The year 2022 offers many celestial pleasures for skywatchers, including two blood moons, a pair of partial solar eclipses, and multiple planetary encounters.
In 2022, the night sky promises to be full of cosmic wonders. A pair of total lunar eclipses (called “blood moons” because of the deep red hue the moon acquires when bathed in Earth’s shadow) will be visible to billions of people. Bright shooting stars will soar through the skies without a bright moon drowning out the light. And skywatchers will be able to admire a striking cluster of five of our brightest neighboring planets, all visible to the naked eye. Under the right conditions, distant Uranus can even join the other five visible planets, seen as a small point of greenish light in the sky.
Here’s a rundown of some of the most spectacular celestial phenomena worth noting on your calendar for the year 2022.
January 3 and 4: Peak of the Quadrantid Meteor Shower
For Northern Hemisphere viewers, the first major meteor shower of 2022, the Quadrantids, will peak on the night of Jan. 3 and the early morning of Jan. 4. The thin crescent moon will set in the early afternoon, leaving ideal dark skies during peak hours between midnight and dawn. This New Year’s shower is known to produce brighter-than-average shooting stars, with 25 to 100 meteors visible per hour, depending on local light pollution.
The Quadrantids get their name from the ancient constellation Quadrans Muralis, and the fiery space rocks seem to radiate from the northeastern sky, right next to the handle of the Big Dipper. Like all star showers, the best way to see as many shooting stars as possible is to find an observation spot away from the city lights and wait about 20 minutes for your eyes to fully adapt to the darkness of night or dawn.
From March 24 to April 5: Venus, Mars, and Saturn in a planetary dance
From late March to early April, early risers from both hemispheres will be able to watch some of the brightest neighboring planets perform a majestic celestial ballet. Look up at the lower skies of the southeast about an hour before local sunrise to see 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.
Skywatchers who keep an eye out for the morning planets until the next morning will notice their positions changing. The planets will form a triangle that will change their angles until after April 1, when the trio will appear in a straight line. In early April Saturn can also be seen approaching Mars until both appear side by side between April 3 and 5. The two planets will appear closer on April 4, when they will be separated by only half a degree of arc, equal to the width of the full moon.
April 30: Partial solar eclipse
In 2022 there will be two partial eclipses of the sun – when the moon blocks part of the solar disk in the sky. The first will be visible in southern South America, in parts of Antarctica, and over parts of the Pacific and Southern Oceans. On April 30, the moon will pass between the Earth and the sun, and the maximum eclipse will occur at 21:41 Spanish time when up to 64% of the solar disk will be covered by the moon. To see the largest extent of the eclipse, viewers will have to place themselves in the Southern Ocean west of the Antarctic Peninsula. However, observers of the eclipse in the southernmost areas of Chile and Argentina will be able to see about 60 percent of the sun erased by the moon.
Protective glasses are needed to safely see all phases of a partial solar eclipse. Even if the sun doesn’t seem so bright in the sky, looking at it directly can seriously damage your eyes, so if you plan to see the eclipse on April 30, be sure to wear glasses that meet international safety standards.
April 30 and May 1: Venus-Jupiter conjunction
As the month of April progresses, stargazers will be able to see how the bright planet Jupiter rises higher and higher in the southeastern sky each day just before sunrise. The giant planet will constantly approach the bright planet Venus, and before dawn on April 30, the two worlds will be so close that they will almost seem to merge. The pair will be visible at the same time through binoculars and some courtyard telescopes. In addition, Mars and Saturn will be visible in the sky at the top right.
Be prepared to look for a good viewing spot with an unobstructed line of sight towards the southeast horizon. This celestial wonder will occur very close to the Sun, so the observation depends on the moment in which it occurs. The trick is to let the planets rise high enough in the morning sky to be able to observe them before the light of dawn drowns out the views. The best time to start the hunt will be about 30 minutes before the local sunrise.
May 5 and 6: Peak of the Eta Aquarids meteor shower
Meteor watchers will receive a small gift in early May, as sky conditions will be nearly perfect for the peak of the Eta Aquarid meteor shower. The best views of this rain are expected in the pre-dawn hours of May 5. The crescent moon will set early the night before, leaving the sky dark enough that observers can see even the faintest shooting stars.
The meteors will appear to radiate from the constellation Aquarius, which will be near the southeast horizon during the shower. Since the radiant rain – where the meteors seem to originate – is located in a place in the southernmost sky, the show will slightly favor the spectators of the southern hemisphere.
In a clear sky away from the city lights, between 20 and 30 shooting stars per hour can be seen, although that number could be more modest, from 10 to 20 per hour, in the northern hemisphere. Although the Eta Aquarids is not necessarily the most prolific shower, meteors are reputed to be formed by the debris spewed by Halley’s Comet.
May 15 and 16: Total lunar eclipse of Flores Moon
The first of two total lunar eclipses in 2022 can be seen from Spain on May 16. Lunar eclipses occur when the Sun, Earth, and Moon align so that the Moon passes through the Earth’s shadow, darkening and reddening its silver disk in our skies. This particular lunar eclipse will be visible from North and South America, Europe, Africa, and parts of Asia.
While for viewers in Africa and Europe some parts of the lunar eclipse will occur after sunset, skywatchers in the eastern half of North America and throughout Central and South America will be able to see the full eclipse from beginning to end. Starting at 9:32 p.m. ET on May 15, the eclipse will reach its peak phase — when the moon takes on its most intense and dramatic red color — at 12:11 a.m. ET on May 16.
Since the Full Moon of May is known as the Flower Moon, named for the flowers that bloom at this time of year in the Northern Hemisphere, this celestial event has been dubbed the Lunar Eclipse of Flowers.
June 18-27: Five (possibly six) planets will align
Skywatchers who set the alarm clock in early June will be able to see a rare alignment of all the major planets visible to the naked eye: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and possibly Uranus. As if that were not enough, the Moon will pass near each of these worlds between June 18 and 27.
On June 24 and 25, the crescent Moon will pass near the ice giant Uranus and will be easier to locate, especially with binoculars. Look for a clearly green dot. And stargazers won’t want to miss the Moon’s close encounter with the super-bright Venus on June 26. Then, on June 27, it will be the turn of the faint Mercury to dance next to the Moon, when both appear embedded in the morning twilight.
October 25: Partial solar eclipse
On October 25, the Moon will take a bite of the Sun when a partial solar eclipse adorns the skies of most of Europe and the Middle East, as well as parts of Western Asia, North Africa, and Greenland. Like the partial eclipse on April 30, this October event will occur when the moon partially blocks the solar disk as seen from Earth. Up to 86% of the sun will be covered for viewers in some parts of Eurasia.
The silhouette of the moon will begin to block part of the sun at 9:58, and the maximum eclipse will occur at 12:00 (both in Spanish time). The inhabitants of North and South America will have no luck in this case, since the partial solar eclipse will occur overnight in America. The next solar eclipse for observers of the sky west of the Atlantic will not occur until October 14, 2023, when an annular eclipse or “ring of fire” will be visible.
November 7 and 8: total lunar eclipse
People in North and South America, Australia, Asia, and parts of Europe will have the opportunity to see the moon reddened for the second time in 2022 when a total lunar eclipse occurs during the night of November 7-8. In the western United States and Canada, eastern Russia, New Zealand, and parts of eastern Australia, skywatchers will be able to see the full eclipse. Meanwhile, eastern North America and most of South America will be able to see partial phases of the eclipse when the moon sets in the west.
The moon will begin to darken along its edge on November 8 at 11:59 a.m. (in Spain) and then its entire disk will plunge into the deepest central part of Earth’s shadow at 12:03 p.m. The eclipse will end at 12:41 am, completing another wonderful year of stargazing.