2022 celestial events
A partial lunar eclipse rises above the fifth century B.C. Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounio, south of Athens, Greece, on August 7, 2017. (Photo: Petros Giannakouris/AP)

Things are looking up in 2022 – especially if you’re looking up. Whatever’s happening on the ground, it promises to be a great year for skywatchers to cruise the heavens. And when they do, they will be treated to two blood moons, two partial solar eclipses and several planetary engagements. The night sky will feature a pair of total lunar eclipses – aka “blood moons” for the deep shade of red the moon turns when bathed in Earth’s shadow. Shooting stars will streak across the heavens with no bright moon to drown out the light, and five of our brightest neighboring planets will be visible to the naked eye. Even distant giant Uranus may be visible as a tiny, green-colored point of light.

What is the best way to see a shooting star? Find a viewing location away from city lights and wait about 20 minutes for your eyes to fully adjust to the darkness. Here are some of the most spectacular celestial phenomena available for viewing in California this year.

January 3 and 4: The Quadrantid Meteor Shower

The first major meteor shower of 2022 for viewers in the Northern Hemisphere is the Quadrantids, which peaked on the night of January 3 through the early morning hours of January 4. This New Year’s shower produces bright shooting stars, up to 100 visible meteors per hour, depending on local light pollution. The Quadrantids get their name from the former constellation Quadrans Muralis, and the shooting stars (burning space rocks) appear to originate from the northeast sky, just off the handle of the Big Dipper.

March 24 to April 5: Venus, Mars and Saturn Perform Planet Ballet

Early risers from late March to early April will see some of the brightest neighboring planets perform a perfect dance. Low in the southeastern sky, about an hour before sunrise, Venus, Mars and Saturn will be clustered together in a tight triangle. The crescent moon will pass by the planetary trio on March 27 and 28. From April 1 through April 5, the positions of the planets will begin to shift, making Saturn and Mars appear to be getting closer and closer until they’re barely separated.

April 30: Partial Solar Eclipse

Two partial solar eclipses – when the moon blocks part of the sun – will give skywatchers pause to wonder. The first will be visible in parts of South America, Antarctica, the Pacific and Southern Oceans. The moon will pass between Earth and the sun on April 30, but to catch most of eclipse, you will need to be located in the Southern Ocean west of the Antartic or in the southernmost parts of Chile and Argentina. Unless you’re a penguin, remember to wear protective eyewear to safely view a partial solar eclipse. Staring directly at it can seriously injure your eyes.

April 30 and May 1: Venus-Jupiter Conjunction

As April moves along, bright planet Jupiter will slowly rise higher and higher in the southeastern sky. The giant planet will gradually approach the brilliantly-bright Venus, until before dawn on April 30 when the two planets will almost appear to merge. This mega meeting of the two planets will be visible through binoculars and backyard telescopes. As a bonus, Mars and Saturn will be also visible in the sky.

May 5 and 6: The Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower

Nearly perfect sky conditions should make watching the peak of the Eta Aquarid meteor shower a rare treat. Best views should occur in the predawn hours of May 5. Formed from debris shed by Halley’s comet, the meteors will appear to originate from the constellation Aquarius, near the southeastern horizon, during the shower. The show will slightly favor viewers in the Southern Hemisphere, but away from city lights, while not prolific, a few dozen shooting stars may be visible per hour in the Northern Hemisphere.

May 15 and 16: Flower Moon Total Lunar Eclipse

The first of two total lunar eclipses in 2022 happens on May 15 or 16, depending on location. Lunar eclipses occur when the sun, Earth and moon align and the moon crosses through Earth’s shadow, darkening and reddening the sun. This lunar eclipse will be visible from North and South America, Europe, Africa and parts of Asia. However, while parts of the lunar eclipse will take place after the moon has set for viewers in Africa and Europe, skywatchers across the eastern half of North America and all of Central and South America will get to see the entire eclipse from beginning to end. Starting at 6:32 p.m. PT on May 15, the eclipse will reach its maximum phase – when the moon turns its deepest and most dramatic red – at 3:11 a.m. PT on May 16. It’s named the Flower Moon Eclipse for the blooming flowers in the Northern Hemisphere this time of year.

June 18 to 27: Five (or Six) Planets Align

In early June, catch a rare glimpse of all the major planets visible to the naked eye: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and, under pristine sky conditions, possibly Uranus. Capping it off, the moon will pass near each of these planets between June 18 and June 27. On June 24 and 25 the crescent moon will glide past giant Uranus, making it easier to spot through binoculars as a greenish dot. Not be missed is the moon’s June 26 close encounter with a brilliant Venus. Then, on June 27, faint, elusive faint Mercury gets its closeup with the moon, with both appearing embedded in the morning twilight.

October 25: Partial Solar Eclipse

On October 25 a partial solar eclipse will occupy the skies over most of Europe and the Middle East, as well as parts of western Asia, northern Africa and Greenland. Gazers in North and South America will be out of luck for this one, as the partial solar eclipse will occur during nighttime in the Americas. The next solar eclipse for skywatchers west of the Atlantic won’t happen until October 14, 2023.

November 7 and 8: Total Lunar Eclipse

People across North and South America, Australia, Asia and parts of Europe will have the opportunity to watch the moon blush red for the second time in 2022 during the overnight hours of November 7 and 8. In California, the western U.S and Canada, eastern Russia, New Zealand and parts of eastern Australia, skywatchers will get to see the entire eclipse. The moon will begin to darken along its edge on November 8 at 3:03 a.m. PT, and then plunge entirely into the deepest central portion of Earth’s shadow at 2:59 a.m. PT. The eclipse will end at 3:41 am PT, rounding out another wonder-filled year of stargazing. So look up to the sky! Above your head, there’s a universe of majestic events unfolding before your eyes that you won’t want to miss!