The first of the pair falls on the night of May 15. A slight darkening of the lower left of the moon will begin around 9:32 p.m. Eastern Time, but it will be little different to most untrained observers. It’s the brightest and most diffuse part of Earth’s shadow, called the penumbra, that sways over the moon. Greater darkening will begin at 10:27 p.m. when the umbra, or the darkest and densest part of Earth’s shadow, settles there.
This eclipse will be best for viewers east of Lower 48, where the entire eclipse will be visible. Across the Pacific Coast and Intermountain West, the eclipse will begin before moonrise, but some of its later stages will be visible.
Totality begins at 11:29 p.m. Eastern Time, peaking at 12:11 a.m. before ending at 12:53 a.m. The partial eclipse ends at 1:55 a.m. During totality, the moon will be immersed in almost total darkness. Instead of disappearing into the night sky, it will be bathed in a brilliant amber hue as sunlight streaming through the edges of Earth’s atmosphere is bent back toward the moon. Essentially, the light from all of Earth’s sunrises and sunsets will be cast onto the lunar background simultaneously.
Astronomers rate the color of lunar eclipses on the Danjon scale, which ranges from 0 to 4. Values around zero represent a nearly invisible moon that is dark enough to almost blend into the surrounding night sky. Total lunar eclipses that get a value of 4 are copper-colored and slightly orange, sometimes with a bluish edge. The amount of pollution in the atmosphere affects the color achieved.
A second total lunar eclipse is scheduled for the morning of November 8. This time, it is the west coast which is privileged for observation. The East Coast will still see the entirety of totality, but the morning moonset will occur before the end of the partial phases.
The partial game will begin at 4:09 a.m. EST, and the full game will begin just over an hour later at 5:16 a.m. EST. The eclipse will reach its maximum magnitude around 6 a.m. before Earth’s shadow gradually recedes from the moon beginning at 6:41 a.m. In Washington DC, sunrise occurs at 6:43 a.m.
There will be partial solar eclipses on April 30 and October 25, but none will be visible from North America.
Each year plays host to a variety of meteor showers, but only two – August’s Perseids and December’s Geminids – are truly worth standing for. The others feature a trickle of sporadic shooting stars with a small handful over the course of a night, while these two prominent showers can throw up dozens every hour.
The Perseids peak on the night of August 12-13. They are the result of a tiny, pebble-sized piece of interstellar debris left in the wake of Comet Swift-Tuttle, which last passed Earth in 1992. These pieces burn up in the atmosphere outer surface of the Earth as they decay at speeds approaching 37 miles per second. The resulting combustion produces light that glows in shades of green, purple, pink and orange.
This year’s show will be somewhat marred by a nearly full moon, which will be up most of the night. Yet the Perseids are rich in fireballs, or meteors brighter than the planet Venus, that will dwarf even the inescapable pale white of moonlight.
The Geminids are boosted by tiny boulders thrown by a 3.6 mile wide asteroid known as 3200 Phaethon. Their elemental composition favors green meteors, and a slower rate of speed – 22 miles per second – means their twinkling trails are visible longer in the night sky.
Again, the moon won’t cooperate, but at least there will be a window of opportunity to see the show. In most places, the waning gibbous moon, which will be two-thirds illuminated, will set around midnight.
Spotting a planet in the night sky is always a special experience, but sometimes several crowd together at once. These planetary appointments are sometimes called “conjunctions,” and 2022 will include a few of them.
EarthSky reports that Venus, Mars, and Saturn will be tightly clustered around one hour before sunrise through early April. The closest transit of Venus and Saturn occurred on March 28, when the pair was joined by the waning crescent moon. Mars and Saturn will be closest on the mornings of April 4 and 5.
Between April 30 and May 1, Venus and Jupiter will almost overlap in the morning sky. Look southeast in the pre-dawn hours.
Perhaps the most spectacular array of planets, not technically a conjunction, will come on the morning of June 23, according to Smithsonian Magazine. Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn will all line up, with Venus and Jupiter being the brightest. Skywatchers should look southeast at morning twilight; Mercury will be in the lower left and Saturn in the upper right. Uranus might be visible beyond Saturn, but that would require dark skies and a telescope.