WASHINGTON — Throughout 2022 there will be several spectacular skywatching opportunities including meteor showers, lunar eclipses and supermoons.
Get out your calendar and mark down these celestial shows, so you don't miss out.
Quadrantids meteor shower
The Quadrantids, considered to be one of the best annual meteor showers, will help kick off 2022. This celestial show stands out from the rest for a number of reasons. First, the Quadrantids are different than other meteors, according to NASA, because they originate from an asteroid (most other meteor showers originate from comets). They’re known for their bright, “fireball” meteors that have larger and brighter explosions of light and color.
And while other meteor showers peak for two days, the Quadrantids are most active for only a few hours, according to NASA. During the peak, the scene is pretty spectacular with 60 to as many as 200 meteors seen per hour.
Unfortunately, the Quadrantid meteor shower is expected to peak when it’s the afternoon on the east coast on Jan. 3, 2022, NASA explains on its website.
But it won’t be a total bust, the new moon means the sky will be darker for better viewing, so NASA says you may be able to spot some meteors during the early morning hours of Jan. 3 and Jan. 4.
Lyrids meteor shower
One of the oldest known meteor showers, the Lyrids, will be active from about mid-April to the end of the month. NASA predicts it’ll reach peak activity on the east coast in the early afternoon of April 22.
EarthSky suggests the best time to watch this in 2022 is after sunset on April 21 and before moonrise in the early morning.
According to NASA, people have been viewing Lyrid meteor showers for over 2,700 years. It is one of the oldest known meteor shows, with the first recorded sighting of the Lyrids happening in 687 B.C. in China.
What looks like glowing pieces of celestial objects falling like rain are actually pieces of debris from the Comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher, NASA scientists say. Each year in the middle of April, Earth runs into this flow of space debris and particles that burn in our atmosphere cause a meteor shower. The particles start out as tiny specks of dust hitting our atmosphere at 109,600 miles per hour.
Eta Aquarid meteor shower
The annual Eta Aquarid meteor shower will peak in 2022 overnight in the early morning pre-dawn hours of May 5.
The shower favors the southern hemisphere due to its location, but can be seen in the north as well. NASA says that, in general, the Eta Aquarid shower rains down about 30 meteors per hour during its peak. That drops to about 10 per hour in the northern hemisphere.
The radiant point -- the area from which the meteors will appear to originate and where stargazers should look -- is the Constellation Aquarius in the southeastern sky. However, the meteors don't actually come from Aquarius. They are debris from Halley's Comet, which orbits our sun once every 76 years.
May total lunar eclipse
The first of two total lunar eclipses in 2022 will occur on May 15-16. During a total lunar eclipse, the Earth’s shadow completely covers the moon and as a result the moon appears bright red. That’s why the phenomenon is often called the “blood moon.”
The eclipse is projected to peak at 12:11 a.m. Eastern on May 16.
June, July and August
The return of the supermoons
June 14, July 13 and August 12 are all considered “supermoons” in 2022.
According to NASA, a “supermoon” is when the moon’s orbit is closest to Earth at the same time the moon is full. As a result, the full moon appears slightly brighter and larger than a regular full moon.
Perseid meteor shower
Long considered "the best meteor shower of the year," the Perseids typically feature dozens of meteors that are able to be seen every hour during the warm summertime peak.
Unfortunately, 2022 may not be a great year for viewing this celestial show because the Perseids’ peak, on Aug. 12-13, will occur during a full Moon. However, as EarthSky notes, the Perseids should be active from July 14 to Sept. 1, so eager sky watchers can try watching for meteors on other nights.
Orionid meteor shower
The Orionid meteor shower can typically produce about 10 to 20 meteors per hour and are considered to be one of the most beautiful showers of the year, according to NASA. The meteors appear to radiate from the constellation Orion.
In 2022, EarthSky suggests the best shot of seeing this celestial show will be during the pre-dawn hours of Oct. 21.
Total lunar eclipse
The second and final total lunar eclipse of 2022 will occur on Nov 8. During a total lunar eclipse, the Earth’s shadow completely covers the moon and as a result the moon appears bright red. That’s which the phenomenon is often called the “blood moon.”
The eclipse is projected to peak at 5:59 a.m. Eastern on Nov 8.
Leonid meteor shower
The Leonid meteor shower peaks during mid-November annually, but there are sometimes only about 15 meteors an hour. What sets it apart though is that about every 33 years, a Leonid “storm” can peak with hundreds to thousands of meteors visible per hour, according to NASA. The last time this occurred was in 2002.
This year, the peak night to view the Leonids is from Nov. 17 until the early morning hours of Nov. 18.
Geminids meteor shower
The Geminids are among the "best and most reliable meteor showers," returning every December.
“Rich in green-colored fireballs, the Geminids are the only shower I will brave cold December nights to see,” Meteoroid Environment Office lead Bill Cooke said on NASA's website in 2021.
The Geminids have an air of mystery to them, but they're still one of the most popular astronomical events of the year. They've been around for quite a while, too. NASA says the first Geminid showers were spotted in the 1800s, but they weren't as showy -- only 10 to 20 meteors seen per hour.
That's a far cry from today's Geminids. NASA says in perfect conditions during the shower's peak, you can see 120 Geminid meteors per hour.
In 2022, the Geminid meteor shower will be active from Dec. 4-17, with its peak around 8 a.m. Eastern on Dec. 14. So the best time to catch this show may be in the pre-dawn hours on Dec. 14.
Ursid meteor shower
The Ursid meteor shower will wrap up the slate of meteor showers for 2022, reaching its peak on Dec. 22.
As the American Meteor Society (AMS) explains, the Ursids are often overlooked and neglected because “it peaks just before Christmas and the rates are much less than the Geminds, which peaks just a week before the Ursids.”