Today is the beginning of the new season. It promises to be something special for sky-watchers.
Today is the autumnal equinox, when the midday sun is directly above the equator, giving each location on the planet 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness. The sun will rise in the east, follow an arc along the celestial equator, and set in the west.
Bright stars rise as the leaves fall. Orion returns. The moon hangs a little higher. In addition to being a great time of year to stargaze, there are six specific stargazing events not to be missed. So grab your coat and off we go into the night.
Here’s exactly what’s happening in the day and night skies this fall:
1. Jupiter is closest in 166 years
When: September 26, 2022
On this date the giant planet Jupiter will come to its annual “opposition,” the point in Earth’s orbit when we—on a much faster-rotating world—pass precisely between the Sun and Jupiter.
It will be exactly 593.6 million kilometers from Earth at the moment of opposition, which is It has been the closest approach to Earth since 1963 And until 2139, making it The “best” opposition in 166 years And once in a lifetime opportunity. It will shine at magnitude -2.9, making it the brightest thing you can currently see beyond the Moon in the post-sunset night sky.
2. Orionid meteor shower
When: October 21/22, 2022
The Orionid meteor shower peaks from around 21:00 tonight and into tomorrow morning. So keep your eyes peeled (no binoculars or telescope required) for 10-20 “shooting stars” every hour, which should be visible in a dark moonless sky because the crescent moon will be only 17%-brighter and won’t rise until then. Around 3:30 am However, views should be best after midnight.
The Orionid meteor shower is caused by dust and debris in the inner solar system, except for Halley’s comet. Although they can appear from anywhere, the bright spot for meteors is the constellation Orion and especially its red star Betelgeuse.
3. A partial solar eclipse in Eurasia
When: October 25, 2022
Today’s partial solar eclipse is the second and final such event in 2022, the other being last April 30. It will be visible from Europe, Northeast Africa and Central Asia. At its highest point in Russia exactly 82% of the Sun will be eclipsed by the Moon. Western Europe will see about 15-30% of the eclipse.
4. A ‘Blood Moon’ for America
When: November 8, 2022
The final of two total lunar eclipses will be visible from North America in 2022, but not until 2025 for the last time. Most easily seen from the western and central US states as well as the Pacific Ocean, Japan, Australia and Russia, the full “Beaver Moon” will turn a spectacular red color for 84 minutes during the event.
It will not peak until 102 minutes of totality on June 26, 2029. Here is a simulation How will it look? You’ll be able to see the planet Uranus right above the eclipsed moon, which will enhance the view.
5. Mars is brightest for 26 months
When: December 7, 2022
Also visible tonight is fourth planet Mars, reaching its “opposition” once every 26 months. It marks the point when Earth is between the Sun and Mars, so from our perspective the planet is completely illuminated by the Sun. As a result it is at its brightest during the year, so it is the best time to visit. As a bonus this means it rises in the east at dusk and stays in the night sky all night.
6. Eclipse of Mars by a ‘Cold Moon’
When: December 8, 2022
The Moon awakens a planet several times each year, as seen from anywhere on Earth. But a full moon eclipse on Mars once every 26 months at its brightest? Now that is a rare set of circumstances. This is exactly what will happen on December 8, 2022. This is not something you want to miss.
Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.