May 2022 Planetary Conjunctions

~5 min
May 2022 Planetary Conjunctions

This May, the conjunction of Mars and Jupiter will take place. Learn how and when to see it.

Contents

What is planetary conjunction?

In simple words, a planetary conjunction occurs when two or more planets appear close to each other in the sky. Such proximity of planets is an optical illusion — in reality, they are very far away from each other.

From an astronomical point of view, a conjunction happens when celestial objects share the same right ascension¹ or ecliptic longitude² in the sky.

¹Right ascension is the equivalent of longitude on the Earth’s surface projected onto the celestial sphere.

²Ecliptic is an imaginary line that marks the Sun’s apparent path across the sky during a year. Ecliptic longitude is measured along the ecliptic eastwards from the Sun’s position at the March equinox.

While the first definition is more common, it isn’t very precise. In fact, it describes a close approach (small angular separation) of space objects — an event that usually takes place near a conjunction. But don’t confuse these events! A close approach isn’t necessarily a conjunction.

Usually, the distance between objects during a conjunction varies from 0.5° to 9°. To get it better, imagine that 0.5° is the average width of a Full Moon disk. Sometimes planets come even closer — last time it happened with Jupiter and Saturn in 2020 when they appeared less than 0.1° apart. Such an event is called the Great Conjunction and provides a spectacular show for stargazers.

A conjunction can include other celestial objects besides planets — for example, moons, asteroids, or stars. In our article, we list the upcoming conjunctions of the Moon and planets, so you can learn which planet is close to the Moon tonight.

Planetary alignment

Some people confuse a planetary conjunction and a planetary alignment, sometimes referred to as a “planet parade.” A conjunction implies a shorter than usual distance between objects in the sky, while an alignment means that planets line up in a row in the same area of the sky, as seen from the Earth.

May conjunctions

In May, we will see the single fascinating conjunction of Mars and Jupiter. Not to miss it, type “Mars Jupiter” in the Sky Tonight app’s search field and select the fitting result to find the exact timings and coordinates for your location. If you tap the target icon, you’ll see the objects’ position in the sky in the moment of conjunction.

May 29: Mars-Jupiter conjunction

On May 29, 2022, at 08:57 GMT (04:57 a.m. EDT), Mars will meet Jupiter in the constellation Pisces. Jupiter will shine brightly at a magnitude of -2.3, so you can observe it easily with the unaided eye. Mars will be a bit dimmer — with a magnitude of 0.7. The planets will be separated by only 0.6° in the sky but still too far from each other to see them together through a telescope. Try to spot them both with the naked eye or with a pair of binoculars!

In addition to planetary conjunctions, you can enjoy the conjunctions between the Moon and planets. A fair number of them will occur in May.

April conjunctions

You might miss the exact moment of conjunction depending on your timezone. But don't get disappointed; even the night after the conjunction, objects you’d like to see will still be positioned quite close to each other.

April 5: Mars-Saturn conjunction

On April 5, 2022, at 01:45 GMT (April 3, 9:45 p.m. EDT), Mars and Saturn will appear close together, with Saturn passing 0°19' to the north of Mars. They will meet in the constellation Capricornus, glowing at a magnitude of 0.7 (Saturn) and 1.0 (Mars). Venus will also join their company, shining nearby at a magnitude of -4.3. All of them will be visible even to the naked eye. The 4-days-old Moon won’t interfere with the observations.

April 12: Jupiter-Neptune conjunction

On April 12, 2022, at 20:05 GMT (4:05 p.m. EDT), Jupiter and Neptune will merge in the constellation Aquarius, separated by only 0°06'. Jupiter will be the brightest of the two, shining at a magnitude of -2.1. Neptune will be much dimmer with a brightness of 8.0. Try using a telescope or binoculars to observe the planets. Best time to start the observations is in the early morning.

April 18: Mercury-Uranus conjunction

On April 18, 2022, at 13:47 GMT (9:47 a.m. EDT), Mercury (magnitude -1.0) will pass 2°08' to the north of Uranus (magnitude 5.9). They will meet in the constellation Aries. The conjunction is more convenient to observe from the Northern Hemisphere. Grab a pair of binoculars and try to spot the planets in the evening sky. The Star Walk 2 app might make your task easier by telling you where to look.

April 30: Venus-Jupiter conjunction

On April 30, 2022, at 19:56 GMT (3:56 p.m. EDT), Venus will meet Jupiter in the constellation Pisces. The planets will be passing each other at a record short distance of 14'. You may have seen the great conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in December 2020, when the two planets were only separated by 6'. This time, Jupiter and Venus will be almost as close. From the Earth, it might seem like Venus (magnitude -4.1) and Jupiter (magnitude -2.1) are merging into one point of light, bright enough to observe with an unaided eye.

Mars will add up to the unique scene, shining nearby with a magnitude of 1.1, which, of course, is not as radiant as Venus and Jupiter combined. The best time to observe the scene is in the morning.

March conjunctions

March 2: Mercury-Saturn conjunction

On March 2, 2022, at 15:48 GMT (10:48 a.m. EST), Mercury will pass only 0°41' to the south of Saturn, making it the closest conjunction of these two planets in 2022. The objects will be located in the constellation Capricornus, shining with a visual magnitude of -0.1 (Mercury) and 0.7 (Saturn).

The best time to see the planets is in the morning when civil twilight begins. You’ll need a clear horizon and a pair of binoculars to get a better view. But if you don’t own one, it’s fine — the event is visible with the naked eye. The Moon won’t interfere with observations reaching its new phase the same day.

When is twilight? What types of twilight are there? What are “magic hours”? Check out our infographic to get answers to these questions.
See Infographic

March 16: Venus-Mars conjunction

On March 16, at 03:12 GMT (March 15, 10:12 p.m. EST), Venus and Mars will appear closest to each other this year, separated by only 3.9°. The luminous Venus that recently reached its greatest brightness will have a visual magnitude of -4.5. The Red Planet won’t be nearly as bright, having a magnitude of only 1.2, but still visible with the naked eye.

Like Mercury and Saturn, Venus and Mars will be best visible shortly before sunrise in the constellation Capricornus. Observers from the Southern Hemisphere will have a better view as the planets there rise above the horizon earlier and climb higher before dawn.

March 29: Venus-Saturn conjunction

On March 29, at 00:53 GMT (March 28, 7:53 p.m. EST), Venus will pass near another planet, Saturn. Their conjunction will be closer than the previous one; the distance between planets will be 2°09'. Venus will slightly lose in brightness, shining with a magnitude of -4.3. Saturn, in its turn, keeps a brightness of 0.7.

Look for the objects in the constellation Capricornus in the morning hours. By the way, Mars will be located nearby, as it follows Venus throughout March. All the planets are visible with the naked eye, but you can use a pair of binoculars to see more details — like Venus' phase or Saturn’s rings.

Now you know how and when to spot the planets close together this month. If you enjoyed this article, share it with your friends.

We wish you clear skies and happy observations!

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