Stargazing is simply observing the night sky. It’s an enjoyable hobby enjoyed by many outdoor enthusiasts and amateur astronomers. It’s an activity that can be done any time of the year, alone, with friends, or at a group “star party”. You can also pursue an interest in astronomy from your backyard or neighborhood park. We provide a list of important celestial events each month.
You can also join a public “star party”. This is a fun way to learn and see things for the first time or for the thousandth time. At a star party, you not only share great views of the sky, you have the opportunity to make new friends and learn more about astronomy.
Below we list some information about star parties throughout the Puget Sound region. Most are outdoors, but some have contingency plans for an indoor presentation. You know, just in case it’s cloudy or raining…. We also provide information about attending star parties, what to bring, plus some do’s and don’ts.
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Stargazing events in 2022
Selected Celestial Event Highlights for March-May 2022
March 18 – Full Moon. The Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be fully illuminated. This phase occurs at 07:20 UTC (March 17 11:20PM PST). This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Worm Moon because this was the time of year when the ground would begin to soften and the earthworms would reappear. This moon has also been known as the Crow Moon, the Crust Moon, the Sap Moon, and the Lenten Moon.
March 20 – March Equinox occurs at 3:33 pm UT (8:33 am PDT ). The Sun will shine directly on the equator and there will be nearly equal amounts of day and night throughout the world. This is also the first day of spring (vernal equinox) in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of fall (autumnal equinox) in the Southern Hemisphere.
March 22, 24, 25. SpaceX’s Starlink satellite “chain of lights” (scroll down for more info). Note: the horizon is 0°, the width of your fist is bout 10°, and the highest point directly overhead is 90° (so 10°-30° and above 50°-60° is high in the sky).
- 6:11 am, 22 Mar 2022. Starlink-G4-12 (new), BRIGHT (2.0) for 4 mins. Look from NORTHWEST to SOUTHEAST. Elevation (from horizon): start: 14°, max: 71°, end: 10°
- 5:12 am, 24 Mar 2022. Starlink-G4-12 (new), BRIGHT (3.5) for 2 mins. Look from EAST to SOUTHEAST. Elevation (from horizon): start: 50°, max: 50°, end: 10°
- 5:30 am, 25 Mar 2022, Starlink-G4-12 (new), BRIGHT (3.1) for 2 mins. Look from SOUTH to SOUTHEAST. Elevation (from horizon): start: 34°, max: 34°, end: 11
March 28 – “3-Planet Parade”. Five planets of our Solar System will take part in a “planet parade” (planets lined up in the sky): Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn. All of them will be positioned in the same part of the sky in the morning hours beginning March 28, 2022. However, you’ll likely see only three planets: Mercury will be positioned too close to the Sun and Jupiter will be very low above the horizon for most locations. Still, seeing three planets so close together is fairly rare and happens every few years. If you miss this event, the next time such a planetary alignment will occur is September 2040. You can view the planetary trio together through binoculars or simply observe them with the naked eye. To see this phenomenon, shortly before sunrise, Venus, Mars, and Saturn will group within a circle across in the constellation Capricornus. Look for the planets low above the south-eastern horizon if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, while observers in the Southern Hemisphere should gaze above their heads in the eastern direction.
April 16 – Full Moon. At 18:57 UTC (April 15, 11:57AM PDT), the Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be fully illuminated. Native American tribes called it the Pink Moon because it marked the appearance of the pink blossoms of the wild ground phlox (Phlox subulata), aka wild sweet William, which is one of the first spring flowers in North America. In contrast, coastal tribes called it the Fish Moon because this was the time that shad swam upstream to spawn. This moon goes by many other names, depending on location and culture: Sprouting Grass Moon, Growing Moon, and Egg Moon.
April 20 – “4-Planet parade”. Four planets will create a near-perfect line in the predawn sky: Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, and Venus. The viewing conditions will be more favorable than the planet parade in March. All the planets will be within range of naked-eye visibility and will rise higher above the horizon before sunrise. However, you will still need a clear horizon to see Jupiter, which sits lower than the other planets. You’ll find Jupiter in Pisces, Mars and Venus — in Aquarius, and Saturn — in Capricornus.
April 22, 23 – Lyrids Meteor Shower run annually from April 16-25, and is produced by dust particles left behind by comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher. It peaks this year on the night of April 22 and morning of the 23rd. The waning gibbous moon (more than half full) may block some of the fainter meteors this year, but there is still potential for a good show. The Lyrids is an average shower, producing about 20 meteors per hour at its peak. However, these meteors can sometimes produce bright dust trails that last for several seconds. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Most meteors will radiate from the constellation Lyra (“the Harp”) in the northern sky but can appear anywhere in the sky. More info: Interactive Sky Chart | Map Your Night Sky – Sky & Telescope (skyandtelescope.org)
May 6, 7 – Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower runs annually from April 19 to May 28 and is produced by dust particles left behind by comet Halley. It peaks this year on the night of May 6 and the morning of May 7. The waxing crescent moon will set early in the evening, leaving dark skies for what should be an excellent show. The Eta Aquarids is an above average shower. In the Northern Hemisphere, the rate can reach about 30 meteors per hour. More activity is seen in the Southern Hemisphere, up to 60 meteors per hour at its peak. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Aquarius, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
May 16 – Full Moon at 04:15 UTC (May 15, 8:15 PM PDT). The Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be fully illuminated. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Flower Moon because this was the time of year when spring flowers appeared in abundance. This moon has also been known as the Corn Planting Moon and the Milk Moon.
May 16 – Total Lunar Eclipse. A total lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes completely through the Earth’s dark shadow, aka umbra. During this type of eclipse, the Moon will gradually get darker and then take on a rusty or blood red color. The eclipse will be visible throughout all of North America, Greenland, the Atlantic Ocean, and parts of western Europe and western Africa. The instant of greatest eclipse—when the moon passes closest to center of the Earth’s shadow cone—takes place at 04:12 UTC (May 15, 8:12 PM PDT). Since sunset is at 7:12 PM, only some of the total phase is visible. Misses part of total, partial & penumbral phases. More info: Total Lunar Eclipse on May 15–16, 2022 – Where and When to See (timeanddate.com)
For more information on these events, visit the Astronomy Calendar of Celestial Events at Sea and Sky, Planet Alignment In 2022 | Star Walk, SpaceX Starlink Satellites Tracker (findstarlink.com), and Skywatching tips from NASA.
To find more stargazing events, visit: https://nightsky.jpl.nasa.gov/clubs-and-events.cfm.
Free stargazing events in Seattle-Tacoma
The following groups and organizations regularly hold free public stargazing events throughout the region. In 2020,we’ve added virtual events.
Stargazing with Seattle Astronomical Society in public parks around King County
Seattle Astronomical Society (SAS) organizes monthly star parties in area parks. These outdoor stargazing events are free, family-friendly, and open to the public. A typical star party gathering features observing through two or more different types of telescopes provided by SAS members, along with the opportunity to ask questions, discuss the observation process, and learn about astronomical topics. Weather cancels the event; last minute updates are available on their website.
To enhance your experience, you may want to download and print your own copy of the current Evening Sky Map at http://www.skymaps.com/downloads.html. This 2-page guide contains a detailed sky map, the current monthly sky calendar, and a descriptive list of the best objects to see with binoculars, a telescope, or using just your eyes. It is suitable for all stargazers including newcomers to astronomy. And, unlike other star charts on the Web, The Evening Sky Map will print clearly on any printer.
See the list below for the Upcoming Astronomy and Stargazing Events, or visit: http://www.seattleastro.org/news_and_events/star_parties
Stargazing at UW Seattle Theodor Jacobsen Observatory
A dedicated group of SAS volunteers offer twice-monthly programs April through October at the Theodor Jacobsen Observatory (TJO) on the University of Washington Seattle campus. The program includes a short presentation by SAS members and/or UW undergrads, history of the observatory and its beautiful telescope (over 100 years old), and if the weather permits, the dome is opened for views through the telescope.
- Expected to open in April 2022. Watch for reservations to open late March.
See the list below for the Upcoming Astronomy and Stargazing Events, or visit: http://depts.washington.edu/astron/outreach/jacobsen-observatory/#a2
Stargazing in Tacoma
Tacoma Astronomical Society (TAS) hosts free public viewing sessions each month at Pierce College near Fort Steilacoom in Lakewood (about 10 miles south of Tacoma). There is no charge for stargazing and observing the night sky through TAS telescopes. However, donations are gladly accepted. The donations are used to further public education and outreach programs.
- On nights with clear skies TAS volunteers provide telescopic observations of the Moon, planets, star clusters, nebulae, galaxies, double stars and more. Each season boasts something new and exciting for frequent guests.
- On cloudy nights, indoor lectures, demonstrations and workshops will be available at public events regardless of the weather.
- Cancelled 2020-201 until further notice.
What to bring to an outdoor stargazing event
If you have a telescope or binoculars you want to share, bring it along.
If you don’t have any stargazing equipment, group star parties typically have several different telescopes or binoculars brought by people attending who are happy to share. If you are thinking about getting a telescope, it can be a great opportunity to try and compare equipment and ask questions about cost and features.
Even in summer, it can get chilly at night and you will be standing most of the time. So, dress in layers warmer than you think you might need and wear comfortable shoes. Bring a thermos with something warm to drink (such as coffee, tea, or hot cider), plus a snack if you think you might need some extra energy.
Bring a red flashlight. Red light has almost no effect on our night vision. If you don’t have a red flashlight, put red cellophane over a white lens with a rubber band, or paint the lens in red nail polish, or cut a circular piece out of a red plastic report binder and place it under the lens.
Stargazing do’s and don’ts
Arrive before dark to orient and introduce yourself. Check the weather report and plan to arrive no later than sunset, or up to 30 minutes prior.
If you come to a star party without a telescope, leave the parking spots closest to the observing site for those with heavy equipment to carry.
After dark, be especially careful around the telescopes: don’t move or turnaround quickly. There are cables connecting equipment that are easy to trip over in the dark. And remember to not use any white light, only red light (see “what to bring” above).
Do not use white flashlights anytime during a star party. It takes 20 to 30 minutes for your eyes to get dark-adapted and only a second or two of white light to make you start over again.
Do not touch the glass eyepiece of a telescope or binoculars.
Do not talk loud or be rowdy. Star-gazing is a quiet, peaceful activity.
Do not litter…pack it in, pack it out!
Do ask questions of other more experienced attendees. Stargazers love to talk about their hobby and are usually happy to answer questions.
Other recent and exciting stargazing events
SpaceX’s Starlink satellite “chain of lights”
In 2019, SpaceX launched 60 Starlink satellites into orbit. The satellites are the first of a planned 12,000-satellite megaconstellation to provide internet access to people on Earth. Satellite observers are giddy with excitement. The satellites orbit at approximately 273 miles above the Earth. As they move across the night sky, they put on a spectacular show for ground observers. To the eye, the 60 satellites appear as a “moving train” of moderately faint stars usually visible to the naked eye under a dark, clear sky. Initially, the satellites were stretched out in a straight line. However, as the satellites revolve around Earth at 90-minute intervals, they should appear less “bunched” together and may get fainter as they are slowly raised to their operational orbits of 342 miles.
If you would like to try and see the Starlink satellites, you will need to consult an online satellite tracker, such as: SpaceX Starlink Satellites Tracker (findstarlink.com). Note: the horizon is 0°, the width of your fist is bout 10°, and the highest point directly overhead is 90° (so 10°-30° and above 50°-60° is high in the sky). We occasionally check findstarlink.com and post upcoming sightings in our monthly list above.
Launch of NASA’s Lucy mission to Jupiter asteroids Oct 13-16, 2021
NASA sent a spacecraft to explore the Jupiter Trojan asteroids on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V 401 rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. These primitive bodies hold vital clues to deciphering the history of the solar system. More info: Lucy: The First Mission to Jupiter’s Trojans | NASA and NASA’s #LucyMission Virtual NASA Social | Facebook
- For those interested in learning more about the Lucy mission, find activities that can be done at home as well as videos, animations, stories, and articles on the Lucy Mission Resources – NASA Solar System Exploration
Upcoming Astronomy and Stargazing Events
(If nothing is listed below, there are no upcoming astronomy or stargazing events in our calendar. We update the calendar throughout the year.)
Tuesday, June 7, 2022
Tuesday, June 21, 2022
Tuesday, July 5, 2022
Tuesday, August 2, 2022
Tuesday, September 6, 2022
Thursday, September 22, 2022
Tuesday, October 4, 2022
Wednesday, December 21, 2022
But wait, there’s more!
- Planetarium shows in the Puget Sound region
- STEM for kids at home with Rosie Research
- Free local livestream, virtual tours, and online classes
- More free and cheap things to do every day: Greater Seattle on the Cheap event calendar.
- Still more ideas for frugal fun: Greater Seattle on the Cheap home page.
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