from the Earth and doesn't cast quite a big enough shadow to completely block the Sun's light, creating a ring of light in the sky. This annular eclipse will sweep from the eastern coast of central Africa and sweep across through to the Indian Ocean.

September 3 - Neptune at Opposition

If you have access to a telescope and want to catch a view of the blue giant planet, this is your best shot. Neptune will come closest to the Earth than any other time of the year, but at a distance of about 2.8 billion (on average) miles, you'll still need to find a powerful telescope to see it.

(Photo via NASA)

September 16 - Penumbral Lunar Eclipse

The Moon will only darken slightly during this eclipse, since it's passing through the Earth's penumbra and not full shadow, but it'll seen visible in most of eastern Europe, eastern Africa, Asia, and western Australia.

(NASA Map and Eclipse Information)

 (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)

September 22 - September Equinox

The first day of fall in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of spring in the Southern Hemisphere brings nearly equal amounts of day and night around the world. For those who can visit China, you'll have a chance to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Moon Festival, and eat moon cakes. 

(Photo by Rob Stothard/Getty Images)

October 7 - Draconids Meteor Shower

The Draconids is an unusual shower in that the best viewing is in the early evening, and it only produces 10 or so meteors an hour at its peak. Meteors will come from the constellation Draco, and you'll want to find the darkest conditions possible to watch this one. 

(Photo via Pete Hunt/Flickr)

October 16 - Full Moon, Supermoon

October's full Moon will also be the first of supermoons for 2016. Supermoons occur when the Moon is both full and closest to the Earth, meaning it appears slightly larger and brighter than usual for many.

(Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

October 21, 22 - Orionids Meteor Shower

Halley's Comet left behind dust that creates the Orionids shower each year. This average shower has around 20 meteors per hour at its peak, which happens peaks this year on October 21 at night. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight, and look for meteors to come from the constellation Orion.

(Photo via NASA)

November 4, 5 - Taurids Meteor Shower

Although it's a relatively light meteor shower, the Taurids are unique in that they consists of two separate streams: one that comes from dust of Asteroid 2004 TG10 and another fromdebris left behind by Comet 2P Encke. The shower has an extremely long run -- from September 7 to December 10 -- and it will peak on the the night of November 4. Keep your eye on Taurus and wait for the Moon to set for the best sights. 

(Photo via steffo photography/Flickr)

November 14 - Full Moon, Supermoon

The second "supermoon" of the year happens in November, and used to be known by early Native American tribes as the Full Beaver Moon because "this was the time of year to set the beaver traps before the swamps and rivers froze."

(AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

December 13, 14 - Geminids Meteor Shower

If you check out only one meteor shower this year, it should be the Geminids. It typically produces up to 120 multicolored meteors per hour at its peak. The shower will last from December 7 to 17, and peak on the night of the 13th. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight, looking to the constellation Gemini.
(Photo via TierraLady/Flickr)

December 14 - Full Moon, Supermoon

You'll be able to check out the final of three supermoons in 2016 on one of the longest nights of the year. 

(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

December 21 - December Solstice

This is the first day of winter and longest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of summer and longest day of the year in the Southern Hemisphere.

(Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

December 21, 22 - Ursids Meteor Shower

This meteor shower will radiate from Ursa Minor -- also known as the little bear -- and produce about 5-10 meteors per hour. 

(Photo via Shutterstock)

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Here are a few of the highlights:

March 9: Total Solar Eclipse
If you can make it to Indonesia, you've got a chance to see a gorgeous total solar eclipse. Depending on your exact location you'll be able to see upwards of two minutes of "totality" -- the haunting moment when the moon blocks out the Sun's rays, creating an eerie and calming experience. (Don't worry if you can't make it to the other side of the planet, because there's one coming to the United States in 2017).

May 22: Mars at Opposition
If you want to snap a picture of Mars, this is your best chance in 2016 (unless you happen to be a robot on Mars). The Red Planet will be at its closest point to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. A great time to photograph the planet, it's also a great time to capture some of the details on the surface with a medium-sized telescope.

August 27: Conjunction of Venus and Jupiter
Though they are typically more than 400 million miles from each other, Venus and Jupiter will look like they're about to high five each other in August during a special conjunction. The two bright planets will appear to be only 0.06 degrees apart, if you keep your eyes to the west after sunset.

October 16: Supermoon
We'll see three of the awesome "Supermoons" in 2016 -- which occur when the moon is both full and at its closest point to Earth -- making it appear bigger than usual. The others will occur in mid-November and mid-December.

See more 2015 Year in Review:
The 10 most-visited cities of 2015
The most iconic news photos of 2015
24 greatest discoveries of 2015 from Swiss cheese holes to a new cancer source
Watch the most unique pregnancy announcements of the year

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