When can you see the planets at their best in 2022? This guide will tell you.
It will also provide information on when a particular planet might be passing close to another, or a bright star, as well as the constellation each will occupy during the course of the year. And you will learn about the various circumstances – conjunctions, oppositions, and lengthening – that are on the show this coming year.
Let’s do it!
Related: What You Can See in the Night Sky This Month (Maps)
(Image credit: NASA / Johns Hopkins University / Carnegie Applied Physics Laboratory)
As an evening star, Mercury appears in the western sky and sets about an hour after the sun. As a morning star, it appears in the eastern sky, rising about an hour before the sun. There should be a clear and unobstructed horizon on these occasions. Mercury usually appears as a bright “star” with a yellowish or ocher hue. Afternoons, from January 1 to 15. Mornings, from January 31 to March 16. Afternoons, from April 18 to May 10. Mornings, from June 2 to July 3. Afternoons, from August 1 to September 15. Mornings, from October 3 to 17. Afternoons, from December 7 to 31.
Mercury will be brighter and easier to detect in the evening sky from April 18 to May 10, and brighter and easier to detect in the morning sky from October 3 to October 17.
(Image credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech)
Venus is always bright and shines with a constant silver light. Evenings in the western sky at dusk from December 23 to December 31 of this year. Mornings in the eastern sky at sunrise from January 17 to August 27, 2022.
Venus will reach its brightest in the morning sky on February 13. During late January, and for most of February in the morning sky, Venus will show a surprising crescent phase in tightly held telescopes and binoculars. Venus and Jupiter will appear dramatically close to each other on the mornings of April 30 and May 1.
(Image credit: NASA / ESA / STScI)
Shining like a “star” with a yellow-orange hue, Mars can vary considerably in brightness. This particular look will be vividly demonstrated in 2022, with Mars increasing in brightness and luster some 23 times from New Year’s Day through early December.
Mars begins the year in the morning sky, shining like a discrete second-magnitude object in the non-zodiacal constellation of Ophiuchus, the Serpent Holder. As the year progresses, Mars will slowly increase in brightness as its distance from Earth gradually decreases. Mars will pass fairly close to Saturn on the morning of April 4 and Jupiter on the morning of May 29. In late October, Mars will shine with a striking magnitude of minus 1.2 between the horns of Taurus, the Bull. when its retrograde movement begins.
Mars will be closest to Earth on November 30, at a distance of 50.6 million miles (81.4 million kilometers). Mars will arrive in opposition to the sun on December 8, rising when the sun sets, reaching its highest point in the sky at midnight, and setting at dawn. Then it will shine with a magnitude of minus 1.9, outshining even Sirius, the brightest of all stars.
During the evening hours of December 7, the full moon will pass extremely close to Mars, hiding it (called occultation) in parts of North America, north of a line that runs from approximately San Antonio, to Frankfort, Kentucky, and Kittery. . Maine, no doubt evoking a question that will be repeated many times that night: “What is that bright yellow-orange star just below the moon?”
2021 full moon calendar: when to see the next full moon
(Image credit: NASA GSFC)
Fairly bright with a silvery-white glow, Jupiter begins the year in Aquarius the Water Bearer, crosses into Pisces the Fishes on April 14, then moves to the non-zodiacal constellation of Cetus, the Whale on June 26. The giant planet recedes into Pisces on September 2, where it will remain for the rest of the year. Afternoons from January 1 to February 13; mornings from March 26 to September 25; nights again from September 26 to December 31. Brightest in 2022 from Aug 29 to Oct 22.
Jupiter is in opposition to the sun on September 26. Jupiter and Venus will rise side by side from the eastern horizon on the morning of April 30 in a striking sight. Although Jupiter will shine with a bright magnitude of minus 2, Venus manages to outshine it by two magnitudes and appears more than six times brighter. Jupiter will appear fairly close to Mars on the morning of May 29.
(Image credit: NASA / ESA / A. Simon / MH Wong)
Saturn shines as a yellowish-white “star” of moderate brightness. The famous rings are visible only in a telescope. They were at their maximum tilt toward Earth in October 2017 and are now closing in on our line of sight, tipping from 17.6 degrees on New Years Day to 13.7 degrees at the end of the year. The rings will rotate towards Earth during the spring of 2025.
Throughout 2022, Saturn will be within the limits of Capricornus, the Sea Goat. Afternoons from January 1 to January 17; mornings from February 22 to August 13; at night from August 14 to December 31. Venus will pass to the upper left of Saturn on the morning of March 29 and Saturn will appear fairly close to Mars on the morning of April 4. Brightest in 2022 from July 30 to September 30. 6. Saturn is in opposition to the sun on August 14.
(Image credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech)
Uranus can be glimpsed as an object with the naked eye by people who have been blessed with good eyesight and a clear and dark sky, as well as direct knowledge of exactly where to look for it. At its brightest, it shines with a positive magnitude of 5.6 and can be easily identified with good binoculars. A small telescope can reveal its little greenish disk.
Uranus spends all of 2022 in the constellation Aries the Ram. Afternoons from January 1 to April 18; mornings from May 22 to November 8; at night again from November 9 to December 31. Brightest in 2022 from October 18 to December 1. Uranus will arrive in opposition to the sun on November 9.
(Image credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech)
Neptune begins 2022 in the constellation Aquarius, the Water Bearer, but crosses into Pisces, the Fishes on May 2. Neptune then returns to Aquarius again on August 19, where it will remain for the rest of the year.
With a maximum magnitude of 7.8 positives, this bluish-toned world is only visible with good binoculars or a telescope. Afternoons from January 1 to February 25; mornings from March 29 to September 15; nights again from September 16 to December 31. Brightest in 2022 from July 19 to November 13. Opposition to the sun on September 16.
Joe Rao serves as an instructor and guest speaker at the Hayden Planetarium in New York. He writes about astronomy for Natural History magazine, Farmers’ Almanac, and other publications. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.
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