Photo credit flickr.com/beckstei
Photo credit flickr.com/beckstei

What are the planets, comets, and moon up to in 2022? Find out what to expect in Michigan here.

MICHIGAN—When it’s time to find a dark sky to observe astronomy, you can thank your lucky stars if you live in Michigan.

Michiganders will have plenty of astral phenomena to look forward to in 2022, with two lunar eclipses, three supermoons, and meteor showers galore. And if you’ve always wanted to search the skies for Mercury or Mars, there are ideal dates to plan for.

Prospective stargazers will be wise to choose an area without light pollution and give their eyes about 30 minutes to adjust. Ideal locations are one of Michigan’s two International Dark Sky Parks (IDSP): the Dr. T.K. Lawless Park in southwestern Michigan or the Headlands Dark Sky Park in northern Michigan near the Mackinac Bridge. 

You can alternatively use a dark sky preserve at one of six Michigan state parks: Lake Hudson Recreation Area in southern Michigan, Port Crescent State Park in the Thumb Region, Wilderness State Park in northern Michigan, and Negwegon State Park, Rockport Recreation Area and Thompson’s Harbor State Park all in northeastern Michigan.

Here are 24 celestial events to look for in Michigan in 2022.

Northern Lights

When: January through April, August through December

One of Michigan’s most incredible natural wonders is the Northern Lights. Also known as the Aurora Borealis, this natural weather phenomenon lights up the night sky with dazzling colors. Michigan is just close enough to the North Pole to make these glowing pigments visible. The colors most commonly seen are light green and pink. Red, yellow, green, blue, and violet hues may also appear.

The chemical process of this phenomenon is similar to using electricity to power a neon light. Electrically charged particles in solar winds collide with the air molecules of Earth’s upper atmosphere. This collision produces energy. To return to their normal state, the molecules release this energy in the form of light—the Northern Lights and their scintillating array of colors. 

Skygazers hoping to see the Northern Lights will have the best bet around midnight during the peak months of March, April, October, and November. The Upper Peninsula and northernmost parts of the Lower Peninsula offer the best chances geographically. Additionally, prospective skygazers should take care to choose clear nights with little to no cloud cover.

If you plan on going, check the Space Weather Prediction Center forecast.

New Moons

When: Jan. 2, Feb. 1, March 2, April 1, April 30, May 30, June 29, Aug. 27, Sept. 25, Oct. 25, Nov. 23, and Dec. 23, 2022

Since New Moons provide little to no ambient moonlight, they provide the ideal opportunity to view the night sky. Without the bright light of the moon obscuring vision, stargazers can observe dimmer stars and other phenomena such as galaxies and star clusters. The new moon is the first phase of the lunar calendar and occurs about every 28 days. Provided the weather produces clear skies, the night of a new moon provides the best conditions for stargazers.

Mercury at Greatest Elongation

When: Jan. 3, Feb. 16, April 29, June 21, Aug. 27, Oct. 8, Dec. 21

An elongation refers to the point in a planet’s orbit at which the planet is furthest away from the Sun, relative to Earth. This is when the planet is most visible. Mercury will reach this point a total of seven times in 2022. It is a planet that can be seen with the naked eye.

Mercury’s Eastern Elongations are visible in the western sky just after sunset. These elongations will occur in January, April, August, and December. These dates are an optimal viewing time for Michiganders on the Lake Michigan and Lake Superior side of the state. 

Mercury’s Western Elongations are visible in the eastern sky just before sunrise. These elongations will occur in February, June, and October. These dates are an optimal viewing time for Michiganders on the Lake Huron and Lake Erie side of the state.

Quadrantids Meteor Shower

When: Jan. 3-4, 2022

Strength: Above Average, 40 meteors per hour

The Quadrantids are thought to be the creation of the asteroid and extinct comet 2003 EH1. The meteors radiate from the Boötes constellation. The shower runs annually from Jan. 1-5, but peaks on the night of Monday, Jan. 3.

Lyrids Meteor Shower

When: April 22-23, 2022

Strength: Average, 20 meteors per hour

The Lyrids are created by the long-period comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher. The meteors radiate from the Lyra constellation. The shower runs annually from April 16-25, but peaks on the night of Friday, April 22.

Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower

When: May 6-7, 2022

Strength: Above Average, 30 meteors per hour

The Eta Aquarids are not as visible in the Northern Hemisphere as they are in the Southern Hemisphere. However, the Eta Aquarids are produced by the famous Halley’s Comet, the only short-period comet regularly visible to the naked eye from Earth. Halley’s Comet was last seen in 1986 and will be seen again in 2061, but the Eta Aquarids run annually from April 19 to May 28, with a peak this year on the evening of Friday, May 6. The meteors radiate from the Aquarius constellation.

Lunar Eclipse

When: May 16, 2022

Unlike solar eclipses, lunar eclipses are perfectly safe to view with the naked eye. The full moon, called the flower moon by the Algonquin tribes, will pass completely through Earth’s dark shadow. The moon will gradually get darker and then take on a rusty or blood red color.

Strawberry Moon Supermoon

When: June 14, 2022

This is the first of three supermoons in 2022. Supermoons occur when the moon is full at the same time the moon’s orbit is closest to Earth. The moon will appear up to 30 percent brighter and 14 percent larger than a typical full moon. Contrary to common belief, the Algonquin tribes named it the strawberry moon not because of any special color, but because it was found in a season associated with gathering ripe strawberries.

Buck Moon Supermoon

When: July 13, 2022

The second of three supermoons of 2022, where the moon will appear larger and brighter than normal. The Algonquin tribes named it the buck moon because this was the season when bucks started sprouting new antlers.

Delta Aquarids Meteor Shower

When: July 28, 2022

Strength: Average, 20 meteors per hour

The Delta Aquarids are not as visible in the Northern Hemisphere as they are in the Southern Hemisphere. The comet of origin is not known, but short-period sungrazing comet 96P Machholz is the suspected originator. The meteors radiate from the Aquarius constellation. 

The shower runs annually from July 12 to Aug. 23, but peaks on the evening of Thursday, July 28. The new moon phase on the night of the peak should create optimal conditions for viewing the shower.

Sturgeon Moon Supermoon

When: Aug. 12, 2022

The third and final supermoon of 2022, where the full moon will appear brighter and larger than usual. The Algonquin tribes named it the sturgeon moon because it was when sturgeon were most readily caught in the Great Lakes.

Perseids Meteor Shower

When: Aug. 12, 2022

Strength: Above Average, 60 meteors per hour

One of the best meteor showers for observation, the Perseids are created by the periodic comet Swift-Tuttle. The meteors radiate from the Perseus constellation. Though the full moon this year will diminish visibility of this meteor shower, the meteors are still bright and numerous enough to watch. The shower runs annually from July 17 to Aug. 24, but peaks on the evening of Friday, August 12.

Saturn at Opposition

When: Aug. 14, 2022

The famous ringed planet will be at its closest orbit to Earth in August, which will be the best time to view Saturn. The sun will fully illuminate Saturn so it will be visible all night long. Although normally visible with the naked eye, a medium-sized or larger telescope is recommended.

Neptune at Opposition

When: Sept. 16, 2022

For stargazers with telescopes, Neptune will be closer and brighter than any other time of the year in September. Neptune is not normally visible to the naked eye.

Jupiter at Opposition

When: Sept. 26, 2022

The great gas giant will be at its closest to Earth and fully illuminated in the sun in September. Jupiter is normally visible with the naked eye, but even a good pair of binoculars should allow stargazers to see its four largest moons.

Draconids Meteor Shower

When: Oct. 7, 2022

Strength: Below Average, 10 meteors per hour

The Draconids are created by the periodic comet Giacobini-Zinner. The meteors radiate from the Draco constellation. Unlike the other meteor showers, the best viewing for this meteor shower is in the early evening after sunset. The shower runs annually from Oct. 6-10, but peaks on the night of Friday, Oct. 7.

Orionids Meteor Shower

When: Oct. 21, 2022

Strength: Average, 20 meteors per hour

The Orionids are the second set of meteors produced by the famous short-period Halley’s Comet. The meteors radiate from the Orion constellation. The shower runs annually from Oct. 2 to Nov. 7, but peaks on the night of Friday, Oct. 21.

Taurids Meteor Shower

When: Nov. 4-5, 2022

Strength: Below Average, 10 meteors per hour

The Taurids are two streams created by two separate celestial bodies: eccentric asteroid 2004 TG10 and periodic Encke’s Comet. The meteors radiate from the Taurus constellation. The shower runs annually from Sept. 7 to Dec. 10, but peaks on Friday, Nov. 4.

Lunar Eclipse

When: Nov. 8, 2022

The second of two total lunar eclipses in 2022, safe to view with the naked eye. The full moon is called the beaver moon by the Algonquin tribes because this was the time of year to set beaver traps to harvest their furs for the winter. The lunar eclipse will show the moon gradually taking a red color.

Uranus at Opposition

When: Nov. 9, 2022

For stargazers with telescopes, Uranus will be brighter than any other time of year and at its closest approach to earth in November. Uranus is not normally visible to the naked eye.

Leonids Meteor Shower

When: Nov. 17-18, 2022

Strength: Average, 15 meteors per hour

The Leonids are created by the periodic Comet Tempel-Tuttle. The meteors radiate from the Leo constellation. The shower runs annually from Nov. 6-30, but peaks on the night of Thursday, Nov. 17.

Mars at Opposition

When: Dec. 8, 2022

The trademark red planet will be best visible from Earth in December. This is when it will be closest to Earth and fully illuminated by the sun. It will be visible all night long.

Geminids Meteor Shower

When: Dec. 13, 2022

Strength: Above Average,120 meteors per hour

Considered one of the best meteor showers to watch, the Geminids are one of the only meteor showers that don’t originate from a comet. The Geminids were created by Apollo asteroid 3200 Phaethon. The meteors radiate from the Gemini constellation. The shower runs annually from Dec. 7-17, but peaks on the night of Tuesday, Dec. 13.

Ursids Meteor Shower

When: Dec. 21, 2022

Strength: Below Average, 10 meteors per hour

The Ursids are created by the periodic comet Tuttle’s Comet. The meteors radiate from the Ursa Minor constellation. The new moon phase during this meteor shower should make it more visible. The shower runs annually from Dec. 17-25, but peaks on the night of Wednesday, Dec. 21.