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.