Looking Forward in 2022

The James Webb Space Telescope finally made it into space! Whoo-Hoo!

It was launched on Christmas day, at 06:20 am CST from the European Space Agency’s French Guiana site.  Nestled in an Ariane 5 rocket until it reached an altitude of 870 miles, JWST was then released and is on its way to L2. This is just the beginning phase, there are a total of 29 nail biting days as Webb goes through “deployments”, actions that ultimately make Webb a working tool. Any deployment failure could hinder or even cripple Webb, so fingers crossed. Getting back to L2, it is one of five areas in Earth’s orbit where the Sun-Earth gravitational influence is essentially balanced. So, Webb can orbit the Sun in a gravitationally stable spot, only using its thrusters to stay in its orbit. That’s where Webb will settle and start its science missions – about a million miles beyond Earth’s orbit. I call this a major thing to anticipate in 2022 – and well beyond.

What else will be happening in 2022?

Lunar Eclipses: May 16-total eclipse, November 8-partial eclipse

Solar Eclipses: No solar eclipses visible in our area

Meteor Showers: Meteor showers are usually, but not always, caused by Earth slamming into the dust trail left behind by a comet. The Quadrantids and Geminids are exceptions, they are caused by bits of asteroid debris. January 3-4, Quadrantids. April 22-23, Lyrids. May 5-6, Eta Aquarids. July 28-29, Delta Aquarids. August 12-13, Perseids. October 8-9, Draconids. October 21-22, Orionids. November 4-5, Taurids. November 17-18, Leonids. December 13-14, Geminids. December 22-23, Ursids.

Equinox: The Sun is directly over the equator so nearly equal day and night. March 20, First day of Spring in the northern hemisphere, first day of fall in the southern hemisphere. September 23, first day of fall in the northern hemisphere, first day of spring in the southern hemisphere.

Solstice: The north or south pole is at greatest sunward angle so longest day or longest night.  June 21, first day of summer in the northern hemisphere (longest day), first day of winter in the southern hemisphere (longest night). December 21, first day of winter in the northern hemisphere (longest night), first day of summer in the southern hemisphere (longest day).

Planetary Oppositions: An opposition occurs when a planet outside Earth’s orbit is at the opposite side of the sky as the Sun.  It is also closest to Earth for the year and best for observing/photographing. August 14, Saturn. September 16, Neptune. September 26, Jupiter. November 9, Uranus. December 8, Mars.

Conjunctions: A conjunction occurs when two or more objects share the same right ascension in the sky. There will be many such events in 2022 and I will publish the more interesting ones in future articles.

What’s in the Sky?

January 3-5; after sunset; southwest: A waxing crescent Moon climbs from below Mercury up to Jupiter

January 3-4; late night into early morning; northeast: The Quadrantid meteor shower peaks