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This Week in Space: What To Look Forward To in the Skies for 2021

What do the stars hold?

milky way galaxy

Welcome back, Space cadets! We took a quick break from space content for the holidays but we are back with a look ahead at what the stars and space news have in store for us in 2021. And friends, there is a lot in store, from exploration and science, to some cool events happening in the skies. Here’s what we’re looking forward to.

Thanks to our friends over at Ars Technica we have a really amazing preview of some space news and events coming our way in 2021. First off, there are three Mars missions set to launch in 2021, from the US, the UAE, and China. The craft from the UAE is set to study the planet’s atmosphere, but the Chinese mission will attempt to make China the second country after the US to soft-land a craft on Mars. That’s a huge step for the Chinese space program, and we can expect this sometime in February.

This year, NASA may also finally launch the James Webb Space Telescope. According to NASA “Webb will be the largest, most powerful and complex space telescope ever built and launched into space. It will fundamentally alter our understanding of the universe.” But it’s also been delayed and gone over budget, which is understandable I guess for a project of this magnitude. Even so, it’s set to launch in October, giving scientists an incredible new tool.

Also in 2021, we’re supposed to launch the first of many Artemis missions, with an eventual goal of getting Americans back to the moon (and the first woman), but as Ars Technica points out, whether Artemis will meet the November launch date is up in the air (pun fully intended) given the troubles with funding and the maybe unrealistic timeline outgoing President Trump placed on this mission. Still, it’s on the schedule.

There will also be myriad rocket and crew launches heading for the skies, from both public and private space organizations, which will all be exciting, as will be the new rockets and tools they’ll be using.

But what about the stuff we can see from here on Earth, are there any big events coming for stargazers in 2021? Oh yes, especially if you like eclipses. There’s going to be a total solar eclipse in December … which will mostly be visible from Antarctica, so, maybe not that exciting. There will be a much smaller eclipse on June 10. The moon will see a full eclipse in May as well!

There are other celestial events to look for as well. Starting tonight (January 8) through Monday there three planets—Jupiter, Saturn, and Mercury—that will all be visible clustered together in the constellation of Aquarius. And yes, in terms of astrology that means upending norms, a focus on social justice and new thinking and lots of discussion about that so … sounds about right. But there’s other stuff coming too, including meteor showers and a great chance to take a look at Saturn when it’s at opposition with Earth in August.

What are you looking forward to in the skies in 2021?

And finally: this.

This is all … very accurate!

(via: Ars Technica, image: Ryan Hallock on Flickr)

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Jessica Mason (she/her) is a writer based in Portland, Oregon with a focus on fandom, queer representation, and amazing women in film and television. She's a trained lawyer and opera singer as well as a mom and author.