The Best Stargazing of 2022 Includes Eclipses, Meteor Showers, and a Line of 5 Planets
This year, there's an endless universe of things to see, even with the naked eye.
Under dark skies, there's an endless universe of things to see, even with the naked eye. However, some nights offer something extra special. You might see the streaking lights of meteors, the dance of planets as they shift across the sky over the year, or even an eclipse.
In 2022, you can see all of those things and a whole lot more, as there are gorgeous celestial tableaus and beautiful events you'll be able to catch (with the aid of good weather and better timing).
Start the year by marking some of those dates on the calendar, especially if they happen to line up with any camping excursions you've got planned. Here are some of the must-see stargazing events you should not miss in 2022.
February 26: The Moon and Venus
Venus will shine brightly through February and into March. On February 13, it will hit its brightest point of the year. Then, in the pre-dawn hours of February 26, you can see the moon and Venus coming close together to form a beautiful pairing. If you use binoculars or a telescope early in the month, according to Space.com, you might be able to see the crescent phase of the planet.
April 4-5: Mars and Saturn Almost Touch, Venus Watches
You'll have to get up early for this one, but it might be worth the effort. Right before sunrise on April 5, Mars will sit just under Saturn. They'll be so close they're almost touching. National Geographic puts the distance between them at just half a degree. They will make a beautiful pairing in part because of the strong yellow color of Saturn and the ruddy red of Mars. Plus, just a bit off to the left, you'll be able to spot bright Venus.
April 27-30: The 3 Brightest Night-Sky Objects Meet Up
Jupiter has started to rise in the night sky. On the first of these three nights, it will join the other two brightest objects in the night sky, the moon and Venus. They'll be tightly ground in the east-southeast sky just before dawn.
By April 30, Venus and Jupiter will be sitting side-by-side. Space.com reports that they'll be just 0.5 degrees apart.
Late April: A Comet Might Be Visible
Comets are notoriously unpredictable, but we might get lucky this year. Comet C/2021 O3 (PanSTARRS) will be at its closest to the sun on April 21. It'll still be almost 27 million miles from the star, but the big comet could brighten to the extent that we can see it with unaided eyes. If that happens, it'll most likely be visible in the last week of April into the first week of May, per Space.com. It's worth keeping an eye out for the event. It'll be a special sight if it happens, but it's impossible to know exactly what will happen as the comet approaches the sun.
May 15-16: Step Out to See the Total Lunar Eclipse
The total lunar eclipse will be visible along the Pacific Coast of the US, Hawaii, and western Canada. The eclipse will occur just after the moon rises for viewers along the western edge of the US and Canada, providing a great opportunity for astrophotographers. The ruddy-hued moon will look huge along the horizon as it ascends.
Elsewhere, the end of totality will be seen in central Europe as the moon sets.
Late June: 5 Planets Line Up in Order with a Visit from the Moon
There are five planets you can see with the naked eye from Earth's surface. All five of them are going to sit in a line across the sky in late June. That's pretty incredible on its own. Even more incredible? They'll be lined up across the eastern to the southern sky in the order they sit in the solar system: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. (National Geographic adds that you may be able to see Uranus as well if you're very lucky and have excellent stargazing conditions. Though, if you do see it, it'll mess up the order of the planets. On the hand, you saw Uranus.)
To make the event even more visually pleasing, the moon is going to join the lineup. Though, it'll be moving across the tableau throughout the end of the month. It'll sit close to each of the planets at different points in the month. It'll sit near Saturn on June 18, Jupiter on June 21, Mars on June 22, Venus on June 26, and Mercury on June 27.
July 13: Supermoon 2.0
Mid-July, you'll get to see the second of three straight supermoons. This one will be the largest full moon of 2022.
July 29-30: The Southern Delta Aquarid Meteor Shower Arrives
The Delta Aquarids land on a night where the moon shouldn’t interfere with your view. You can expect to see around 15 to 20 meteors per hour per EarthSky. If you're out stargazing on nights around the peak, you might even see some shooting stars from this display.
September 26: Jupiter Looms Large
Jupiter will be at opposition on September 26, aka when it appears opposite the sun in the sky. That alone would make it worth stepping out to give the planet a look when it's at its brightest. However, the gas giant will also be at its closest to Earth since October 1963, per Space.com.
November 8: Another Total Lunar Eclipse
The second lunar eclipse of the year will be visible across the western edge of North America, Hawaii, eastern Asia, Indonesia, New Zealand, and eastern Australia.
November 18-19: The Leonid Meteor Shower Lights Up the Sky
The Leonids have a wild range of outcomes. You might see anywhere from 50 to 200 meteors per hour. In outburst years—the last being 2001—you might even see more than 1,000 per hour. Though, even the years where you’re north of 100 are rare. That’s not the expectation this year when somewhere around 10 to 15 per hour is more likely, according to EarthSky.
December 7-8: The Moon Hides Mars
A full moon is going to have a very close encounter with the red planet. In parts of North America, the moon will occult Mars, reports Space.com. That means that Mars will slip behind the moon for a bit and emerge on the other side.
On December 8, Mars will reach opposition, shining brightly from sunset to sunrise. The home of Perseverance will be at magnitude -1.9, which will make it brighter than any star in the sky at that time.
Ready to go stargazing?
Here are all the best stargazing events that you can get out and see this month or you could stay in a stream the northern lights from home. If you're just getting started, check out our guide to astronomy for beginners or easy stargazing road trips from big US cities.