Updated: Jun 30, 2022
For professional and amateur astronomers, and anyone who ever looked up into the night sky to see what was there, this summer brings it like it is rarely seen. All the planets are on display and are lined up across the night sky.
Right now, just before dawn, anyone in Richmond and the whole Bay Area can see (left to right) Mercury, Venus, Uranus, Mars, Jupiter, Neptune and Saturn splayed across the sky. (Poor Pluto got demoted from being a planet to a sub-planet.)
If the sky is clear, anyone can see five of these planets with the naked eye. Just look out of a window with a southern exposure, or go up on a roof, or view from the street if there are no overhanging trees or glaring street lights. Uranus and Neptune require a telescope to see, although, according to NASA, some sharp eyed skywatchers might be able to see Uranus faintly without equipment if conditions are absolutely perfect. Best to use a telescope. Later in June 2022, it will be even easier to see the planets lined up as the moon transitions from full to dark, reducing its reflected light so the sky is darker.
While you are watching, you might catch a shooting star or two, starting with the Delta Aquariids meteor shower, beginning July 18, 2022. This show goes for about a month with 10 or so meteors per hour. Then the Perseid meteor shower begins between August 12-13, 2022, when there will be about 50 meteors visible per hour, according to both NASA and Earthsky. Best time to watch is when it is darkest - look for clear nights with little or no moon.
There are also stars, constellations and nebulas to see. For anyone wanting to be able to look up and actually identify the stars, planets and even satellites passing by, there are many apps that do just that.
For example, SkyGuide costs a couple of dollars to download and it will identify almost everything in the sky, allowing the viewer to zoom in on planets or constellations, and track the movements of satellites in real time as they pass overhead. It makes anyone a semi-expert in identifying what is in the sky. Take the kids outside with you and have fun watching!