The year 2021 is almost over. We have seen a partial solar eclipse, the Perseid meteor shower, the numerous conjunctions of Jupiter and Saturn with the Moon, and, last but not least, the night-shining clouds. The year 2022 will be even richer in phenomena! Under the sky, we are attracted by numerous meteor swarms, a partial solar eclipse, visible to all 5 planets at once, and everything completes the rare eclipse of Mars by the Moon in the full moon, at the very moment of the best visibility of the “red planet”.
The only thing that is likely to be missing will be an extremely bright comet. However, the activity of the Sun is increasing, which could mean increased chances of seeing aurora borealis from our territory as well.
We bring you all the interesting phenomena that you will be able to observe in the sky next year:
January 4: January’s celestial “fireworks” under very good conditions
Almost regularly every year, it starts from an astronomical point of view with one of the richest meteor swarms – the Quadrantids. The swarm is usually active from January 1 to 10. In many ways, the Quadrantids can be described as one of the three strongest meteor swarms of the year.
maximum Maximum meteor swarm Quadrantids in Oravská Lesná in 2020.
January 29 – February 17: Planetary “swallows” at dawn
At the end of January and the beginning of February, the “early birds” will especially enjoy the beautiful celestial performances. Early in the morning, before 7 o’clock in the morning, we will see a trio of prominent planets low above the southeastern horizon. The radiant “pupil” of Venus will be complemented by the weaker Mars and the fleeting Mercury. At the end of January (January 29 and 30), the mowing of the receding Moon will join them.
The three planets themselves are best seen between February 13 and 17, when Mercury reaches the angular farthest point from the Sun (the so-called maximum western elongation, which it reaches on February 16). At that time, we will discover the planets above the southeast around 6:30 in the morning. Their visibility will not be unique in 2022. During the year, it will be possible to see all the planets visible to the solar system in one moment. This conjunction will therefore only be a kind of first “swallow” before an even more beautiful idea.
The third decade of March: Look the light of an animal
The last quarter will take place on March 24, ie shortly after the vernal equinox, thanks to which it will be possible to always look at the “March glow for connoisseurs” in the first half of the night at the end of March – the so-called animal light. It stretches along the ecliptic (the plane of the Earth’s orbit, which imaginarily projects into the zodiac constellations in the sky) and is nothing more than dust around the Sun concentrated in a vast disk, which we look at from the Earth from the side and which scatters the sun’s rays. Astrophysicist Brian May (also a guitarist from the Queen group) dealt with the whole phenomenon, and recent studies by astronomers have revealed an interesting finding that the planet Mars, among other things, is the cause of the dust.
The zodiac light of the cone in the middle of the mosaic of the northern and southern hemispheres. Animal light (bright cones in the middle) on a mosaic of the northern and southern hemispheres.
When and where does animal light look? To see it, you need it really dark or far from sources of light pollution. In the Czech Republic and Slovakia, we recommend going somewhere in the mountains, ideally to areas known for less impact of light pollution, the so-called parks dark sky.
April 22 and 23: Swarm of meteors from the constellation Lyra
At the end of April, the activity of 2600 years of the well-known meteor swarm Lyrida (activities from April 14 to 30) awaits us. The maximum occurs on April 22 at 9 pm CET and the Moon will be in the phase shortly before the last quarter. The observation conditions will therefore be relatively good. The radiant swarm reaches above the northeastern horizon only before the 21st of the night and rises to a height exceeding 60 ° (before dawn). Therefore, despite the moonlight, it is appropriate to direct the observation to the second half of the night from April 22 to 23.
meteoricky day Lyríd meteor swarm in 2020 over the Seč dam.
April 29: Fugitive Mercury among beautiful star clusters
April also offers one of the best views of the planet Mercury. It will be located in the most pronounced eastern elongation with the Sun, ie angularly furthest from the Sun. At that time, after dusk, we find the planet very high in the constellation of Taurus, moreover in the photogenic “company” of the beautifully open star cluster Pleiades. The closest passage of the planet in front of the star cluster will take place between April 28 and 30, it is necessary to look from a place with a completely exposed west-northwestern horizon from 21:10 CEST. Mercury will see with the naked eye.
May 1: Great May Day conjunction
Early in the morning, there is an unusual view over the eastern horizon: the brightest planets, Venus and Jupiter, will be close to each other. This “great conjunction” will be visible from us only low above the horizon at dawn (the planets will rise around 4:30 CEST depending on the observation point). They will be angularly separated by a distance of less than 20 ′, ie only two thirds of the angular size of the full moon. We will not see the closest approach – it will occur below the horizon. But it will still be a rare sight; the last time for such a significant, well-observable conjunction of Jupiter and Venus came to us in November 2017, and we will not see such a close conjunction again until February 7, 2032!
May 5 and 6: Look like dust from Halley’s Comet
Twice a year, the country passes through a stream of ice-dust meteoroids, which was left behind by the most famous hairdresser – Halley’s Comet – during its flight around the Sun. It is ironic that on her penultimate return in 1910, this fact was turned upside down and brought a group of people large enough to spread the alarmist message that the Earth’s atmosphere would be poisoned as it passed and people would become mortally ill if they did not take a special medicine. But meteor swarms do not poison a person, on the contrary. And this also applies to the swarm of η-Aquarids (or also Eta-Aquarids), which are caused by ice-dust grains from the periodic comet 1P / Halley. Specifically, on the night of May 5-6 (the maximum will be after dawn at 10 o’clock CET, but it is not too sharp). The conditions are almost ideal: The moon will be in the first quarter, when the meteors are not even flying yet; it makes sense to watch the swarm from 3 o’clock in the morning until dawn.
Meteors are fast and fly in large numbers, but rather over observers near the equator and in the southern hemisphere. In our country, the constellation of Aquarius, in which the radiant swarm lies, rises just low over the horizon in the second half of the night, so we can see everything everywhere, about 10 meteors per hour. Even so, it’s a nice experience that the vanishing ice-dust grains come from that famous comet that won’t return to the Sun until 2062. What’s more, it passes through this current of the Earth twice during the year. The first time in May and the second time in October, when the meteor swarm Orionid is causing us again. However, if you stay until the early hours of the morning, around 4:30 CET, one more reward will be offered low above the east to the southeast: a very captivating view of the planetary “cord” – from the east we gradually identify the planets Venus, Jupiter, Mars and Saturn.
May 16: “Hidden” lunar eclipse
After a long pause, there will be a lunar eclipse. The eclipse will be complete, but at this stage of the phenomenon the Moon will already be below the horizon, so we will only see the initial half-shadow and partial phase. Within Europe, they will see a phase of total eclipse in the still dark skies of western France, Spain, Portugal or the associated Atlantic islands. In full beauty will be observable especially from the American continent.
The whole phenomenon begins at 3:32 CEST with an unobservable half-shadow eclipse. We only notice the darkening of the Moon after 4 o’clock, when it begins to seem as if the Moon is a little dull with black smoke from the left edge.
We will not see a total lunar eclipse visible from the Czech Republic or Slovakia until September 7, 2025.
All of June and mid-July: Night clouds may “light up” above the north
In June and July, it will again be possible to see the frosty beauty of the Night Shining Clouds (NLC), which are closely related to meteor dust and also fluctuations in solar activity. It will be between the minimum and maximum in 2022 (this is expected in 2025).
Night-shining clouds on July 5, 2020 over the Hradek pond. Night shining clouds on July 5, 2020 over the pond Hrádek.
Second half of June: Rare planetary parade
In 2022, we will have a truly rare time when we will see all the planets visible to the solar system and the moon at a single moment. Such a period occurs when the planets, when viewed from Earth, are not far enough apart, and the fleeting planet Mercury is angularly far enough away from the Sun (it is possible to see it in a not yet quite bright sky). The last time all 5 planets showed up in the Northern Hemisphere was in July 2020 (but only briefly) and will not be repeated until 2036. all 5 bright planets (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn) together with the Moon in one moment is a rare and very photogenic moment.
Observers around the equator and in the southern hemisphere will have the best conditions. The best visibility occurs around June 24, when the planet Mercury “jumps out” into the early morning sky. Moreover, at that time, the Moon will gradually move between the planets after the last quarter, so there will be a truly complete view of the brightest objects in the solar system. In order to really see all 5 planets, it is necessary to find a place with a perfectly exposed northeast to east horizon (ideally high in the mountains).
Mercury will not be released until 4 o’clock in the morning. But since its brightness will be similar to that of the brightest stars in the sky, it will not be a problem to find it low on the horizon. The very bright Venus will not be overlooked, after the Moon it will be the brightest object in the sky. Above the east we find the Moon and Mars. After Venus and the Moon, the third brightest object on the planet’s “cord” – Jupiter – will also be unmissable. He will already be lying high above the southeast. The last to be found will then be the planet Saturn (which will be the longest to be seen during the night – it will be out before midnight). Under slightly worse conditions, a similar outlook will be offered at the end of the year.
All 5 planets of the Solar System visible through the naked eye and the Moon. All at once at dawn on June 24, 2022. All five planets of the solar system visible to the naked eye and the Moon. All at once at dawn on June 24, 2022.
Source: Pravda – Veda a technika by vat.pravda.sk.
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