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Space calendar 2022: NASA's megarocket, meteor showers, metal asteroids and more – Mashable

In 2022, NASA will slam a spacecraft the size of a vending machine into a space rock the size of a great Egyptian pyramid. It’s an unprecedented test, to see if they can push an asteroid off its natural course.
This extraterrestrial expedition, called the DART mission, is one of many intriguing, if not thrilling, space events happening in 2022. Below you’ll find a moon megarocket launch, stargazing opportunities, and new missions to curious objects in our solar system.
This space calendar will be updated throughout 2022. Look up.
Meteor showers, caused by Earth traveling through scattered debris left over by the likes of a comet, happen throughout the year. The natural light shows are caused by meteors burning up in Earth’s atmosphere. To boost your chances of seeing meteor showers, the trick is to visit areas that have dark skies (away from city lights), choose to skywatch when there’s not a full moon, and know when the peak of the debris will streak through the sky.
The Lyrids meteor shower will last from April 15-29, but the peak occurs on April 21-22, explains the American Meteor Society.
“These meteors also usually lack persistent trains but can produce fireballs,” the organization said. “These meteors are best seen from the northern hemisphere where the radiant is high in the sky at dawn.”
The Eta Aquariids, best viewed from the southern tropics, peak on May 4-5 and produce strong “persistent trains” of streaking meteors, the American Meteor Society says.
Portions of the world will witness a total lunar eclipse on May 15-16 (in the Western Hemisphere, this will occur on the night of May 15).
A total lunar eclipse happens during a special alignment between the moon, Earth, and sun. Specifically, the event occurs when the moon and sun line up on exact opposite sides of Earth, explains NASA. The moon falls into Earth’s shadow. But some sunlight still sneaks through our planet’s atmosphere, resulting in a copperish color reflecting off the moon’s surface.
The map above shows where totality begins (yellow line) and ends (green line) on May 15-16, 2022.
As a crucial precursor for NASA’s Artemis campaign, the U.S. program to return humans to the moon, the agency will test a lunar orbit where it wants to put a space station around the moon.
Called CAPSTONE (Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment), the mission will send a microwave oven-sized satellite (about the weight of two beagles) to make a unique halo-shaped loop around the moon. The study will help NASA one day establish Gateway, a lunar-circling base that will support astronauts while on long-term expeditions to the moon.
NASA selected the private commercial spaceflight company Rocket Lab to launch the satellite on a three-month journey using its Electron rocket. The launch is scheduled for May 2022 from Rocket Lab’s New Zealand site.
Read more about Rocket Lab.
NASA is prepping its 32-story megarocket for a flight thousands of miles beyond the moon, a mission called Artemis I.
It’s the first in a series of deep space exploration voyages that could blast off as early as May, and is an important spaceflight test before landing humans on the lunar surface again. The rocket is thought to be the most expensive and powerful ever built, with each launch estimated to cost $4.1 billion.
The upcoming mission won’t include astronauts, but the monthlong journey will assess the rocket’s capabilities and carry Orion, the spacecraft a crew will ride in on the next, more complex mission, Artemis II.
Read more about NASA’s megarocket.
The James Webb Space Telescope, the most powerful space telescope ever built, arrived at its frigid viewing outpost (around 1 million miles away) in January 2022. The observatory will take unprecedented images of some of the earliest galaxies that ever formed, and peer into the mysterious atmospheres of exoplanets.
NASA says the first images will arrive in June 2022.
NASA plans to launch its Psyche mission in August 2022, with the robotic spacecraft arriving in 2026. Planetary scientists suspect this 140-mile-wide rock is extremely rich in metals. It could be an unmelted remnant — perhaps a chunk of an early planet — from our solar system’s inception.
“If it turns out to be part of a [planet’s] metal core, it would be part of the very first generation of early cores in our solar system,” Arizona State University’s Lindy Elkins-Tanton, who leads the Psyche mission, said in a statement. “But we don’t really know, and we won’t know anything for sure until we get there. We wanted to ask primary questions about the material that built planets. We’re filled with questions and not a lot of answers. This is real exploration.”
The star of NASA’s megarocket reveal isn’t the big rocket
Many of the Webb telescope’s greatest discoveries won’t come from any amazing pictures
The mega-comet hurtling through our solar system is 85, yes 85, miles wide
The popular Perseids meteor show, made up of remnants of comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle, is exciting to watch each August in the Northern Hemisphere. In 2022, the Perseids peak on Aug. 11-12, though, unfortunately, this peak occurs during a full, bright moon.
In late September 2022, NASA’s Juno spacecraft will swoop extremely close to Jupiter’s moon Europa, passing just 221 miles from its icy surface. The space agency hopes to capture detailed footage of the moon’s cracked, icy ground.
Europa is a fascinating world. “Scientists are almost certain that hidden beneath the icy surface of Europa is a salty-water ocean thought to contain twice as much water as Earth’s oceans combined,” writes NASA.
“Europa may be the most promising place in our solar system to find present-day environments suitable for some form of life beyond Earth,” the space agency added.
At some 6.8 million miles from Earth, the DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) spacecraft will hit the 525-foot-wide Dimorphos asteroid on around Oct. 1, 2022.
It’s humanity’s first-ever attempt to purposefully move an asteroid. The rocky target, Dimorphos, is not a threat to Earth, but the mission is an experiment to see how civilization could alter the path of a menacing asteroid, should one be on a collision course with our planet. 
“We are right now defenseless against any asteroid aiming for Earth,” Markus Wilde, an associate professor of aerospace, physics, and space sciences at the Florida Institute of Technology, told Mashable.
Read more about the DART Mission.
NASA launched the Lucy spacecraft on a grand 12-year asteroid tour last fall with plans to fly by several space rocks that share Jupiter’s orbit.
The probe will travel 4 billion miles in a sort of loop-the-loop, circling back to Earth three times for gravity boosts. Its first Earth flyby and gravity assist will happen on Oct. 16, 2022. Lucy will be the first vehicle to return to Earth’s vicinity from the outer solar system.
Lucy will explore one asteroid in the solar system’s main belt and seven Trojan asteroids. The latter are thought to be remnants of the early solar system trapped in stable orbits. They’re clustered in two “swarms” near Jupiter.
Read more about the Lucy mission.
The Taurids are “rich in fireballs,” says the American Meteor Society. (A “fireball” is an extremely bright meteor.) Around every seven years they tend to produce more fireball activity, and 2022 might be the next opportunity. (But the moon will be bright, at 88 percent full, during the peak.)
Widely regarded as the best meteor shower of the year, the Geminids can be seen from most any part of the world, but especially well in the Northern Hemisphere. The best show is on Dec. 14 until the morning of Dec. 15. (Though the moon will be bright and 72 percent full this year, amid the peak.)
This phenomenon occurs every December when Earth passes through dust trailed by 3200 Phaethon, thought to be either an asteroid or a dead comet. When the dust burns up in Earth’s atmosphere, it creates this annual meteor shower.
The Geminids are denser meteors, allowing stargazers to see them as low as 29 miles above Earth’s surface before the cosmic dust burns up.

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