Two total lunar eclipses, the sudden relocation of Venus from western to eastern horizon and a series of “conjunctions” when Venus will cozy up with three other planets highlight the list of celestial events for Colorado skygazers in 2022.
The lunar eclipses will happen in May and November. The first will be seen in the eastern sky on the night of May 15 from 8:27 p.m. to just before midnight. The second will happen in the wee hours of Nov. 8 in the western sky from 2:09 a.m. until 5:49 a.m., less than an hour before sunrise.
For the November eclipse, Denver is fortunate because in eastern regions of the U.S., the eclipse will still be in progress when the moon sets. For us, the eclipse will be finished and the moon will return to fullness an hour before it sets.
“The reason the eastern United States can’t see (all of) it is because it will be morning,” said John Keller, director of the Fiske Planetarium at the University of Colorado. “The sun will be up before totality has ended. We’re right on the edge, at the very edge of the eclipse. We’ll see the entirety of it.”
The first notable celestial event in 2022 will involve the location of Venus, which will appear in the western sky at sunset for the next few days, as it has for the past several months. In early January, it will disappear for a few days as it moves between the sun and the earth. Then, during the second week of January, it will reemerge in the eastern sky at sunrise, where it will remain for 11 months. That’s going to make planetary conjunctions especially interesting to watch in the coming months.
“Venus is going to be in the morning sky from January through November,” Keller said. “What that means is that all of the planets are then going to pass by it, kind of march past it over the course of the year. The first big one of those happens on March 28. That’s when Venus, Mars and Saturn will all be (seen) in the same pair of binoculars, and the crescent moon will be just below it — a triple conjunction with a crescent moon.”
In the early morning sky of April 30, Jupiter and Venus will be so close they will appear to be “touching each other, almost,” Keller said. On May 29, Jupiter and Mars will appear next to each other, very close to Venus.
None of those will be too hard to find if the sky is clear because you’ll be looking first for Venus, and Venus is always the brightest celestial object in the nighttime sky (except for the moon, of course).
Here’s a list of other celestial events to enjoy in 2022, with the dates to watch for them:
Super moons: While some internet sites identify three or four so-called super moons every year, the primary super moons in 2022 will occur in June and July. The criteria for super moons is entirely subjective, but they are said to occur when a full moon is relatively close to the earth so it appears slightly larger than normal. One will occur June 14 when the moon is just under 222,400 miles from earth, its second-closest approach this year. The second super moon will occur July 13 when it is only 222,000 miles away, its closest approach of the year. Sites that like to splurge on super moons are throwing in August this year, when the moon will be more than 223,700 miles away. To give these variations some context, the farthest distance between earth and moon this year will be more than 252,600 miles on June 29.
Quadrantids meteor shower (in progress, through Jan. 12): The Quadrantids will peak Jan. 3-4, and they have the potential to be one of the strongest meteor shows of the year. They usually fall short, though, according to the American Meteor Society, because the peak only lasts about six hours. “The average hourly rates one can expect under dark skies is 25,” according to the meteor society. “These meteors usually lack persistent trains but often produce bright fireballs.”
Vernal equinox (March 20): The beginning of spring.
Lyrids meteor shower (April 14-30): The Lyrids, which will peak April 22-23, rank as a medium-strength shower. Like the Quadrantids, the meteor society says, they typically lack persistent trains but can produce fireballs.
Summer Solstice (June 21): The beginning of summer — and longest day of the year — with 14 hours, 59 minutes, 15 seconds of daylight.
Perseids meteor shower (July 14-Aug. 24): The Perseids are usually one of the year’s most eagerly anticipated showers because they occur in the summer when the weather is conducive to hanging out under the stars at night. This might be a disappointing year for them, though, because the moon will be full at peak (Aug. 12-13) and that could impair viewing.
Autumnal equinox (Sept. 22): Beginning of fall.
Geminids meteor shower (Dec. 4-24): The Geminids are usually the strongest shower of the year, peaking Dec. 13-14, with up to 120 per hour. “The Geminids are often bright and intensely colored,” the meteor society says. “Due to their medium-slow velocity, persistent trains are not usually seen.”
Winter Solstice (Dec. 21): The beginning of winter — and the shortest day of the year — with only nine hours, 21 minutes, 14 seconds of daylight.
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