Astronomy Essentials

Best of 2022: Night sky scenes not to miss

Best of 2022: Night sky

Best of 2022: Top to bottom: Jupiter, Saturn, Mercury, Venus, with moon in three spots going up.
Evening of January 3, 4 and 5: Moon and planets after sunset. Following new moon on January 2, 2022, the young moon – a waxing crescent – will return to the west after sunset. As seen from around the globe, the moon will pass 4 planets. Bright Venus will be exceedingly near the sunset glare … will you see it? Maybe. Try binoculars if you don’t spot it. Mercury, too, will be difficult to see when the moon passes by on January 3. But on January 4 and 5, if your sky is clear, you’ll easily see the young moon near Saturn and Jupiter. Chart by John Jardine Goss.

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Venus, Mars and crescent moon in a line above the horizon.
Morning of January 29: Crescent moon, faint Mars, bright Venus. The waning crescent moon will form a line with faint Mars and brilliant Venus on the morning of January 29, 2022. When you see them, realize that Mars is far across the solar system from Earth, having passed behind the sun as seen from Earth on October 8, 2021. Read more about Mars. Meanwhile, Venus will be nearly at its closest to Earth, having passed between us and the sun on January 8-9, 2022. Read more about Venus. Binocular users with dark skies will see a bonus feature, the subtle glow of the star-forming nebula M8, forming a triangle with the moon and Mars. Chart by John Jardine Goss.
Venus, Mars, and Mercury above the horizon before sunrise.
Mornings of February 11 to 16: Venus, Mars and Mercury. See all 3 of the rocky worlds that are Earth’s neighbors in the inner solar system on the mornings of February 11-16, 2022, shortly before sunrise. And, of course, look straight down to see the 4th rocky planet, Earth! Chart by John Jardine Goss.
Chart showing morning planets with plus sign where asteroid Vesta should be.
Morning of February 27: A celestial treat to start your day. The waning crescent moon forms a line with Mars and Venus 60 minutes before sunrise on February 27, 2022. Unseen to stargazers, the asteroid Vesta Iurks stealthfully nearby, positioned between Venus and Mars. You’ll need binoculars or a small telescope, away from city lights, to spot Vesta. Chart by John Jardine Goss.
Venus above Saturn, which is above a crescent moon, with red Mars to the right.
The last few mornings of March and first few of April. Find Venus, Mars and Saturn grouped closely together 60 minutes before sunrise. Venus easily will be the brightest of the trio. Saturn and Mars will be much dimmer. Venus will pass closest to Saturn on March 28, 2022, with the waning crescent moon joining them on that date. Chart by John Jardine Goss.
Hyades on left, Pleiades on right, with moon passing between.
Evening of April 4 (and July 23): A pretty, almost magical celestial scene. The dipper-shaped Pleiades star cluster – or 7 Sisters – is a favorite among stargazers. And the V-shaped Hyades star cluster ranks highly as well. Add to them the waxing crescent moon with earthshine for a very attractive celestial scene. Just such an event happens on the evening of April 4 about an hour after sunset. This will happen again – this time in the morning sky – an hour before sunrise on July 23 with Venus and Mars acting as bookends. Notice also the brightest star of the grouping, brilliant Aldebaran, fiery Eye of the Bull in Taurus. Chart by John Jardine Goss.
Venus on left, Mars to right, with Saturn on either side of Mars over two days.
Mornings of April 4 and 5: Mars and Saturn nearly merge. Another planetary meet up – or conjunction – occurs on April 4 and 5 before sunrise. Mars and Saturn, with Saturn being the slightly brighter of the 2, appear together nearly merging into a single point of light. Binoculars easily show the scene with the planets switching positions on the 2 mornings. Chart by John Jardine Goss.
Circle with Venus inside and Jupiter on either side of Venus over two days.
Mornings of April 30 and May 1: Jupiter and Venus nearly merge. Bright Jupiter climbs quickly in the morning twilight and heads toward brilliant Venus in the last week of April 2022. On the morning of April 27, the 2 planets are joined by the waxing moon for an eye-catching scene. Two mornings later, Jupiter and Venus will meet in conjunction, visually nearly bumping into each other. Because of the glare from both planets, many people will see them merge into one very bright glow! The morning of May 1 continues the show, but with the positions of the planets reversed. Chart by John Jardine Goss.
Ring showing Earth's shadow with moon edging in and out plus a third moon totally inside and red.
Overnight on May 15: Total eclipse of the moon. May’s full moon also comes with a total eclipse for viewers in the Western Hemisphere. The western rim of the moon begins to enter the dark umbral shadow about 10:28 p.m. EDT. Watch the moon slowly slide into the umbra, becoming completely immersed at 11:29 p.m. EDT. The total eclipse continues until 12:54 a.m. EDT on May 16. By 1:55 a.m., the moon completely leaves the umbral shadow. Viewers in the Eastern portion of the US will be able to see the complete eclipse, while those in the west will see most of the eclipse with the moon rising eclipsed. Chart by John Jardine Goss.
Ring showing Earth's shadow with moon dipping in at 12 o'clock and 5 o'clock positions plus red moon inside.
Morning of November 8: Total eclipse of the moon. Nearly 6 months after the May 2022 eclipse, the moon again slides into Earth’s shadow, creating a total eclipse. Viewers can see the eclipse best from the western U.S. As a bonus, dim Uranus lies just 2 degrees east of the eclipsed moon. Chart by John Jardine Goss.
White circle with arrow showing motion to cover smaller red circle labeled Mars.
Overnight on December 7: The moon covers Mars. December 2022 is the best month for viewing Mars. It reaches its brightest point as Earth passes it in its smaller orbit. On the overnight of December 7, the full moon slides past Mars, occulting (covering) the planet from portions of the U.S. The exact time will depend on your location, but it’ll be a few hours after sunset for parts of the US. This fascinating and unusual event appears to skywatchers who are northwest of a diagonal line drawn from Augusta, Maine, through Columbus, Ohio, through Little Rock, Arkansas and San Antonio, Texas, and thence extending into Mexico. Begin viewing at 9:30 p.m. EST to see the moon slowly approach Mars. Use binoculars to spot the red planet next to the bright full moon. Depending on the viewing location, it will take 30 seconds to over 6 minutes for the moon to completely occult, or cover, Mars. Chart by John Jardine Goss.

Bottom line: Best of 2022: Night sky scenes chosen for you by the editors of EarthSky that you won’t want to miss. Mark your calendars now!

Also see the indispensable Observer’s Handbook, from the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada

Planet observing is easy: Top tips here

EarthSky’s monthly planet guide

December 29, 2021
Astronomy Essentials

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