Discover When to Go Stargazing on Nantucket

Thirty miles out to sea, Nantucket’s night sky is almost void of light pollution. Simply gazing up, even without a telescope, is sure to dazzle you. The island is also home to the Mariah Mitchell Association, named after the first female astronomer in the United States who discovered a comet on island in October 1847. While the discovery brought her international acclaim, Mitchell and Nantucket as a stargazing destination are still unknown to many. Here’s what to look forward to for the rest of 2021.

August 12 and 13: Perseid meteor shower peaks

The Perseid meteor shower produces up to 60 shooting stars an hour in a typical year, and 2021 promises to be particularly good as the mid-August peak will coincide with a dark, moonless sky. The meteor shower occurs when Earth travels through a cloud of debris from the Swift-Tuttle comet, which produces the flurry of shooting stars. For the best viewing? Head to the Northern Hemisphere to a location with as little light pollution as possible, like Nantucket.

August 18: Mars-Mercury conjunction

You can spot a close encounter between Mercury and Mars this summer if you know where to look. The conjunction is challenging to find because of its proximity to the setting sun, so you’ll need a clear line of sight towards the western horizon, like Madaket. If you spot the conjunction, you’ll be able to see the two worlds squeezed tightly together.

October 8: Draconid meteor shower

With only a tiny sliver of moon to compete, relatively dark skies will help you see flashes of the Draconids sparkle high in the northwest skies after nightfall. These meteors are best viewed from sundown to midnight and are easy to spot since they’re slower moving than the typical meteor.

November 19: Partial lunar eclipse

The last lunar eclipse of the year will greet skywatchers across North and South America, Australia, and parts of Europe and Asia. While it is technically a partial eclipse, up to 95 percent of the full moon will be cast within Earth’s dark shadow. It should briefly appear as a total eclipse during the maximum phase, which means the lunar disk may show hints of orange or red. The eclipse will start at 2:18 AM, and Earth’s shadow will envelop most of the moon’s visible surface by 4:02 AM.