Five planets — Jupiter, Neptune, Venus, Mars, and Saturn — have aligned with comet 22P/Kopff and asteroid Vesta in a rare celestial event. Since mid-March, Jupiter has emerged from behind the Sun. Saturn has gained altitude after close conjunction with Mars. The angular separation between Venus and Mars has increased, and the predawn sky is decorated with the planet parade. In this article, I have explained how to watch the alignment and the important dates of planetary conjunctions that are a must-watch if you love sky-gazing.
Before we start, make sure you download one of these space apps. They will help you quickly locate the planets according to your place.
Planet Parade (April 18- April 24)
The stage is set! All you have to do is sacrifice your sleep and look in the southeast direction in the pre-dawn sky. Starting from the horizon, the planets will be Jupiter, Venus, Mars, and Saturn. Neptune’s between Jupiter and Venus, but you’ll need a telescope to see the far-flung planet. Venus will be the brightest, followed by Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, and Neptune.
If you live in the northern hemisphere, waking up a couple of hours before sunrise will also allow you to see the Lyrid shooting stars. The Lyrid meteor shower will reach its peak activity on the night of April 22. It’s the first notable meteor shower peak since the Quadrantids in early January. Lyrids can produce up to 18 meteors per hour. All the important details required to watch the Lyrids have been given in this video.
Comet 22P/Kopff will be close to Mars, and the asteroid Vesta will be close to Saturn, as shown in the illustration below.
April 24 is one of the best days to witness the planetary alignment as the 23-day-old Moon joins the parade. The Moon will eclipse the Sun a week later on April 30.
Jupiter – Venus Conjunction (May 1)
As Jupiter gains altitude in the pre-dawn sky, it will pass close to Venus. They will be just 13.8 arcminutes of each other. Although this is double the separation compared to the 2020 Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, this planetary conjunction is unique because Jupiter and Venus are two of the brightest planets in the solar system, as seen from the Earth. During the Great Conjunction, the two planets had an apparent magnitude of -1.82 and +0.64.
In the upcoming Jupiter-Venus conjunction, the two will have an apparent magnitude of -1.96 and -4. Hence, Jupiter and Venus will produce an even more spectacular view in the dawn sky that will be easily visible with naked eyes.
Planets Realign (May 12)
After the Jupiter-Venus conjunction, the five planets will realign, but the order will be (starting from the horizon) Venus, Jupiter, Neptune, Mars, and Saturn. Jupiter will then go further up and form planetary conjunction with Mars on May 29.
The Grand Alignment (June 24)
In the alignment of April 2022, Mercury and Uranus are missing. But these two planets will join the parade, and on June 24, you’ll get to see all the eight planets aligning in the dawn sky with the Moon. The grand alignment of June 2022 will be the flagship astronomical event of 2022.
Wishing you clear skies!
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Admin and Founder of ‘The Secrets Of The Universe’ and former intern at Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bangalore, I am a science student pursuing a Master’s in Physics from India. I love to study and write about Stellar Astrophysics, Relativity & Quantum Mechanics.