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Here's what to watch out for in Saskatchewan's night skies in 2023

In this Nov. 8, 2004, file photo, the aurora borealis lights up the sky northwest of Lawrence, Kan. The phenomenon, also called northern lights, occurs when electrically charged particles from the sun enter the earth's atmosphere. (Scott McClurg/The Lawrence Journal-World via AP, File) In this Nov. 8, 2004, file photo, the aurora borealis lights up the sky northwest of Lawrence, Kan. The phenomenon, also called northern lights, occurs when electrically charged particles from the sun enter the earth's atmosphere. (Scott McClurg/The Lawrence Journal-World via AP, File)

A new comet, more northern lights and a partial solar eclipse are just some of the astronomical events happening above Saskatchewan in 2023.

Here’s what to look out for in the night sky for this coming year, according to Dr. Samantha Lawler, an assistant professor of astronomy at Campion College in Regina.


Comet “C/2023 E3 ZTF” was discovered in March of 2022 by astronomers in southern California.

It’s estimated that the comet has not travelled this close to Earth since the Upper Paleolithic period, or around 50,000 years ago.

“It could be very bright. It's predicted to be something that you can see just barely with your unaided eye. So you would be able to see it very easily with binoculars,” Lawler told CTV News.

“But it could be much brighter than that … It hasn't been close to the sun for 50,000 years. It could have a big outburst and become very bright and very easy to see so that's something to keep an eye on,” Lawler said.

“Astronomers will be just as surprised as the general public.”

The comet will begin to be visible as it makes its closest passage to the sun on Jan. 12 before approaching Earth at its closest point on Feb. 1.

The comet will fade from view over the following weeks.


Jupiter, the largest planet in Earth’s solar system, is set to be occulted by the moon. Occultation is when one astronomical body passes in front of another.

“So this happens fairly often, that the moon passes in front of stars, but it's not that often that it passes in front of a planet that is very bright,” Lawler explained.

“Jupiter is one of the brightest planets so this this will be really fun to watch.”

Unlike the occultation of Mars by the moon in December of 2022, this occultation will take place during a nearly new moon.

“So the moon will be just a small crescent and Jupiter will disappear behind the bright side of the moon in the early morning sky before sunrise, and then after the sun comes up it'll appear from the dark side of the moon,” Lawler said.

“That'll look really neat because you'll be watching the moon and then all of a sudden there'll be a bright star right next to it, which is Jupiter.”

Lawler recommends binoculars or a telescope for the best chance of spotting the phenomenon, especially when Jupiter passes the dark side of the moon during daylight hours.


The phenomenon that is a meteor shower occurs when the Earth passes through the debris left behind in the orbit of comet.

These pieces of ice, rock and other materials pass through Earth’s atmosphere and burn up, putting on beautiful displays for eagle-eyed stargazers.

“So there's many different meteor showers that happen throughout the year. But the best ones are the Perseids that happen in August, the Leonids that happen in November, and the Geminids in December,” Lawler said.

The Perseids meteor shower occurs annually from July 17 to Aug. 24. The shower is set to peak this year from Aug. 12 to 13.

For the Leonids, the shower is due to peak from Nov. 17 to 19, while Geminids is supposed to peak in visibility from Dec. 14 to 15.

According to Lawler, both the Perseids and Leonids will be extra visible this year due to the lunar cycle.

A new moon is forecasted for the peak of each meteor shower, leading to darker skies and more visibility of “shooting stars.”

“How visible they are really depends a lot on the weather, obviously, and also on how bright the moon is. If the moon is very bright, then it's a lot harder to see the faint shooting stars.”

“So it should be a good year for both of those.”


Saskatchewan is in store for a partial solar eclipse in the fall.

“It's only a partial eclipse here. But it's a big enough partial that you will notice shadows get fainter. You will notice that very small pinhole shadows will have the shape of the sun, so like a weird sort of crescent shape to them,” Lawler told CTV News.

“It's really fun to get out like a colander or something that has lots of holes in it and make a bunch of pinhole projections on the ground and see the shape of the sun changing.”

In both Saskatoon and Regina, Lawler estimates that the sun will be 50 per cent obscured in the eclipse.

As always, with any type of solar eclipse, Lawler reminds everyone to be mindful of the sun.

“Of course you have to be very careful, do not look at the sun. I have to say that, do not look at the sun during an eclipse especially, it's really easy to hurt your eyes doing that,” she said.

“You can look at the sun but only with special eclipse glasses or with pinhole projections on the ground, which you can do with anything. You can just use your fingers to make little pinholes. It's really fun to play with.”


As the sun approaches the height of its 11-year cycle, an increase in northern lights in Saskatchewan can be expected.

“We're approaching the maximum point of the sun cycle and it's actually much more active than what was predicted initially. There could be a lot of auroral displays over the next couple of years,” Lawler said.

The cycle is approaching its peak this year, with increased solar activity expected into 2024 and 2025.

More detailed predictions are near impossible to make, according to Lawler.

“Again, this is another one where we don't really know until it actually happens, how good it's going to be,” she explained.

“It depends on how many solar storms there are, how many sunspots there are, exactly where those sunspots are on the sun. So there's a lot of variables.”

Astronomers can expect better displays of the aurora borealis close to the spring and fall equinoxes. This is due to the fact of the orientation of Earth’s magnetic field, according to Lawler.


NASA’s Artemis missions and the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) are just some recent developments in the realm of space exploration.

Lawler hopes that recent events, such as the launch of JWST, is fueling interest in astronomy.

“I hope that it is deeply inspiring,” she said. “So I hope that sort of builds on our innate curiosity about the sky and helps to start answering some of those questions as well as giving us more questions to try to answer.”

“I think it's important for us, professional astronomers who have access to these tools, to make sure to share that with the general public. And I think most astronomers are very, very much on board with that,” she added.

Even with the increase of satellites causing issues for astronomers, Lawler believes Saskatchewan still hosts some of the best skies for stargazing.

“The cities of Regina and Saskatoon are horribly light polluted. But it's easy to get out of them. Half an hour away from either city, you have beautifully dark skies and an hour away from either city, you have some of the darkest skies in the world,” she explained.

“So, please do take advantage of that. Go out and enjoy the skies. Because we have amazing skies here.”


For those wanting to learn more, astronomy clubs are present across Canada, both amateur and professional.

The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada has both a Regina and Saskatoon chapter. The organization provides free resources for those looking to take up stargazing.

Social media groups such as ‘Saskatchewan Aurora Hunters’ are dedicated to spotting and tracking aurorae borealis. The group has 45,000 members on Facebook.

“These clubs are full of extremely knowledgeable people who love the night sky and are very happy to share their knowledge,” Lawler said.

“There's a lot of resources out there to get started, just connecting with other people who just love the sky is probably your best bet and there's so many different ways to do that.” Top Stories

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