A Preview of Some of the Year's Stargazing Highlights
It will be a great year for gazing at the night sky, so let’s get right into a quick preview of some of the year’s astronomical events! Here’s the best of the 2022.
The big “stars” of the planet world make several dazzling appearances throughout the next year, so let’s start with some of 2022’s planetary highlights:
Start looking now, on the next clear evening. There’s Venus, the Evening Star, still close to its absolute brightest as it hovers low above the sunset point in the fading dusk.
On January 4, if your sky is clear, you’ll easily see the young crescent moon near Saturn.
Steadily-braced binoculars or any small telescope will reveal its crescent shape, now bigger yet thinner than anytime this year. It’s the best time to see it.
But look fast. Each evening it’s lower-down and within a few days it’ll be gone. After a brief period too close to the Sun, Venus will emerge as a morning star just before dawn before month’s end, where it’ll remain right through the summer and into the fall.
Meanwhile, bright Jupiter, to Venus’ left, also has just a short January run before it too vanishes. Look up on January 5, if your sky is clear, you’ll easily see the young moon near Jupiter.
But Jupiter won’t return at a reasonable hour until the summer.
Marvelous Mars in December
Mars begins the year dim and distant in the morning sky, but brightens week by week until it reaches its greatest brilliance in December 2022.
The night of December 7 brings an “occultation” of Mars by the Moon. The Moon will be full (100% illuminated) and pass in front of Mars. Begin viewing at 9:30 p.m. EST to see the Moon slowly approach the red planet. Mars. Use binoculars to spot the full Moon and then watch Mars disappear and reappear against the bright limb of the Moon.
Saturn, its rings angled beautifully for any small telescope, starts out too close to the Sun but gradually brightens as it becomes a morning star later this winter. The planet reaches its biggest, nearest, and brightest in August, and remains well placed in the sky for the rest of the year.
Total Eclipse Twins
There will be two partial solar eclipses in 2022, but neither will be visible from the United States. As if to compensate, we’ll get to see not one but two total eclipses of the Moon this year: the first happens on the night of May 15-16 and the second in the early opening hours of November 8.
- Total Lunar Eclipse May 15–16: The total eclipse of the May Moon begins on May 15 at 11:29 p.m. EDT and doesn’t end until 12:54 a.m. Viewers in the Eastern portion of North America will be able to see the complete eclipse, while those in the west will see most of the eclipse.
- Total Lunar Eclipse November 8: This time, viewers can see the total eclipse of the Moon best from the western North America.
As for meteor showers, forget the big ones this year. The Moon will be full or nearly full for both the famous summer Perseids and the rich December Geminids. The unwanted brightness will drown out all but the rare, exceptionally brilliant meteor. But don’t forget that, from rural skies, you will still see six shooting stars every hour between midnight and dawn whenever the Moon is thin or absent, every night of the year.
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