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The most spectacular astronomical events of 2022

These are the shooting stars, eclipses, meteor showers and planetary alignments to look out for this year

Written by
James Manning
,
Ellie Walker-Arnott
&
Ed Cunningham
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Whenever life down here on Planet Earth gets a bit too much, there’s something reassuring about being able to escape to the cosmos. Not literally, obviously (unless you’re Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk), but there’s still a certain escapist bliss in studying the night sky. From eclipses and shooting stars to meteor showers, planetary alignments and moon phases, space is the greatest show off Earth. 

Although pros will want to splash out on a fancy telescope, for most of us stargazing is free, infinitely rewarding and a great way to fill up all that free time we seem to have on our hands these days. If you can, it helps to find a spot far away from the light pollution of the city (here are the best stargazing spots in the UK and USA), but the brightest astronomical phenomena are easily visible from your local park or even your window – as long as it isn’t cloudy, of course.

This year you’ll be able to spot the regular meteor showers and full moons (each with its own name) as well as a total lunar eclipse and two spectacular solar eclipses. To help you spot shooting stars, see a ‘pink moon’ or tell your penumbral from your annular eclipses, we’ve pulled together a list of the upcoming astronomical events we’re excited about. Read on for the most jaw-dropping cosmic events of 2022. 

Celestial calendar 2022

April 16: Pink Moon

Before you get your hopes up, no the moon will not be turning pink. Sorry. The Pink Moon is so called by Native American tribes because of the arrival of a pink kind of flower, and it’s usually the first full moon of spring. It’s also been called the Fish Moon, Growing Moon and Egg Moon.

April 30: partial solar eclipse

A partial solar eclipse obviously isn’t quite as spectacular as a total solar eclipse, but it’s still pretty bloomin’ cool. It happens when part of the moon moves in front of the sun, temporarily blocking some of the sun’s light and leaving the Earth in partial shadow. If you live in south America, get your goggles out – this particular partial eclipse will best seen from southern Argentina. 

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June 14: supermoon
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June 14: supermoon

Traditionally called a Strawberry Moon (because it coincides with the peak of summer fruit season in the Northern Hemisphere), June’s moon is also known as a Rose Moon, Honey Moon and Hot Moon. This year it’ll be especially lovely, as it’s the first of 2022’s two supermoons – the full moon being at its nearest point to the earth.

June 21: June solstice
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June 21: June solstice

In the Northern Hemisphere, the summer solstice, also known as midsummer, is the longest day of the year. The same day in the Southern Hemisphere is the winter solstice, or shortest day. Many celebrations are linked to the event, from midnight baseball games to magical druid parties. 

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July 13: supermoon

July’s full moon is usually called a Buck Moon because in the past it was associated with male deer, who get their new antlers around this time in the Northern Hemisphere. It’s also called a Thunder Moon and a Hey Moon (or, if you like, ‘Hey Moon!’). In 2022, the Buck Moon also happens to be the second of the year’s supermoons – where the full moon is at its closest point to the Earth. 

 

July 29-30: Delta Aquarids meteor shower peaks

The second of two meteor showers named after the constellation Aquarius, the Delta Aquarid shooting stars start each year on July 12 and last until August 23. Your best chance to see them is after midnight on the night of July 29-30. 

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August 12: Perseids meteor shower peaks
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August 12: Perseids meteor shower peaks

The Perseid shooting stars are debris from the tail of the Swift-Tuttle comet, and are so called because they appear to originate from the constellation Perseus. The Perseids are visible between July 17 and August 24, peaking on the night of August 12-13. They’re one of the best and brightest meteor showers, especially in the Northern Hemisphere.

August 12: Sturgeon moon
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August 12: Sturgeon moon

August’s full moon is traditionally called a Sturgeon Moon, because it was when an abundance of fish could be found in lakes where the indigenous North American Algonquin tribe fished. It’s also called a Green Corn Moon, Barley Moon, Fruit Moon and Grain Moon.

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August 14: a chance to see Saturn

If you have a telescope, now’s the time to use it. Saturn is at its largest in the sky on the night of August 14, and fully illuminated by the sun. That means it’ll be visible all night long, and brighter than at any other point through the year. Look through a decent telescope and you should be able to see the planet’s rings and even a few of its moons.

September 10: Harvest Moon
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September 10: Harvest Moon

The Harvest Moon is a name given to whichever full moon falls closest to the September equinox each year. This year, it’s the September full moon, also known as the Corn Moon or Barley Moon.

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September 23: September equinox

There are two equinoxes each year, the March equinox and September equinox. They fall when the length of day and night are nearly equal. In the Northern Hemisphere the September equinox is known as the autumn equinox and heralds the start of the new season, while in the Southern Hemisphere it’s seen as the beginning of spring. Wherever you are, on this day the sun will rise due east and set due west.

September 26: a chance to see Jupiter

The largest planet in our solar system, Jupiter is easiest to spot tonight. It’s at its closest to Earth and will be lit up by the sun all night, making for excellent viewing (with a strong enough telescope) of its gaseous surface and moons.

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October 8-9: Draconids meteor shower peaks
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October 8-9: Draconids meteor shower peaks

This annual meteor shower is so called because the shooting stars appear to originate from near a constellation called Draco the Dragon. The meteors appear annually from October 6-10, and come from debris left by comet Giacobini-Zinner.

You can see these shooting stars from anywhere, but they’re easier to spot in the Northern Hemisphere, especially on the peak night of October 8-9. Unlike most meteor showers, this one is easiest to see in the evening, not the early morning – so you shouldn’t need to stay up too late to catch some shooting stars.

October 21: Hunter’s Moon
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October 21: Hunter’s Moon

Heralding the season of big game in the Northern Hemisphere, October’s full moon is also known as the Blood Moon and the Travel Moon. It’s just a regular full moon, but a great excuse to book a trip.

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October 21: Orionids meteor shower peaks
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October 21: Orionids meteor shower peaks

This annual meteor shower is the second created by the trail left by Halley’s Comet. The shooting stars appear to originate from the Orion constellation in the sky, and appear from October 2 to November 7, with the best viewings after midnight on the night of October 21-22. It’s visible from all over the world. 

October 25: partial lunar eclipse
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October 25: partial lunar eclipse

Less spectacular than a total lunar eclipse, a partial lunar eclipse happens when only part (rather than all) of the moon is blocked out by Earth’s shadow. This one will be visible from the whole of Asia, Europe, the Middle East and north Africa. 

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October 25: partial solar eclipse

The second partial solar eclipse of 2022 will be much more obvious than the first. It’ll also be visible to more people and able to be seen from south and west Asia, north and east Africa, and pretty much all of Europe. 

November 8: Beaver Moon

November’s full moon is called the Beaver Moon (no sniggering, please) because in the Northern Hemisphere, this time of year is when beavers make their winter dams. It’s also been called a Frost Moon or Mourning Moon, as it’s the last full moon before the December solstice.

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November 12: Taurids meteor shower peaks

Running annually from September 7 to December 10, the Taurids aren’t the most spectacular meteor shower of the year, with only five to ten meteors per hour. 

The Taurids actually have two different peaks, depending on where you are. The Northern Hemisphere peak is 12-13 November, while the same in the Southern Hemisphere is much earlier, on the night of the 10-11 October.

November 17: Leonids meteor shower peaks
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November 17: Leonids meteor shower peaks

Known for its fast, bright meteors which peak every 33 years, the Leonid shower seems to radiate from the Leo constellation. These shooting stars come from the Tempel-Tuttle comet and run annually from November 6-30, peaking in mid-November. 

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December 14: Geminids meteor shower peaks
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December 14: Geminids meteor shower peaks

You can expect to see over 100 bright shooting stars an hour at the Germinids’ peak. The meteor shower runs from December 7 to 17 and appears to come from the Gemini constellation, hence the name – though their actual origin is the comet 3200 Phaethon. You’ll be able to spot these shooting stars everywhere (though they will be clearer in the northern hemisphere) with the peak on the night of December 14-15. Head to a dark location after midnight for your best shot.

December 18: Cold Moon
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December 18: Cold Moon

No prizes for guessing why the moon nearest to the Northern Hemisphere’s winter solstice was named the Cold Moon – or indeed why its alternative name is the Long Nights Moon.

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December 21: December solstice
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December 21: December solstice

In the Northern Hemisphere, this is the winter solstice, marking the shortest day of the year. In the Southern Hemisphere, the same day marks midsummer, or the longest day of the year. Either way, there’s only one direction of travel from here.

December 22-23: Ursids meteor shower peaks
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December 22-23: Ursids meteor shower peaks

The last meteor shower of the year is caused by debris from the 8P/Tuttle comet. This is quite a sparse one – you can expect around 10 shooting stars an hour, and only in the Northern Hemisphere. The full shower runs from December 17-25, with the peak on the night of December 22-23.

Where to stargaze?

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