In 2022, the night sky promises to be full of cosmic wonders. A few total lunar eclipses – called “blood moons” for the deep red hue the moon turns when bathed in the earth’s shadow – will be visible for billions. Brilliant shooting stars will streak across the sky without any bright moon to drown out the light. And sky-watchers can look forward to an eye-catching gathering 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 tiny, greenish point of light in the sky.
Here is an overview of some of the most spectacular celestial phenomena worth circulating in your calendar for the coming year.
January 3 and 4: Quadrant meteor showers
For viewers in the northern hemisphere, the first major meteor shower of 2022, Quadrantids, peaks on the night of January 3rd and in the early morning hours of January 4th. The thin crescent will descend early in the evening, leaving ideally dark skies in the rush hour between midnight and dawn. This New Year’s rain is known to produce brighter than average shooting stars with 25 to 100 visible meteors per hour depending on local light pollution.
The quadrant times get their name from the former constellation Quadrans Muralis, and the burning space cliffs appear to radiate from the northeastern 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 location away from the city lights and wait for about 20 minutes to let your eyes fully adjust to the darkness at night or before dawn.
March 24 to April 5: Venus, Mars and Saturn in a planetary dance
From late March to early April, early people in both hemispheres will get to see some of the brightest neighboring planets perform a majestic sky ballet. Look to the low southeastern sky about an hour before the local sunrise to capture Venus, Mars and Saturn grouped together in a tight triangular cluster. On March 27 and 28, the crescent will pass the planet party.
Sky-watchers watching the planets from morning to morning will notice that their positions change. The planets will form a triangle that will change its angles until after April 1, when the trio will perform in a straight line. In early April, you can also see Saturn approaching Mars until both appear right next to each other between April 3rd and 5th. The two planets will appear closest on April 4, where they will only be separated by half an arc degree – corresponding 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 the Earth and the sun, where the maximum eclipse occurs at. 20:41 UT, where up to 64 percent of the sun’s disk will be covered by the moon. To see the greatest extent of the eclipse, viewers must be placed in the southern ocean west of the Antarctic Peninsula. However, eclipse hunters in the southernmost parts of Chile and Argentina will be able to see about 60 percent of the sun obliterated by the moon.
Goggles are needed to safely see all phases of a partial solar eclipse. While the sun may not look so bright in the sky, staring at it can seriously hurt 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 can see the bright planet Jupiter slowly rise higher and higher in the southeastern sky every day just before dawn. The giant planet will steadily approach the radiant bright planet Venus, and before dawn on April 30, the two worlds will be so close that they 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 at the top right.
Be prepared to scout for a good vantage point with an unobstructed line of sight toward the southeastern horizon. This celestial wonder will occur in the immediate vicinity of the sun, so getting a glimpse is all about timing. The trick is to let the planets rise high enough in the morning sky to observe them before the light from the bright dawn drowns out your views. The best time to start your hunt will be about 30 minutes before the local sunrise.
May 5 and 6: Eta Aquarid’s meteor shower peaks
Meteor spectators are waiting for a treat in early May, as the sky conditions should be almost perfect for the top of the Eta Aquarid meteor shower. The best view of this shower is expected at dawn on May 5th. The waxing crescent will descend early in the evening the night before, leaving the sky dark enough for viewers to glimpse even the faintest shooting stars.
The meteors appear to radiate from the constellation Aquarius, which will be near the southeastern horizon during showers. Because the shower’s rays – where the meteors appear to originate – are located in a southern location in the sky, the show will slightly favor viewers in the southern hemisphere.
Under a pristine sky away from city light, as many as 20 to 30 shooting stars can be visible per hour, though that number could be more modest 10 to 20 per hour in the northern hemisphere. Although Eta Aquarids is not necessarily the most productive shower, the meteors’ claim to fame is that they are formed from debris ejected by Halley’s comet.
May 15 and 16: Flower moon total lunar eclipse
The first of two total lunar eclipses in 2022 will take place on May 15 or 16, depending on where you are. Lunar eclipses occur when the sun, earth, and moon are adjusted so that the moon crosses the earth’s shadow and its silvery disc in our sky darkens and blushes. 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, cloud observers across the eastern half of North America and throughout Central and South America will see the entire eclipse from start to finish. From kl. 21.32 ET on 15 May, the eclipse will reach its maximum phase – when the moon becomes its deepest and most dramatic red – at. 12.11 ET on 16 May.
Since the full moon in May is known as the Flower Moon, named after the blooming flowers at this time of year in the northern hemisphere, this celestial event has been christened the Flower Moon Eclipse.
June 18-27: Five (possibly six) planets escape
Sky-watchers who set their alarm clocks in early June will be able to capture a rare array of all the major planets visible to the naked eye: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and possibly Uranus – though it requires seeing the final planet pristine celestial conditions. To close it, the moon will pass near each of these worlds between June 18 and June 27.
On June 24 and 25, the crescent will glide past the ice giant Uranus and make it easier to hunt, especially using binoculars. Look for a distinct green-colored dot. And avid stargazers will not miss the moon’s close encounter with super-bright Venus on June 26. So on June 27, the elusive weak Mercury gets its turn with the moon when both will appear 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 sky 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 event will occur in October when the moon partially blocks the solar disk seen from Earth. As much as 86 percent of the sun will be covered for viewers in parts of Eurasia.
The silhouette of the moon begins 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 unlucky for this, as the partial solar eclipse will occur at night in America. The next solar eclipse for sky-watchers west of the Atlantic will not 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 see the moon blush for the second time in 2022, when a total lunar eclipse occurs during the night of November 7th and 8th. In the western United States and Canada, eastern Russia, New Zealand and parts of eastern Australia, sky-watchers will see the entire eclipse unfold. Meanwhile, eastern North America and most of South America will be able to see 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 PT, and then its entire disk will dive into the deepest central part of the Earth’s shadow at. 2:59 PT. The eclipse ends at 03:41 PT, and rounds off another wonderful year of stargazing.
Andrew Fazekas, Night Sky Guy, is the author of Backyard guide to the night sky, second version. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.