2022 Will Have a variety of Planetary Conjunctions, plus two lunar eclipses visible over North America! There will be plenty of nights to go outside and look up!
Quadrantids Meteor Shower – January 3,4
The Quadrantids will peak on the night of the 3rd going into the 4th. Unlike others, this shower has a very sharp peak that you must be in the right place at the right time to witness, otherwise you see significantly less meteors. But since this will be close to a new moon, you won’t have any moon interference, and you’ll have an excuse to go outside to a dark location.
Mercury Saturn Conjunction – March 2
With a telescope at low power, you’ll be able to see Mercury and Saturn at the same time in your view! With the naked eye, you’ll see not only the conjunction low above the horizon, but you’ll also see Venus and Mars higher up to the right. To view the conjunction, you will need an unobstructed view of the south eastern horizon around 5:30 am local time!
Venus Saturn Mars Planetary Dance – March 23 – April 3
Between 3/23 and 4/3, you will see Mars, Venus, and Saturn have a triple threat dance party, and with repeated observations, you will see their positions change. Starting 3/23, you will see the three in a triangle. With each passing day, the triangle will gradually change its angles, and on 4/2, the triangle disappears as planets will appear to be lined up. You can witness this dance in the southeastern sky around 5:30 am – 6 am local time before sunrise.
Mars Saturn Conjunction – April 3-6
On these three days, Mars and Saturn will be close enough in the sky to view through a telescope at the same time! The best dates we on the 4th and 5th, where they will be closest together. Once more, you’ll need to wake up early, as the conjunction will be best seen at 5:30 am local time.
Jupiter Joins the Dance – April 20 – June 10
Starting on 4/20, you’ll see Jupiter join and make it a 4-way party! Between 4/20 and 6/10, you’ll see four planets, and sometimes the moon, in various formations from east to southeast each morning around 5:30 am! During that time, there will of course be some conjunctions to look for, including:
Venus Jupiter Conjunction – April 30 – May 1
On 4/30, Jupiter and Venus will almost merge into a double star, and through a telescope at medium magnification will be visible at the same time! They will be close on 5/1 as well, but not AS close. On either morning, it’s best seen over the southeastern horizon at 5:00 am sharp!
Mars Jupiter Conjunction – May 28-30
Jupiter continues its tour and meets Mars on 5/28-5/30. This conjunction will be best seen on 5/29 when the pair will be closest. Through a telescope at low power, you’ll see both of them at the same time!
Total Lunar Eclipse – May 16
This will be the first of two Lunar Eclipses visible over North America this year. This eclipse will favor those living on the east coast and most of the central portions. Those living on the west coast will see the eclipse already in partial phase as the Moon rises, but still see all of totality and the rest of the eclipse as the Moon exits Earth’s shadow. This is eclipse number 3 out of 4 lunar eclipses visible over North America on 2021-22… with number one and two ALSO being in May and November respectively.
Five (Six) Planets And the Moon – June 19-27
From 6/19 to 6/27, you can see up to five planets in a lined formation visible to the naked eye from east to southeast! Mercury will be the lowest, and unless you have no obstructions over the eastern horizon, it will not be easy to spot. Venus will be the next planet up, followed by Mars, then Jupiter, and finally Saturn will be highest in the south. The Moon will also be part of that formation, gradually moving near but not in conjunction with each planet.
Did I say five, I meant six, because Uranus will also be in the formation! Unless you have sharp eyes in a dark sky, you will need a telescope to find it between Venus and Mars.
Mars Meets the Moon – July 21
Mars will be in a conjunction with the Moon on this date. Through a telescope at low power, you will see both of them at the same time! You can spot the conjunction high in the east around 4:45 am.
Mars Meets Uranus – August 2
Mars and Uranus will be spotted together on this morning. At low power, you’ll see both of them at the same time through a telescope. At low power, while Mars will be a small bright orange disc, Uranus will be almost star-like but still show the familiar cyan color.
Perseids Meteor Shower – August 12, 13
This years Perseids will be severely hindered by a near full moon, making it pointless to drive to a dark location as it will be just as good as any nearby suburban sky. Since the Perseids is a rich shower, you’ll still catch a few of the brighter meteors. However, this show will be a shell of its true self!
Saturn Opposition – August 14
Saturn will be at its biggest and brightest on this night, and be visible all night. This will be the best night to view Saturn through a telescope, and be amazed at its rings!
Jupiter Meets The Moon – August 15
Jupiter and the Moon will be close in the sky, and through a pair of binoculars will easily be visible together. They’ll be closest around 5:30 am just as the Sun is rising.
Mars Meets The Moon Again – August 19
Mars and the Moon will have another meeting, but not as close as they were in July. After midnight on August 15 is when you’ll see the pairing, and they will be closest at 9:00 UTC, or 2:00 am pacific daylight time
Neptune Opposition – September 16
Neptune will be at its biggest and brightest for the year, and be visible all night. But this is a planet you need a telescope to spot!
Jupiter Opposition – September 26
Jupiter will be at its biggest and brightest for the year. This will be the best night to see the cloud bands, the great red spot (if its on the side facing Earth), and its four Galilean moons!
Orionids Meteor Shower – October 21,22
This shower will appear to radiate from the constellation Orion, and each meteor you see is actually pieces of Halley’s Comet! Since there will be little to no Moon interference, this will be a good meteor shower to check out this year!
Total Lunar Eclipse – November 8
This is the second of two Total Lunar Eclipses visible from North America! Whereas the one in May favored the East Coast, this one favors the West Coast, as the entire eclipse from start to finish will be visible! This time, the East Coast will see the eclipse happening as the Moon is setting, and may miss part of totality depending on how far east the observer is.
This is the fourth of four lunar eclipses visible over North America between 2021 and 2022. If you miss out this one, the next total lunar eclipse visible over North America will not be until March 13-14, 2025.
Uranus Opposition – November 9
Uranus will be at its biggest and brightest for the year, and be visible all night. But unless you are in a dark sky and have sharp eyesight, this is a planet you need a telescope to spot!
Predicted Leonids Outburst – November 18-19
Astronomer Mikhail Maslov, who studies this shower and the trails associated with the comet responsible for this historically famous meteor shower has predicted a possible ZHR outburst of 200-300 meteors per hour on the night of November 18-19. This means that the normally weak shower may display an abundance of shooting stars on this night! There will also be a waning crescent moon that will not rise until close to 2am local time, and shouldn’t be too much of a hindrance.
Therefore… you should DEFINITELY plan a stargazing night out away from the cities!
The predicted time for the outburst begins around 6:00 UTC on November 19… which translates to 1am Eastern Time/ 10 PM Pacific time (on November 18). The radiant of this shower does not rise until 11 pm local time, and your ZHR will not be that much until the radiant of the shower gets higher in the sky a few hours later. Based on this information I’m giving you, that means this outburst will greatly favor observers with longitudes closer to western Europe and Africa more so than North America, with the east coast having a better chance at experiencing the outburst while west coast observers may get only the tail end of it.
Mars Opposition – December 8
Mars will be at its biggest and brightest for the year, and may represent your best chance to see some dark albedo features plus an ice cap or two through a telescope.
Geminids Meteor Shower – December 13,14
While the Geminids this year may perform better than the Perseids, there will be a last quarter Moon high in the sky washing out the fainter meteors during the optimal hours! You may catch a bright one or two, but since there is Moon interference, it will be pointless to drive out to a dark sky!