Although no total or annular solar eclipses occur this year, skywatchers can look forward to two total lunar eclipses — the first ones observable across North America in more than 3 years.
Up to seven eclipses of the Sun and Moon can take place in one year, though the last time that happened was 1982, and the fewest possible is four.
That latter, minimalist mix is what’s in store for 2022, and no eclipses at all occur until the April 30th. It’s an assortment skewed toward disappearing Moons: There’ll be two total lunar eclipses — both of which will be seen well from North America — but the two solar eclipses will be just partials.
Why Do Eclipses Happen?
Before describing this year's individual events, let’s explore some eclipse basics.
A solar eclipse, such as the one seen coast to coast across the U.S. in August 2017, occurs only at new Moon, when the lunar disk passes directly between us and the Sun and consequently the Moon’s shadow falls somewhere on Earth’s surface.
Conversely, a lunar eclipse takes place during full Moon, when our satellite passes through Earth’s shadow.
These alignments don’t happen at every new and full Moon because the lunar orbit is tipped about 5° to Earth’s orbital plane — only occasionally do the Sun, Earth, and Moon line up exactly enough for an eclipse to occur. (The technical name for that, by the way, is syzygy.) And, as the diagram above implies, those alignments occur roughly a half year apart. So since the last eclipse of 2021 occurred in early December, the first eclipse of 2022 doesn’t take place until April 30th.
Three types of lunar eclipse are possible (total, partial, and penumbral), depending on how deeply the full Moon plunges into or near the umbra, our planet’s dark, central shadow.
If the Moon goes all the way in, we see a total lunar eclipse that’s preceded and followed by partial phases. That was the case during the widely viewed event in September 2015, which marked the conclusion of a series of four consecutive total lunar eclipses in 2014–15! Such eclipse tetrads are not common — the last one occurred during 2003–04, but the next won’t begin until 2032.
If the moon ventures just partly into the umbra, as pictured above, only the partial phases occur — you’ll see some of the Moon in nearly full sunlight, and some of it steeped in the deep, red-tinged umbral shadow.
And if its disk passes just outside the umbra, the Moon still encounters the weak penumbral shadow cast by Earth. A sharp-eyed observer will notice that one side of the full Moon’s disk looks a little dusky. All four of 2020’s lunar eclipses were of the penumbral variety.
Fortunately, every lunar eclipse is observable anywhere on Earth where the Moon is above the horizon. (But there’s still an element of luck involved — after all, the sky has to be clear!)
Annular and total solar eclipses require the Moon to cross directly in front of the Sun as seen from Earth — and, as the graphic below shows, such “central” solar eclipses can only occur within a two-week-long interval when the Moon crosses the ecliptic during one of its two nodal crossings each year. However, the geometric window for partial solar eclipses is wider, roughly five weeks long.
If the Moon completely hides the Sun, the eclipse is considered total. With its brilliant disk completely covered, the Sun’s ghostly white outer atmosphere, called the corona, is momentarily revealed for durations from seconds to several minutes.
Occasionally the Moon passes directly in front of the Sun but doesn’t completely cover it. When that occurs, it’s usually because the Moon is farther from Earth than its average distance. (The Moon’s orbit isn’t perfectly circular; its eccentricity is about 5%.) This geometric circumstance is known as an annular eclipse, so-called because you can see a ring, or annulus, of sunlight surrounding the lunar disk. Annular eclipses of the Sun occur about as often as the total ones do.
Unlike total lunar eclipses, which can be viewed from roughly half of Earth’s surface, total and annular solar eclipses tightly restrict where you can see them because the Moon casts a smaller umbral shadow than Earth does — and you need to be within that shadow to view the event. A completely eclipsed Sun can be viewed only from a narrow track or path on Earth’s surface that’s typically just 100 miles (160 km) wide. Outside of that path, about half of the daylit hemisphere of Earth is able to watch a partial solar eclipse as the Moon obscures a portion of the Sun.
Getting to the path of a total or annular eclipse often involves long-distance travel. In November 2013, for example, planeloads of eclipse-chasers thronged to a remote corner of northern Kenya to watch just 11 seconds of totality. On December 4, 2021, some 15 cruise ships converged on the eclipse path in a remote stretch of the Southern Ocean hundreds of miles northeast of the Antarctic Peninsula. Yet only one of those ships succeeded in dodging the early morning clouds and glimpsing totality. What dedication!
Every location on Earth experiences a total solar eclipse every 375 years on average, with the Northern Hemisphere enjoying a slight statistical advantage right now. (To explore the worldwide distribution of total eclipses more closely, check out Sky & Telescope’s beautiful eclipse globe.)
The Four Eclipses of 2022
Below are brief descriptions of the four eclipses that take place in 2022. You’ll find more details in Sky & Telescope magazine or on this website as the date of each draws near. Times are given in Universal Time (UT) except as noted. Adjust these to get those for your time zone: for example, PST = UT – 8, and EST = UT – 5. (But be sure to allow for daylight or “summer” time: PDT = UT – 7, and EDT = UT – 4.)
|April 30||Partial solar eclipse||20:41 UT||South America|
|May 16||Total lunar eclipse||4:12 UT||N. and S. America, Africa, W. Europe|
|October 25||Partial solar eclipse||11:00 UT||Europe, W. Asia, NE. Africa|
|November 8||Total lunar eclipse||10:59 UT||N and S. America, Pacific, E. Asia|
April 30: Partial Solar Eclipse
The year’s first eclipse doesn’t occur until the 120th day of 2022, and it won’t be seen by a great many people. Greatest eclipse, with just over half the area of the Sun’s disk covered, is viewable at 20:41 Universal Time from a point in the Southern Ocean roughly halfway between South America’s Tierra del Fuego and the Antarctic Peninsula.
That said, the timing and geometry are favorable for South America. Everyone in Chile and Argentina (along with some of Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Uruguay) will have a chance to see a partial cover-up from late afternoon until sunset.
May 16: Total Lunar Eclipse
Two weeks after April 30th’s partial solar eclipse — after the Moon completes half of its orbit and its phase evolves from new to full — the Sun, Moon and Earth again line up to create a total lunar eclipse on May 16th. Unlike the lunar eclipse last November, during which the lunar disk barely escaped total immersion in Earth’s umbra, this one will be a no-doubter. And May’s event also marks the first time that everyone in the contiguous U.S. will have a chance to see a totally-eclipsed Moon since January 2018 — nearly 3½ years previous.
That said, it’s not exactly a prime-time event. The partial phase begins at 2:28 Universal Time and ends at 5:56 UT. (Watch for the first hint of dusky penumbral shading about 45 minutes before the partial phase begins and 45 minutes before it ends.) Totality runs from 3:39 to 4:54 UT, with mid-eclipse at 4:12 UT.
Given these times, this eclipse will be seen well throughout Europe and Africa in the hours before dawn. However, for observers across North and South America, most of the action will actually take place late on the evening of Sunday, May 15th. (Mark your calendars accordingly!) Within the U.S., the observing edge goes to those on the East Coast, who will see the Moon higher up in the sky than those out west.
As the graphic above shows, the Moon makes a fairly central passage through the heart of Earth’s umbra, with totality lasting a generous 85 minutes. So expect a fairly dark eclipse with perhaps a hint of brightening along the Moon’s southern limb.
How dark is dark? Lunar-eclipse observers use a five-step estimate called the Danjon scale for such estimates. You can also perform a bit of “citizen science” by using a telescope to study the progression of the umbra’s abrupt edge across the lunar disk and to record the times when it covers or uncovers particular craters. This article explains both the Danjon scale and crater timings.
October 25: Partial Solar Eclipse
For the first time since 2018, there will be no total or annular solar eclipses this year. And neither of 2022’s two partial solar eclipses is viewable from North America. But the one on October 25th will be widely seen over a wide swath of the Eastern Hemisphere stretching from Iceland (where it’ll be seen near sunrise to western India (near sunset).
Those in Europe, the Middle East, western Asia, and northeast Africa have the best locations. The Moon takes its biggest bite of the Sun’s disk — 82% of its area and 86% of its diameter as seen from a bleak, nearly uninhabited tract of the West Siberian Plain, some 1,500 miles to the east-northeast of Moscow. Here’s a list of local circumstances for nine major cities, given in 24-hour local time (* eclipse in progress at sunset); in the table, obscuration (Obs.) is the fraction of the Sun’s area and magnitude (Mag.) the fraction of the Sun’s diameter that’s covered by the Moon at eclipse maximum:
|Dubai, United Arab Emirates||14:41||15:51||16:55||39%||50%|
|London, United Kingdom||10:09||10:59||11:51||15%||26%|
Eclipse specialist Fred Espenak, who supplied the timetable above, has computed local circumstances for hundreds of cities and also has an interactive map that provides circumstances for any location.
November 8: Total Lunar Eclipse
The year’s second total lunar eclipse comes two weeks after October 25th’s solar eclipse. The partial phases begin at 9:09 UT and end at 12:49 UT. Totality starts at 10:16 UT and ends at 11:42 UT, again keeping the Moon fully immersed in the umbra for a generous 86 minutes. Mid-eclipse occurs at 10:59 UT.
As with May’s event, this eclipse will be visible (weather permitting) across the contiguous U.S. — however, this time western observers have the geometric advantage, as totality ends roughly at or just after sunrise along the East Coast. Meanwhile, the totally eclipsed Moon will be almost directly overhead as seen from Hawai‘i, and it’s an early-evening event for far-eastern Asia, Australia, and New Zealand.
This eclipse offers two rare treats. First, it occurs during the annual display of Taurid meteors. Usually the Taurids offer only a weak display, though the shower endures for several weeks. This year, however, there’s some expectation among meteor specialists that an intense “swarm” of Taurids might bring higher rates and perhaps numerous bright fireballs between the end of October and about November 10th. So will “shooting stars” pepper the sky during totality on November 8th?
The second treat involves the planet Uranus, which will lie just a couple of degrees to the Moon’s east during the eclipse. Coincidentally, this distant planet reaches opposition on November 8th and so will be at its brightest (magnitude 5.6). So it should be easy to spot with binoculars during totality.
Thanks to parallax, observers in eastern Asia can expect something even more dramatic: The Moon will occult (cover) Uranus during totality. Right now you’re thinking, “Wow, that must not happen very often!” And it doesn’t. According to legendary solar-system dynamicist Jean Meeus, Moon-in-umbra occultations last occurred with Neptune in 2008 and Uranus in 2014 — but after the one this November, it won’t happen again until 2106 (again with Uranus).
Read more about each of these eclipses in the monthly issues of Sky & Telescope!
Looking Ahead to 2023
Next year the minimalist trend continues, with just four eclipses in the offing. Diehard solar-eclipse chasers can look forward to better times in 2023, as there’ll be a total solar eclipse on April 20th with a path that threads between Australia and Indonesia, followed by an annular solar eclipse on October 14th that first slices across the western U.S. before crossing Central and South America. Meanwhile, the Moon only musters a penumbral eclipse on May 5th and a partial eclipse on October 28th — neither of which is observable from the U.S.
|Sky & Telescope offers great opportunities to view 2023’s solar eclipses. For the total eclipse in April, head with us “Down Under” for an amazing 5-day land tour of eastern Australia before flying to Perth and boarding P&O Cruises’ Pacific Explorer for an Indian Ocean eclipse adventure. For October’s annular eclipse, you can choose either a 10-day introduction to the incredible Maya civilization of the Yucatán Peninsula or a 6-day trip to northern New Mexico that immerses you in Pueblo culture.|