Several events are expected to unfold over the year:
There will be two lunar and two solar eclipses:
The Annular Solar eclipse of 7th February and the Total Solar eclipse of 1st August occur too far away from us in the Polar Regions so we wont see any solar eclipse in Tanzania.
However, we will be able to witness both lunar eclipses in Tanzania. The first one will be a Total Lunar eclipse which will begin close to 4 am on 21st February. By sunrise the moon will be coming out of the total phase.
During the Partial Lunar eclipse of 16th August, 80 percent of the Moon will be covered up. We will be able to see the eclipse begin at a ‘convenient’ time of 10:35 pm until its end three hours later. The centre of this eclipse is just off the south eastern coast Tanzania so mid-eclipse will be at about ten minutes past midnight.
As for the visible planets:
Mercury enters and leaves the morning and evening skies alternately several times during the year.
Venus enters the evening sky in July and will remain an evening star for the next nine months.
Mars will continue shining with brilliance until April having just reached opposition (closest to Earth) in December last year. It will be in the evening skies until September after which it will go into the morning sky.
Jupiter will be back in the evening skies after May rising late but before midnight. By early July it will have reached opposition so after that it will be visible higher and higher in the sky each day at sunset. It will remain visible until early next year. Saturn is already in the late evening skies and will be at opposition on February 24th. After that it will remain in the evening skies until early September.
Mars may provide a spectacular sight if an obscure football field sized space rock hits the red planet on January 30th. The asteroid, called 2007WD5, was discovered last November. At the moment the asteroid is approaching Mars at nearly 45,000 km/hr and there is a very high (4 percent) chance of the rock hitting the red planet. Its effect would be similar to that which was experienced on Earth in the Tunguska strike in Siberia in 1908, which wiped out 60 million trees. There is no chance of this asteroid being veered off course by the Earth’s gravity and hitting us.
Among the spacecraft launched from Earth, Phoenix will reach and land on Mars by May 2008. It was launched in August 2007. The Messenger spacecraft will reach Mercury in January nearly four years after launch in August 2004. However this will be only the first of many flybys before the spacecraft settles into a final orbit in 2011. Satellites closer to home circling the Earth will continue to provide a daily dose of activity soon after sunset in the overhead skies where they appear as rapidly moving points of light.
International Year of Astronomy - The Universe, Yours to Discover
Mwaka wa Kimataifa wa Astronomia - Ulimwengu Wote, Wako Kuuvumbua