Let’s look forward to some astronomy highlights of 2021. In this list of a half dozen or so items I selected events that will be fairly easily viewed locally, as well as a few space missions that will be making big news. I skipped events that occur at the same time every year (like meteor showers) and some events whose hype far outweighs reality (like supermoons). These are predictable events; there’s always the possibility of a new comet or big discovery eclipsing them(astro-pun intentional).

February Mars arrivals. Three space probes arrive at Mars in February, an orbiter from the United Arab Emirates (Feb. 9); an orbiter/lander/rover from China (mid February orbit); and the most advanced rover yet from the US called Perseverance (Feb. 18). Until now four national organizations have successfully orbited Mars: the US, the Soviet Union, the European Space Agency, and India. Only the US and the Soviet Union have successfully soft-landed a craft on Mars, and the Soviet probe failed within minutes. It will be fascinating to see how this tally changes in 2021.

Ian Clarke is the director of the Hatter Planetarium at Gettysburg College. More information available at www.gettysburg.edu/hatterplanetarium.

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