Mars comes closest of the year on January 27. It'll be nice and high. In brightness, it will nearly match the Dog Star Sirius, creating a wonderful orange-and-blue contrast in the winter sky. Two nights later we get the year's nearest Moon, hovering next to Mars. And it's a Full Moon to boot! Watch this biggest Moon of 2010 rise at sunset on the 29th.
Skip now to March, which belongs to Saturn. With its rings strikingly near edgewise, it reaches its brightest, closest point to us on the 21st. This will be its final strange opposition (at only magnitude +0.5) until the mid-2020s. After this year, the shiny rings are wider-open.
Then our thoughts turn to tiny Mercury, which some imagine is hard to observe. To grasp how false this is, look for it the first ten days of April. It's joined all the while by brilliant Venus to its left. Go out 40 minutes after sunset. You'll catch that charbroiled orange planet - guaranteed, or double your money back.
In August, for only the fourth time this century, we get perfect moonless conditions for the famous Perseid meteor shower on the 11th.
September is owned by Jupiter. The giant world reaches opposition on the 21st, shining at its biggest and brightest since 1963. At an unusually brilliant magnitude -2.9, Jove dominates the sky. Interestingly, blue-green Uranus comes to opposition on the 21st too; so it floats very nearby, directly above Jupiter through binoculars: a twofer.
Jump ahead to early December, when Venus reaches its greatest brilliancy of 2010 an hour before dawn, at a shadow-casting magnitude -4.9. Then, on the 13th, the Geminid meteors will perform splendidly. These are the year's most abundant meteors, with the Moon setting soon after midnight to darken the skies nicely. Made of odd material that resembles no other meteor shower, Geminids come at us sideways and cross the sky relatively slowly.
All meteoroids migrate closer to the Sun over time. Summer's beloved Perseids are now slowly finishing up their interceptions of Earth's orbit, which is sad indeed. In contrast, the Geminids are the future of meteor-watching. More fully streaming inward into us, they're getting better and better each December.
The year saves its best for last: It's the century's first total lunar eclipse that's visible start to finish from the entire United States and Canada. Watch for it slam-bang on the opening hours of the Solstice, December 21, beginning at 1:32 a.m. And listen up: That eclipsed Moon also happens to be the highest-up Full Moon until the 2020s!
The sky offers plenty of excitement in 2010. But what's with the numerology thing? Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus all at opposition on the 21st? Plus the highest Full Moon of the decade? And a total eclipse joining the Solstice - all on the 21st?
What does it mean? Will this be a good year to go to Vegas and play 21 (blackjack)?