It’s January! And you know what every single new source/blog/website likes to do when January rolls around? Make a list of what’s coming up in the next year, of course! I could be clever and buck this trend, but being clever is exhausting and there are several things I’m pretty psyched about coming up in 2024.

So let’s see what’s coming our way in terms of launches, astronomical events, and spaceflight. We’ll start with the obvious.

Astronomical EventsA total eclipse of the sun.

The elephant in the room for 2024 astronomical events is the April 8th total solar eclipse of the Sun. The path of the Moon’s shadow, known as the path of totality, will cut across a swath of the United States from Texas up through Maine. If you’re going to watch this event, whether you’re fully in the path of totality or not, please, for the love of all that you hold sacred, look up proper eye protection techniques. I’d love it if none of you burned your retinas out.

This eclipse might be the big noise in 2024, but it’s not the only one. There will be a partial lunar eclipse visible to almost everyone outside of the eastern half of Asia and Australia the night of September 17th, and parts of South America (and the South Pacific if you happen to be hanging around there) will see an annular solar eclipse on October 2nd.

When looking forward to a year’s worth of astronomical events, meteor showers are a pretty good bet, since they happen around the same times every year. The Moon can play a big role in whether or not even a good meteor shower puts on a decent show, and this year the Moon phase will be perfect for the Eta Aquarids, which peak on May 6th. It just so happens that the New Moon is on May 8th that month, which means no pesky moonlight blotting out the meteors.

It’s not quite so good a lunar phase for the 2024 Perseids, which peak the night of August 11th. The First Quarter Moon will make its presence known in the early evening, but it will set at about midnight, leaving nothing in the way of what can be the best shower of the year. These are also both warm weather showers, so if you’re going to go meteor-watching, I recommend these two.

Pons Brooks CometWhat are the odds of us getting a good comet in 2024? Well look, anyone who tries to predict cometary brightness will generally wind up looking like an idiot but I’d say there are two that have some potential. Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks is already brightening, though still well below naked eye level. There is reason to hope that this one might get to naked eye brightness sometime in March, at which point it would be visible in the early evening. It might even be visible near the Sun during the eclipse, which would be pretty freakin’ awesome.

The one I’m going to be keeping my eye on is C/2023 A3 Tsuchinshan-ATLAS. This one is going to be swinging past the Sun in September. If it makes it through that (the Sun sometimes likes to make comets disintegrate at this point) it will be closest to Earth in October, only 36 million miles away. Again, predicting comet brightness is a mug’s game, but there’s at least a chance that this one could be quite a sight to the naked eye come the fall. I’ll keep my fingers crossed.


Whoo boy, so many launches to look forward to! Several rockets are due to have their (generally much delayed) maiden launches in 2024. First up was Vulcan Centaur, United Launch Alliance’s proposed replacement for the recently retired Delta IV Heavy and Atlas V. Its first launch on January 8th went beautifully (even if the spacecraft it carried, the private lunar lander Peregrine, went a little awry).Ariane 6 Rocket

Sometime in mid-2024 Arianespace’s Ariane 6, the replacement for Europes workhorse rocket, the Ariane 5, will take to the skies. And all sources seem to point towards Blue Origin actually having a plan to launch its New Glenn rocket before the end of the year. As far as I am aware (and I could be unaware of a lot since this rocket has been largely kept under wraps) there is still an awful lot of testing that would need to be done before this thing could fly, so color me skeptical.

There’s also reason to hope that we’ll see SpaceX’s Starship do its thing without exploding soon. SpaceX currently hopes to have another shot at a test launch in February, having already tested the engines for the next rocket. Seeing as we need this thing to eventually carry humans to the surface on the Moon on Artemis III, we need to make sure it can actually get to orbit first.

And SpaceX’s main competition for carrying American astronauts to the ISS might, at last, open for business. Boeing’s Starliner is finally (sooooo many years late) due to carry two astronauts, “Butch” Wilmore whose name I cannot take seriously and the amazing Suni Williams, to the ISS in April. If that happens, the SpaceX Dragon will no longer be the only crewed spacecraft able to launch from American soil.

There are also several marvelous science missions launching this year, but I’m especially stoked for two of them, both launching in October. The ESA’s Hera mission will be a follow-up to DART, the NASA mission that smacked into the asteroid Didymos in 2022 to prove we could alter an asteroid’s path with an impactor. Hera will take in-situ measurements of how Didymos’s surface and path were changed by its DART encounter, and it will also carry a pair of CubeSats that will try to make semi-controlled landings on the surface of Didymos, which is, if you didn’t notice, very cool!

Then there’s Europa Clipper, destined for an up-close exploration of one of the most intriguing places in the solar system, Jupiter’s icy ocean moon Europa. We suspect that this moon could have the right conditions to support life under its surface, but it’s never had its own spacecraft. Clipper will be one of a pair of spacecraft, including the Jupiter Icy Moon Explorer (aka JUICE) already on the way, hoping to learn a lot more about this exciting little world. Europa Clipper

Ongoing Space Missions

Of course, there’s also the ones already in space going about their business. The first thing I’m excited for comes on January 19th when Japan’s SLIM spacecraft will attempt to land on the Moon. If this occurs, Japan will become only the fifth nation to do so successfully.

It was meant to be one of three upcoming lunar landing missions. The Peregrine lander launched aboard the first Vulcan Centaur but suffered a critical propellant leak not long after launch that ruled out any chance of it actually landing on the Moon. It was built by the private company Astrobotic using NASA funds as part of the space agency’s Commercial Lunar Payload Program, and will be followed in February by another member of that program, Intuitive Mechanics Nova-C lander. Now that Peregrine’s landing is out, Nova-C could become the first private lander to make it to the surface of the Moon.

2024 should also see us get some pretty great pictures of Mercury. The spacecraft with the best name of all time, BepiColombo, will be performing two Mercury flybys, one in September and one in December. These will be among the spacecraft’s final flybys before it will finally, more than seven years after its launch, enter orbit around our smallest planet in 2025 (getting to Mercury is unexpectedly hard—but that’s a topic for a different post).

The Parker Solar ProbeNot gonna lie though, the spacecraft event I’m looking forward to the most isn’t happening until Christmas Eve. On that date the Parker Solar Probe is going to do a flyby of the Sun that is definitely the most insane thing any spacecraft is doing this year, and is probably in the top five most insane things any spacecraft has done ever. It will be passing under 4 million miles from the surface of our star. That sounds far to a puny human, but it’s definitely not when you’re talking about the surface of a star. Parker will be feeling temperatures up to 2,500 F (1400 C)!

During this crazy pass, the pull of the Sun’s gravity on the spacecraft will cause it to blow all previous spacecraft speed records out of the water, as it screams past at a speed of 435,000 mph. This is the extreme sports version of spacecraft flight, but there’s every expectation that Parker has the engineering to survive this brush past the Sun, collect data like nothing we’ve ever seen before, and come out the other side without a blemish. Then it will give us the Christmas present of some amazing images of the surface of the Sun.

The Unknown

2024 has a lot of treats in store for us space nerds, and that’s just the things we can predict. The Sun is still ramping itself up to the peak of this solar cycle, and it’s now thought it could reach that peak before the year is out. That could mean all sorts of solar fireworks and possible aurora events here on Earth, and there’s no way to know that those things are going to happen before they happen. But it’s a pretty good bet that they will happen.

You can also safely bet that there will be some fairly amazing discoveries coming from our observatories. I don’t know what Webb, Hubble, and the rest are going to reveal in 2024, but I’m going to go out on a short limb and say some of it is going to absolutely blow our minds (and then I’ll yell enthusiastically about them in this blog, undoubtedly).

Meanwhile Lucy and JUICE will continue to make their ways out towards Jupiter’s orbit. Psyche continues towards (sigh) Psyche. Perseverance and Curiosity will continue roving the surface of Mars. New Horizons and the Voyagers continue to move outwards, farther and farther from their origins. Who knows what any of them will find along the way?

Space-wise, 2024 is looking pretty great. Ad astra, y’all!