Tips for Delightful Stargazing in 2023

Stargazers are invited to the Georgia Tech Observatory to view celestial events this semester. Several telescopes will be set up for viewing, or you may bring your own telescope. (Please note that the first Public Night, originally scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 2, from 7 to 9 p.m. on the grounds between the Howey and Mason Buildings, has been canceled due to weather.)

Jim Sowell, principal academic professional and director of the Georgia Tech Observatory, acts as a tour guide for public nights. “A clear evening with some celestial objects visible is as much a delight for me as it is for the visitors,” he said.

Sowell and members of the Georgia Tech Astronomy Club will be available to answer questions. The viewing target for Feb. 2 is a comet that is barely visible with the naked eye, so viewers at Georgia Tech will have to use a telescope. The Public Night is from 7 to 9 p.m., with best viewing of the comet between 9 p.m. and midnight. However, forecasters are calling for heavy rain, so the odds of having the program are extremely low. Visitors to the Georgia Tech Observatory should check for updates on the astronomy website.

Other celestial events to consider in 2023 range from a meteor shower to the “ring of fire” solar eclipse.

When to view the planets:

  • Venus can be seen in the evening sky beginning in February and then it “rules the sky” into July.
  • Jupiter and Venus will be approximately 0.5 degrees apart on March 1 and 2, appearing close to colliding even though the two are millions of miles apart. March 2 is another Public Night at the Georgia Tech Observatory, so a large crowd is expected.
  • Jupiter remains visible until mid-March, then returns to the evening sky in autumn.
  • Mercury will be best seen after sunset during the first half of April.
  • Mars remains visible until July. It is currently bright but slowly fades during this time.
  • Saturn is near the Sun’s direction and returns to the evening sky in late summer.

The Perseid Meteor Shower always occurs on Aug. 11. Stargazers need to be away from bright lights to experience this, but no telescope is needed.

A blue moon the second full moon in a calendar month occurs in August. 

A Ring of Fire solar eclipse, when the moon covers the sun’s disk, will occur mid-day on Oct. 14.

“From Georgia Tech we will see a partial solar eclipse where more than 50% of the sun’s disk will be blocked out at the peak,” Sowell said. “You will need to use eye-safe glasses, like those used for the 2017 eclipse, or use eye-safe telescopes, such as the several we have at the Observatory.”

Unfortunately, there is no lunar eclipse visible from Atlanta for 2023. “Europe and Asia are getting two nice eclipses this year, so if you want to see them you will have to travel,” Sowell said.

Public Nights at the Georgia Tech Observatory are free, but remember to pay for parking if you use a visitor lot.

Additional Public Nights will be held this spring on March 2, from 7 to 9 p.m.; March 30, from 8:00 to 10:00 p.m.; and on April 27, from 9 to 11 p.m.