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Astronomy Events That Will Never Happen Again In Our Lifetimes
Science NASA

Close Conjunction of the Galilean Moons of Jupiter

The last close conjunction was in 2009; these events are infrequent and difficult to predict. NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope captured the event in a string of snapshots. Jupiter’s moons, Europa, Callisto, and Io, raced across the sky and crossed in front of the planet.

According to NASA, “The ancient cratered surface of Callisto is brownish; the smooth icy surface of Europa is yellow-white; and the volcanic, sulfur-dioxide surface of Io is orange. ” There was a fourth moon, but it was outside Hubble’s field of view (Science NASA).

Astronomy Events That Will Never Happen Again In Our Lifetimes
Astronomy on Tap

Occultation of a Bright Star by an Asteroid

These are rare and depend on the observer’s location. According to Unistellar, “Asteroids are small, rocky bodies that orbit the Sun. Occasionally, one of these asteroids will fly in front of a distant star, blocking its light. This event called an occultation, casts a shadow on the Earth that can be recorded by Citizen Astronomers in the shadow’s path.”

If you happen to be in the exact, observable location of this phenomenon, then you’re lucky. Scientists often study these occultations to get a better idea of asteroids and stars (Unistellar).

Astronomy Events That Will Never Happen Again In Our Lifetimes

Passage of Gliese, A Nearby Star within 1 Light-Year

Every 50,000 years, a nomadic star passes near our solar system. Most of the time, they pass by without any event. But sometimes, they come so close that they’re visible in Earth’s night sky. Close stellar encounters are very rare and typically occur on timescales of millions of years. The last one would have been while the Neanderthals were wandering on the planet.

According to Astronomy, “The most famous of these stellar interlopers is called Scholz’s Star. This small binary star system was discovered in 2013. Its orbital path indicated that, about 70,000 years ago, it passed through the Oort Cloud, the extended sphere of icy bodies that surrounds the fringes of our solar system.” In about 1.4 million years, Gliese 710 will pass very close to Earth as a brilliant orange globe, outshining every other star in the night sky (Astronomy).

Astronomy Events That Will Never Happen Again In Our Lifetimes
News Northwestern

Detection of a Nearby Supernova

While supernovae occur regularly in the universe, detecting one nearby is rare. It’s also very unlikely that there’s a nearby supernova, since if one happened to explode within 25 light-years of Earth, our planet would completely perish and we’d lose our atmosphere.

According to Adam Miller, who is currently working on AI detection of Supernovas, “For the first time, a series of robots and AI algorithms have observed, then identified, then communicated with another telescope to finally confirm the discovery of a supernova. This represents an important step forward as further refinement of models will allow the robots to isolate specific subtypes of stellar explosions.” Without humans leading the research, it gives them more time to analyze data. This is the first time this has ever happened in astrological history, so we’re living during a pretty special time (News Northwestern).

Astronomy Events That Will Never Happen Again In Our Lifetimes
NY Post

Discovery of a New Type of Celestial Object

These discoveries are unpredictable and depend on advances in technology and observational techniques. However, recently, astronomers discovered a new celestial object in the sky and predicted it might be a black hole. According to the New York Post, “Astronomers have discovered a mysterious unknown object in our galaxy that could be a breakthrough in the study of black holes.”

Apparently, “The “extremely dense remnant of a collapsed star” lies about 235,000 trillion miles away from Earth in a globular cluster of stars in the Milky Way.” Furthermore, according to Astronomer Ben Stappers, “Either possibility for the nature of the companion is exciting. A pulsar-black hole system will be an important target for testing theories of gravity and a heavy neutron star will provide new insights in nuclear physics at very high densities.” Let’s hope they discover what this celestial object is during our lifetime since discoveries to this degree are quite rare (NY Post).

Astronomy Events That Will Never Happen Again In Our Lifetimes

Close Flyby of a Large Asteroid or Comet

While small objects pass near Earth regularly, large ones come closer less frequently. Every thousands, or millions of years, we’ll get lucky enough to see an asteroid or comet pass close enough to Earth that it makes itself known. This happens once every 7,500 years.

Even though it would seem like an incredible experience to watch a nearby comet, if it gets too close, the results may be disastrous. Apparently, “Fortunately, according to NASA, asteroids larger than about 330 feet (100 m) in diameter are only expected to strike Earth roughly once every 10,000 years. Meanwhile, nearly apocalyptic asteroids, those larger than about 0.6 miles (1 km) wide, are expected to strike our planet once every several hundred thousand years or so.” Let’s hope that’s long after our time here on Earth (Astronomy).

Astronomy Events That Will Never Happen Again In Our Lifetimes
David Darling

Detection of a Hypervelocity Star

These rare stars are ejected from the galaxy at high speeds and are challenging to detect, though spotting one is certainly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. According to David Darling, “In 2005, the first hypervelocity star was discovered by astronomers using the Multiple Mirror Telescope in Arizona. Known as SDSS J090745. 0+024507, it is 71 kiloparsecs from the Sun and moving through the outskirts of the galaxy – the so-called galactic halo – at about 850 kilometers per second (528 miles per second).”

This incredible discovery is not a common one, and it’s spectacular that it even happened now. Astronomers predict these stars are thrown out of the galaxy center once every 100,000 years. Approximately 1,000 hypervelocity stars are heading out of the Galaxy. These stars help astronomers understand black holes (David Darling).

Astronomy Events That Will Never Happen Again In Our Lifetimes
Fox Weather

Discovery of an Earth-like Exoplanet with Signs of Life

Do you believe aliens exist? Surely there’s another living species somewhere out in space! While this is a focus of exoplanet research, it’s uncertain when such a discovery will occur. It very well might not be anytime during our lifetime, or our grandchildren’s lifetimes.

While we might not meet aliens anytime soon, exoplanet K2-18 b shows signs of life. According to Euronews, “It found the presence of carbon-bearing molecules – which include methane and carbon dioxide – which is fuelling speculation that K2-18 b might have a hydrogen-rich atmosphere and a water ocean-covered surface. These features could potentially be signs of a planet that could bear life.” Perhaps this planet has more life than we expect (Euro News).

Astronomy Events That Will Never Happen Again In Our Lifetimes
The Conversation

Detection of a Primordial Black Hole

Primordial black holes, if they exist, would be challenging to detect and would provide insights into the early universe. Scientists have never truly figured out what happens after entering a hole since nothing has ever come out. The existence of a primordial black hole is completely hypothetical.

They were proposed by some scientists to explain the unexpected very large early galaxies originally discovered by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). At the very least, scientists hope these will help them discover more about dark matter. According to The Conversation, “Primordial black holes might be located in galactic regions where the concentration of dark matter is remarkably high. Thus, they could roam the Universe (moving at different speeds and directions) and eventually interact with other astronomical objects (such as black holes or neutron stars).” There’s no saying if this discovery will ever be made during our human existence (The Conversation).

Astronomy Events That Will Never Happen Again In Our Lifetimes

The 2029 Lunar Eclipse

You better get ready for 2029. With an umbral eclipse magnitude of 1.84362, it will be the largest total lunar eclipse of the 21st century, which means it’s the biggest one during our lifetime. It will be a Blood Moon eclipse. This large moon will pass through the umbral shadow of the Earth.

The last one occurred in November 2022, when there was a chance to see shooting stars next to the moon. According to Forbes, “The next totality to beat next week’s—and surpass it, in fact—will be a 102-minute event on June 26, 2029. That one will be visible from North America, South America and the Pacific, the Atlantic, Europe and Africa.” This is one to mark in your calendar (Forbes).

Astronomy Events That Will Never Happen Again In Our Lifetimes

Discovery of a New Moon around a Giant Planet in our Solar System

Moons are still being discovered, but new ones around the gas giants are increasingly rare. Scientists have discovered most of what there is to discover, though it doesn’t mean they’ve found everything. Maybe one day they’ll be able to study other galaxies in depth, but for now, we’re left with the discoveries already made.

According to the Hubble Site, recently, “Astronomers have announced the discovery of at least two, and possibly as many as four, new moons orbiting the giant planet Saturn. This discovery was based upon Hubble telescope images that were taken when Saturn’s rings were tilted edge-on to Earth.” They have similar orbits to that of Prometheus and Atlas, a pair of moons originally discovered in 1980 by Voyager 1 (Hubble Site).

Astronomy Events That Will Never Happen Again In Our Lifetimes
Sci-Tech Daily

Detection of a Gamma-Ray Burst from a Nearby Source

To put it simply, GRBs are short-lived bursts of gamma-ray light. These energetic events are unpredictable and occur randomly in distant galaxies. They typically last a few milliseconds to several minutes and are hundreds of times brighter than your typical Supernova.

According to GFSC, “Evidence from recent satellites like Swift and Fermi indicate that the energy behind a gamma-ray burst comes from the collapse of matter into a black hole.” Unfortunately, seeing matter disappear into a black hole isn’t something that happens every day (Imagine).

Astronomy Events That Will Never Happen Again In Our Lifetimes
Many Worlds

Close Approach of a Rogue Planet to our Solar System

While unlikely, a close encounter with a rogue planet would be a rare and significant event. It’s way more likely we’d see a comet or asteroid come close to our planet than a random, rogue planet. This is because the closest planet is light-years away. As Many Worlds writes, ” The nearest rogue planet to our Earth is WISE-0855-0714. It was discovered in 2014 and is approximately 7.2 light-years away from us.” Simply put, this means that the planet isn’t coming near us anytime soon, though it is spectacular that one planet is not too far away from us now.

NASA’s Nancy Grace Roman Telescope is observing rogue planets. According to Naoki Koshimoto, author of a study regarding rogue planets, “Roman will be sensitive to even lower-mass rogue planets since it will observe from space. The combination of Roman’s wide view and sharp vision will allow us to study the objects it finds in more detail than we can do using only ground-based telescopes, which is a thrilling prospect.” It would be a miracle to have these findings during our lifetime (Many Worlds).

Astronomy Events That Will Never Happen Again In Our Lifetimes

A Ninety-Degree Arc

In 2492, we might see a ninety-degree arch or all eight planets in our Solar System. Belgian astronomer Jean Meeus predicts that the orbits of all eight planets and Pluto will be within the same 90° arc of the Solar System. Even though this has not happened during our lifetime, it’s something that could happen in the future.

It has been thousands of years since this occurred. The last time this is believed to have occurred was on February 1, 949. Unfortunately, we won’t be alive for this 25th-century alignment, so we can only predict this will happen. At the very least, imagining this alignment is spectacular (Wiki).

Astronomy Events That Will Never Happen Again In Our Lifetimes

A Total Solar Eclipse in Australia

In July 2028, which is only four years from now, a total solar eclipse will be visible across Australia. This includes the city of Sydney. New Zealand will also see the eclipse. This event is spectacular because Sydney will not see another total solar eclipse until June 3, 2858. If you’re going to be in Australia in four years, you mustn’t miss this event, since it will be the only one in your lifetime.

Australia has seen several eclipses within 15 years, making it a very lucky country. According to Forbes, “Sure, it’s a vast place—the planet’s sixth largest country—but to have five of nature’s greatest events on show in the same country is a rare thing indeed.” That makes this solar eclipse an even rarer one than normal (Forbes).

Astronomy Events That Will Never Happen Again In Our Lifetimes
In the Sky

Leap Day Full Moon

Once a century, we see a full moon on the leap day in February, on the 29th. In 2048, there will be a rare full moon on a leap day; this event happens roughly once every century. The next full moon on a leap day will not occur until February 29, 2124.

According to NBCDFW, “In 2048, a very rare February full Moon occurrence will happen – when the full Moon occurs on Leap Day, February 29th. The timing of this one day every four years coincides so infrequently with the lunar phase cycle that there will only be four Leap Day full Moons this millennium, with 2048 being the first. The other three Leap Day February full Moons will occur in 2132, 2216, and 2376.” This is quite a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so it’s important to make this day a special one (NBCDFW).

Astronomy Events That Will Never Happen Again In Our Lifetimes
Sky & Telescope

Two Solar Eclipses in One Year

Get ready for the year 2057, because this year we will see an incredibly rare occurrence. This is when two solar eclipses in a single calendar year will occur, on January 5th and December 26th. The last time this occurred was well before our time, in 1889. The next time it will occur is 2252.

The year 2057 will also see two lunar eclipses, so it’s best to get your calendar out and start planning these astronomical events. According to Time, this solar eclipse will occur on “January 5, 2057 in the Southern Atlantic, Southern Indian,” and on “December 26, 2057 in Antarctica.” Though it’s unlikely we’ll see the solar eclipse from Antarctica, watching it early on in the year from Southern India is certainly doable. Further down the line, on April 30, 2060, there will be a total Solar Eclipse in the “Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Libya, Egypt, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Russia.” These predictions are based on the sun’s seasonal arc-like path (Time).