The Moon Visits Four Planets: How to See Jupiter, Mars, Saturn and Mercury This Week
On the mornings of March 17, 18, 19 and 20, 2020, the moon will visit four bright morning planets – Jupiter, Mars, Saturn and Mercury. Here’s how, when, and where to see all of them.
To feast your eyes on the planets or to take a stunning photo, you will need to get up early. Both Jupiter, Mars, Saturn, Mercury now adorn the sky before sunrise. Take advantage of the stargazing app Star Walk 2 to find out the rise and set times of the planets for your location. The app will also show you where to look to find them in the sky.
March 17 – Mini Planet Parade
In the predawn sky on Tuesday, March 17, find the moon pointing at the almost straight line of bright morning planets. Mars and Jupiter will rise first and sit at the top, Saturn in the middle, and Mercury at the very bottom, low above the horizon. The innermost planet of the Solar system, Mercury, is now better placed for observation with the naked eye from the Southern hemisphere. Observers in the Northern Hemisphere may need binoculars or small telescopes.
March 18 – Close Approach of the Moon, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn
On Wednesday, March 18, the moon, the red planet Mars, the gas giant Jupiter and the ringed Saturn will make a close approach in the morning sky. All objects will be easily visible with the naked eye and will produce a stunning view. A bit earlier, observers in South America, South Georgia, Antarctica and the Kerguelen Islands will see the occultation of Mars by the moon.
Jupiter is now the brightest planet in the morning sky and the 4th brightest celestial object in the sky after the Sun, the moon and the most brilliant evening “star” Venus. For now, Jupiter is more than 10 times brighter than Mars. Nevertheless, it’s pretty easy to spot the red planet, so you should have no difficulties with it. If you can’t find Mars, use Jupiter as a reference point.
March 19 – The Moon Meets Saturn
Before dawn on Thursday, March 19, watch for a close encounter between Saturn and the moon low above the southeastern horizon. Everyone can enjoy this incredible naked-eye view. Observers in some parts of the world (Europe, Africa, Asia) will see the moon very close to the ringed planet. Mars and Jupiter will still be nearby.
March 20 – Conjunction of Jupiter and Mars
If you missed Mars and Jupiter on March 17 - 19, you have a great opportunity to see them on March 20. In the early hours of Friday, the planets will pass within 0°42′ of each other and make a close approach. Jupiter will glow at magnitude -2.1, and Mars at magnitude 0.9. Observe the pair with the naked eye or use binoculars to take a closer look.
Keep looking up and enjoy the sky with Star Walk 2!