9 must-see stargazing events to watch in 2022

9 must-see stargazing events to watch in 2022

by Sue Jones
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Published December 30, 2021

12 min read

In 2022 the night sky promises to be full of cosmic wonders. A pair of total lunar eclipses—nicknamed “blood moons” for the deep shade of red the moon turns when bathed in Earth’s shadow—will be visible to billions. Brilliant shooting stars will streak across the heavens with no bright moon to drown out the light. And sky-watchers can look out for an eye-catching huddle of five of our brightest neighboring planets, all visible to the unaided eye. In the right conditions, distant Uranus may even join the five other visible planets, seen as a tiny, greenish point of light in the sky.

Here is a rundown of some of the most spectacular celestial phenomena worth circling on your calendar for the upcoming year.

January 3 and 4: Quadrantid meteor shower peaks

For viewers in the Northern Hemisphere, the first major meteor shower of 2022, the Quadrantids, peaks on the night of January 3 and in the early morning hours of January 4. The thin, crescent moon will set early in the evening, leaving ideal dark skies during the peak hours between midnight and dawn. This New Year’s shower is known to produce brighter-than-average shooting stars, with 25 to 100 visible meteors per hour depending on local light pollution.

The Quadrantids get their name from the former constellation Quadrans Muralis, and the burning space rocks appear to radiate from the northeast sky just off the handle of the Big Dipper. Like all meteor showers, the best way to see as many shooting stars as possible is to find a viewing location away from city lights and wait for about 20 minutes to let your eyes fully adjust to the late-night or predawn darkness.

March 24 to April 5: Venus, Mars, and Saturn in a planetary dance

From late March to early April, early risers in both hemispheres will get to see some of the brightest neighboring planets perform a majestic celestial ballet. Look to the low southeastern skies about an hour before local sunrise to catch Venus, Mars, and Saturn grouped together in a tight triangular cluster. On March 27 and 28, the crescent moon will pass by the planetary party.

Sky-watchers who keep an eye on the planets from morning to morning will notice their positions shift. The planets will form a triangle that will change its angles until after April 1, when the trio will appear in a straight line. In early April you can also see Saturn approach Mars until both appear right next to each other between April 3 and 5. The two planets will appear closest on April 4, when they’ll be separated by only half a degree of arc—equal to the width of the full moon.

April 30: Partial solar eclipse

Two partial solar eclipses—when the moon blocks part of the solar disk in the sky—will occur in 2022. The first will be visible in southern South America, parts of Antarctica, and over parts of the Pacific and Southern Oceans. On April 30 the moon will pass between Earth and the sun, with the maximum eclipse occurring at 20:41 UT, when up to 64 percent of the sun’s disk will be covered by the moon. To see the greatest extent of the eclipse, viewers will have to be positioned in the Southern Ocean west of the Antarctic Peninsula. However, eclipse chasers in the southernmost parts of Chile and Argentina will be able to see around 60 percent of the sun blotted out by the moon.

Protective eyewear is needed to safely view all phases of a partial solar eclipse. Even though the sun may not appear as bright in the sky, staring at it directly can seriously injure your eyes, so if you plan to view the eclipse on April 30, make sure to use eyewear that meets international safety standards.

April 30 and May 1: Venus-Jupiter conjunction

As the month of April progresses, stargazers can watch the bright planet Jupiter slowly rise higher and higher in the southeastern sky each day just before dawn. The giant planet will steadily approach the brilliantly bright planet Venus, and before dawn on April 30, the two worlds will be so close that they will almost appear to merge. The pair will be visible at the same time through binoculars and some backyard telescopes. As an added bonus, Mars and Saturn will be visible in the sky to the upper right. 

Be prepared to scout out a good observing spot with an unobstructed line of sight toward the southeast horizon. This celestial wonder will occur in close proximity to the sun, so catching a glimpse is all about timing. The trick is to allow the planets to rise high enough in the morning sky to observe them before the light of the brightening dawn drowns out your views. The best time to start your hunt will be about 30 minutes before local sunrise.

May 5 and 6:  Eta Aquarids meteor shower peaks

Meteor watchers are in for a treat in early May, as sky conditions should be nearly perfect for the peak of the Eta Aquarid meteor shower. The best views for this shower are expected in the predawn hours of May 5. The waxing crescent moon will set early in the evening the night before, leaving skies dark enough for watchers to glimpse even the faintest shooting stars.

The meteors will appear to radiate from the constellation Aquarius, which will be near the southeastern horizon during the shower. Because the shower’s radiant—where the meteors appear to originate—is positioned in a southerly location in the sky, the show will slightly favor viewers in the Southern Hemisphere.

Under a pristine sky away from city lights, as many as 20 to 30 shooting stars may be visible per hour, although that number could be a more modest 10 to 20 per hour in the Northern Hemisphere. While the Eta Aquarids are not necessarily the most prolific shower, the meteors’ claim to fame is that they are formed from debris shed by Halley’s comet.

May 15 and 16: Flower Moon total lunar eclipse

The first of two total lunar eclipses of 2022 will occur on May 15 or 16, depending on where you are. Lunar eclipses occur when the sun, Earth, and moon align such that the moon crosses through Earth’s shadow, darkening and reddening its silvery disk in our skies. This particular lunar eclipse will be visible from North and South America, Europe, Africa, and parts of Asia.

While parts of the lunar eclipse will occur after the moon has set for viewers in Africa and Europe, sky-watchers across the eastern half of North America and all of Central and South America will get to see the entire eclipse from beginning to end. Starting at 9:32 p.m. ET on May 15, the eclipse will reach its maximum phase—when the moon turns its deepest and most dramatic red—at 12:11 a.m. ET on May 16.

Since the full moon of May is known as the Flower Moon, named for the blooming flowers this time of year in the Northern Hemisphere, this celestial event has been dubbed the Flower Moon Eclipse.

June 18 to 27: Five (possibly six) planets align

Sky-watchers who set their alarm clocks early in June will be able to catch a rare lineup of all the major planets visible to the naked eye: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and possibly Uranus—though seeing the final planet requires pristine sky conditions. To cap it off, the moon will pass near each of these worlds between June 18 and June 27.

On June 24 and 25 the crescent moon will glide past the ice giant Uranus and make it easier to hunt down, especially using binoculars. Look for a distinctly green-colored dot. And eager stargazers won’t want to miss the moon’s close encounter with super-bright Venus on June 26. Then on June 27 the elusively faint Mercury gets its turn with the moon, when both will appear embedded in the morning twilight.

October 25: Partial solar eclipse

On October 25 the moon will take a bite out of the sun when a partial solar eclipse graces the skies over most of Europe and the Middle East, as well as parts of western Asia, northern Africa, and Greenland. Similar to the partial eclipse on April 30, this October event will occur when the moon partially blocks the solar disk as seen from Earth. As much as 86 percent of the sun will be covered for viewers in parts of Eurasia.

The moon’s silhouette will begin to block part of the sun at 8:58 UT, and the maximum eclipse will occur at 11:00 UT. People in North and South America will be out of luck for this one, as the partial solar eclipse will occur during nighttime in the Americas. The next solar eclipse for sky-watchers west of the Atlantic won’t happen until October 14, 2023, when an annular eclipse, or “ring of fire,” will be visible.

November 7 and 8: Total lunar eclipse

People across North and South America, Australia, Asia, and parts of Europe will have the opportunity to watch the moon blush red for the second time in 2022 when a total lunar eclipse occurs during the overnight hours of November 7 and 8. In the western United States and Canada, eastern Russia, New Zealand, and parts of eastern Australia, sky-watchers will get to see the entire eclipse unfold. Meanwhile, eastern North America and most of South America will be able to view partial phases of the eclipse as the moon sets in the west.

The moon will begin to darken along its edge on November 8 at 3:03 a.m. PT, and then its entire disk will plunge into the deepest central portion of Earth’s shadow at 2:59 a.m. PT. The eclipse will end at 3:41 am PT, rounding out another wonderful year of stargazing.

Clear skies!

Andrew Fazekas, the Night Sky Guy, is the author of the Backyard Guide to the Night Sky, second edition. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.

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