The New Year is upon us – and you know what that means! It’s time to turn over calendars, come up with resolutions, and look forward to another orbit ’round the sun. After passing perihelion on January 4th, the Earth will move on its elliptical orbit to its furthest point from the sun on July 4th, and then return back 3 million miles closer by this time next year.
The celestial dance is consistent, and that means that some of the best events in the 2022 night sky are similar from years past; others are new and exciting opportunities to get out and enjoy the night sky.
In this post, I’ll help you accomplish your New Year’s resolution to go stargazing more by highlighting 22 of the best astronomy events of the year. These are the events I have on my calendar, though there are of course others – and I highlight them each month in my Night Sky Guides (which you can see on the Explore page). Whether you use this as your guide for the year – or just as your starting point – you’ll be delighted by any chance you have to see these events. Read on to discover the best night sky events in 2022.
January 3 – Peak of the Quadrantid Meteor Shower
The new year kicks off with a bombastic event – as it always does – with the peak of the Quadrantids meteor shower in early January. This meteor shower radiates from a point in the sky where a constellation no longer “exists” – Quadrans Muralis was an early constellation that is no longer part of the 88 official constellations in the sky.
The Quadrantids are one of the most active meteor showers of the year, though most people don’t realize how well the hourly rate of meteors compares to the more popular showers like the Perseids and Geminids. The difference between these latter-year showers and the Quadrantids is that the peak of the Quadrantids is very short – usually just a few hours. This means that if it occurs in the daylight, dawn, or dusk hours, it can be hard to see any meteors at all that year.
February 7 – Lunar Occultation of Uranus
While the world has been pretty crappy the last few years, there are some astronomical events to look forward to. For example, Uranus is having a year – pun intended!
Throughout the year, Uranus will be directly in line with the Moon, such that there are 10 lunar occultations of Uranus in 2022. If you’re not familiar with the term, that means the Moon will pass directly in front of Uranus from our perspective.
The first such occultation is on February 7th, though it won’t be visible unless you have a boat and are far south in the Atlantic Ocean. The path of occultation visibility moves steadily north and grows larger throughout the year, such that observers in the northern hemisphere will have several opportunities to pull out your telescope and spy distant icy blue Uranus slipping behind the Moon.
The full list of dates for lunar occultations of Uranus in 2022 are: February 7, March 7, April 3, June 24, July 22, August 18, September 14 (the best date for European observers), October 12 (the best date for North American observers), November 8 (best for Asian observers), and December 5 (another date for European observers).
March 2 – First Shot at the Messier Marathon
2022 is an unusual year – obviously – but also in a good way. This year, there are actually two opportunities to try and ‘run’ a Messier Marathon.
For those not familiar, the Messier catalog includes 110 deep space objects; the Messier Marathon is an unofficial event where astronomers attempt to see all 110 events in a single night. All 110 events are only visible in the sky between late February and early April, and it’s obviously critical to have no light interference from the Moon.
Coming back to 2022, there are actually two new Moons in the window where a Messier Marathon can be completed; the first is on the night of March 2nd (though many astronomers will attempt the event over the following weekend, March 5th)…
April 1 – Second Shot at the Messier Marathon
…and the the second night to make an attempt is April 1st (or the following weekend of April 2nd).
This latter opportunity is a little bit better only because of the New Moon falling on a Friday – so you can theoretically do the Messier Marathon overnight Friday to Saturday. However, the 1st of April is generally considered the end of Messier season, so you’ll have to get the timing and order of viewing each object just right to accomplish it all in one night.
I’ve got a complete guide to running the Messier Marathon – including the order of objects and what kind of telescope you need – if you decide to try this on one (or both) nights in 2022.
April 22 – Peak of the Lyrid Meteor Shower
I consider it a good luck sign that my birthday is always marked by a meteor shower: the Lyrids generally peak on the night of April 22nd (into the 23rd, my birthday). However, in 2022, the peak of meteoric activity is expected in the pre-dawn hours of the 22nd rather than the evening (the radiant constellation of Lyra will actually reach its highest point during the day, so the best meteor activity won’t be visible).
Additionally in 2022, a 50% illuminated Moon will pose some interference, but don’t let that stop you from rising and shining early (pre-dawn on the 22nd) to get out and enjoy the second major meteor shower of the year.
If you want to learn more about how to see the Lyrids this year, I have a guide to that. (It will be updated for 2022 in the next few weeks.)
April 30 – Partial Solar Eclipse
Those living in far southern South America have had a great run of solar eclipses these past few years – and another one is coming at the end of April.
On the evening of April 30th, viewers in Chile, Southern Peru Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay, and very southern Brazil (and penguins in Antarctica) will see a partial solar eclipse. For most viewers, the sun won’t be more than 20% obscured by the Moon.
To learn more about this partial solar eclipse, check out my next solar eclipse guide. (It will be updated for this eclipse in the next few weeks.)
May 16 – Total Lunar Eclipse
As is always the case, a lunar eclipse comes with each solar eclipse (sometimes two lunar eclipses!). In the case of this series, there’s no pre-cursor lunar eclipse – but there is a great total lunar eclipse occurring after the partial solar eclipse across South America.
This lunar eclipse will be visible (at least partially) across most of North America, all of South America, Africa, and all of Europe. Totality – the blood Moon phase – will be visible for those in eastern North America and all of South America. Here’s hoping for clear skies above Cleveland that night!
Learn more about this total lunar eclipse in my guide to the next lunar eclipse. (It will be updated in the next few weeks.)
May 26 – Lunar Occultation of Venus
Now that you know what a “lunar occultation” is (see February 8th), you can probably guess what this particular astronomy event is all about.
On the night of May 26th, Venus will slip behind the Moon from the perspective of some observers on Earth. In this case, you need to be in Southeast Asia – any of the countries in that region will have a prime opportunity to watch this event, even with the unaided eye.
Best of all, the Moon will be only 7% illuminated, meaning it will pose little issues from over-illuminating the occultation. In fact, the entire event will look a lot like the photo above – though this was taken of a lunar occultation in the past!
June 22 – Lunar Occultation of Mars
Is 2022 the year of lunar occultations? #LunarOccultation? Yeah, maybe – there are 14 lunar occultations in 2022, while only 4 occurred in 2021.
(Actually the trend in lunar occultations is increasing, with 19 expected in 2023, 54 expected in 2024, 41 expected in 2025, 46 in 2026, and 22 in 2027!)
There are three lunar occultations of Mars that will occur in 2022, the first being on June 22nd. This one will be visible to almost nobody, as it will only be observable above the Southern Atlantic. However, the later two on July 21st and December 7th will have greater visibility; the one on December 7th will be especially nice to observe across most of North America and parts of Western Europe.
June 27 – Peak of the June Bootid Meteor Shower
I wouldn’t normally include the June Bootids meteor shower on my list of the best meteor showers each year, only because it’s notoriously unpredictable. That is, it’s very hard for scientists to predict in advance how active it will be.
However, there’s one great reason that I included the June Bootids for 2022: the night they will peak, June 27th, is a New Moon. That means there are literally no better conditions for trying to see the June Bootids than this year (at least for a few years to come), because the Moon will pose no interference to spotting any meteors that do enter our atmosphere.
If you want to head out on June 27th to try and spot June Bootids, plan on it right after sunset; the peak of activity (however much it will be) and when the radiant point reaches its highest in the sky will occur in the dusk hours.
August 13 – Peak of the Perseid Meteor Shower
No list of yearly astronomy events is completed without including the most popular meteor shower of the year, the Perseids.
The Perseids typically peak somewhere between August 12th-14th each year. This year it’s predicted they’ll peak right in the middle, on the morning of the 13th. Before the sun rises that day, you can expect to see up to 150 meteors per hour – hence why this is such a popular astronomy event to see!
Unfortunately, the Moon isn’t in a great phase for the 2022 Perseids meteor shower; the Moon will be 95% illuminated having just passed its Full phase a few nights earlier. This means the Moon – though it will be in a different part of the night sky – will likely interfere with seeing all 150 meteors (on average) per hour during the peak of the meteor shower.
Don’t let that stop you though: this summer meteor shower is a crowd-pleaser if you can get to a good dark sky spot for the night.
August 14 – Saturn at Opposition
As the second half of the year goes by, there are some great opportunities for seeing the gas giants and ice giants in our solar system. In particular, you’ll want to try and spot these planets when they’re at “opposition” – meaning they’re directly opposite from the sun, with the earth in the middle.
The first good opportunity like this happens just after the Perseids, when Saturn reaches opposition on August 14th. Saturn will be visible in the constellation Capricornus and in the sky most of the night; it’ll reach its highest point around midnight local time – wherever you’re observing from.
While Saturn is visible to the unaided eye, a telescope will make this an even better experience. Saturn’s rings are visible even with low-cost, smaller telescopes (such as those in the $100 to $200 range); obviously a bigger telescope will bring even more definition to the resplendent scene. (Can you tell Saturn is my favorite planet to view through a telescope? Those rings are just so magical!)
Note that for all of these opposition events this year, I chose photos that are more similar to what you’ll see looking through a standard telescope rather than professional photos from Hubble or other observatories.
September 16 – Neptune at Opposition
Following up on Saturn’s (good) opposition, next up is Neptune. Distant Neptune reaches opposition on September 16th, and you’ll definitely need a telescope to see it. (Neptune is never visible to the unaided eye, even in perfect dark sky conditions or when at opposition and relatively brighter.)
Neptune will be located in the constellation Aquarius, which might be hard to find if you don’t use a starfinder app or have a telescope with that function. Instead, look for big, bright Jupiter, which is close to Neptune in the sky and use that as a guide. Speaking of Jupiter being relatively close to Neptune in the night sky…
September 26 – Jupiter at Opposition
…On the night of September 26th, Jupiter is at its own opposition. It makes sense that Neptune and Jupiter will have opposition in close succession due to their relative proximity in the sky form our perspective.
In any case, Jupiter will be in the constellation Pisces, and since this gargantuan gas giant is visible to the unaided eye, you won’t need a telescope to see it. However, should you choose to use one, even smaller telescopes will reveal the four Galilean moons of Io, Europa, Callisto, and Ganymede. A bigger telescope will reveal even more of Jupiters many, many moons (last count was 79).
As with Saturn and Neptune, Jupiter will reach its highest in the sky around midnight local time, so that’s the best opportunity to go out and see it if you stay up late.
October 9 – Peak of the Draconid Meteor Shower
After a series of oppositions and some great chances to go planet-gazing, it’s time to head back out for more meteor showers. The autumn is prime season for shooting stars, so bundle up!
First up is the Draconids meteor shower, which peaks in the evening hours of October 9th. While this unfortunately coincides with the night of the Full Moon, you can still try to spot Draconids on this night. While generally a slow meteor shower with only meteors per hour, the Draconids are a variable shower – some years we are treated to literally thousands of meteors per hour. Nobody has made predictions for 2022 yet, so keep your ears peeled for news as we get closer to the day.
October 21 – Peak of the Orionid Meteor Shower
Roughly two weeks later, we’re in for a real treat: one of the darkest nights for meteor shower viewing this year. On the night of Friday, October 21st, the Moon will be just a few days from its New phase and pose no threat to obscuring Orionids meteors as they enter our atmosphere with dazzling displays.
While the Orionids aren’t nearly as active as other major meteor showers – with only an average of 15 meteors per hour – they are still worth heading out to see. First of all, the radiant point of the shower is easily spotted in the familiar constellation of Orion. Second, the Orionids are one of the meteor showers each year that occasionally produces “fireballs” – exceptionally bright and dramatic displays as meteors enter the atmosphere. The chance to see a fireball is always worth heading out for!
October 25 – Partial Solar Eclipse
Though the first partial solar eclipse of 2022 wasn’t from much of the world, an entirely different part of the planet will have another chance: on October 25th around midday, much of Europe, the Middle East, Northern Africa, Central Asia, India, and western China and Russia will experience a partial solar eclipse.
The maximum partiality of this eclipse is only 20-30%, so it won’t be one of those jaw-dropping total solar eclipses we all love. However, it will be unmistakable, and many people in this densely-populated part of the world will likely want to see this eclipse first-hand. Just be sure to use proper eye protection as the sun can absolutely damage your eyes during a partial eclipse.
November 8 – Total Lunar Eclipse
Paired up with the partial solar eclipse two weeks earlier, much of the world will be treated to another lunar eclipse on the night of November 8th. Totality will be visible for eastern Asia, Australia,New Zealand, many of the Pacific Islands, and most of North America – the rest of those in the path of the eclipse will experience a partial lunar eclipse to some degree.
I won’t have a guide for this total eclipse – or its preceding solar eclipse – until after the first two eclipses of 2022 have occurred, but I’l be sure to add the links here once they’re live.
November 9 – Uranus at Opposition
As I mentioned at the top of the post, Uranus has a lot of good viewing opportunities, but there’s one last one I highly recommend. Though only observers in Asia will be treated to the lunar occultation of Uranus on November 8th, the next night is a prime opportunity for everyone globally to see the distant ice giant. On the night of November 9th, Uranus will reach opposition – and like its fellow giants, this makes it a great night to try and observe.
While Uranus is visible to the unaided eye in pristine dark sky locations, I recommend a telescope for this astronomy event. Unfortunately, Uranus will be in the constellation Aries and very near to the almost-Full Moon on the night of opposition, so the only way you’re going to cut through that lunar illumination is with some help. If you have it (or are willing to invest), a better telescope (in the $500 to $1000 range) will be your best aide.
November 18 – Peak of the Leonid Meteor Shower
While there are other astronomical events as the months wind down in 2022, the three main ones I want to highlight in this post are meteor showers.
First up, the Leonids, which peaks in the middle of November. This year, that’s expected to be overnight from November 18th to 19th, as the constellation Leo will be visible above the horizon between midnight and 6am. Like the Orionids, the Leonids aren’t super active – roughly 15 meteors per hour, on average – but can also produce fireballs.
December 14 – Peak of the Geminid Meteor Shower
After a year of poor visibility due to a Full Moon in 2021, there are decent prospects for seeing the Geminids meteor shower in 2022 – assuming your skies are clear. First up, the Moon will pose some interference nearing its third-quarter phase, but that’s tolerable. The bigger concern is cloudy skies, which usually plague the northern hemisphere during the winter months.
If your skies are clear though, this is a must-see meteor shower. The Geminids typically peak around 120 meteors per hour, almost on par with the Perseids on any given year. Additionally, colder weather makes for clearer skies and less atmospheric interference – so while you’ll need to bundle up to enjoy this meteor shower, the viewing prospects are actually better than during the late summer Perseids.
December 22 – Peak of the Ursid Meteor Shower
Last, but certainly not least, winter begins with the December Solstice and peak of the Ursids meteor shower. This is a substantially less active meteor shower than the Geminids, so let’s just manage that expectation now: the average rate of meteors per hour is only about 10 for Ursids. Additionally, the shower is expected to peak in the pre-dawn hours – aka the coldest hours of the night – so you’ll need to put on your best winter gear to enjoy the few Ursids there are to see.
Nevertheless, watching shooting stars is a nice way to end the year, which is why I always recommend it if your skies are clear and you own enough layers to stay warm.
I’m wishing you many clear nights for the coming year and loads of good stargazing opportunities; now you know the best ones! Have any questions about these astronomy events in the 2022 night sky? Let me know in the comments.