Conjunction of Planets 2023: Jupiter, Venus, Mercury, Neptune
In this article, you’ll learn when the planets will meet in the sky in 2023 and how to quickly identify them using the free stargazing app Sky Tonight.
- What is planetary conjunction?
- Planetary alignment
- Locating planets with Sky Tonight
- Conjunctions in May
- Conjunctions in July
- Past events
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.
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.
Locating planets with Sky Tonight
You can easily locate planets in the sky above you with the help of Sky Tonight. Just follow these steps:
- Launch the app and type the name of the planet you're looking for in the search bar.
- Tap the blue target button next to the relevant result, and the app will show you the planet's location on the sky map.
- Tap the blue compass button to find the planet's actual position in the sky above you. A white arrow will appear on your screen, so you can follow it until you spot the planet. The app's image matches the real sky.
Conjunctions in May
May 17: Mercury-Jupiter conjunction
On May 17, at 12:51 GMT, Jupiter (magnitude -2.0) and Mercury (magnitude 1.6) will come within 6° of each other. Jupiter will be located in the constellation Pisces, while Mercury will be in Aries. Both planets will be visible to the naked eye just before dawn.
Conjunctions in July
July 1: Venus-Mars conjunction
On July 1, at 06:48 GMT (02:48 a.m. EDT), Venus (magnitude -4.7) and Mars (magnitude 1.7) will pass within 3°36' of each other. Both objects will be in the constellation Leo. Bright Venus will be visible with the naked eye even from light-polluted locations, while fainter Mars will require slightly better observing conditions. They won't be visible together in the field of view of a telescope but can be seen with binoculars or naked eyes. Look for the planets after sunset.
July 27: Mercury-Venus conjunction
On July 27, at 11:00 GMT (07:00 a.m. EDT), Mercury (magnitude -0.1) and Venus (magnitude -4.5) will meet in the constellation Leo. They will pass within 5°6' of each other. Although both planets are bright enough to be seen with the naked eye, this conjunction will be quite challenging to observe, especially from the Northern Hemisphere. There, Mercury and Venus will be too close to the Sun. In the Southern Hemisphere, the Sun will set earlier, giving observers a sufficiently dark sky.
March 30: Venus-Uranus conjunction
On March 30, at 21:09 GMT, Venus and Uranus will pass within 1°13' from each other. The planets will meet in the constellation Aries. Venus will shine brilliantly with a magnitude of -4.1, visible to the naked eye, and Uranus, with a magnitude of 5.8, will require binoculars to observe. Don’t bother taking a telescope to see the conjunction, as the objects won’t fit together in its field of view.
March 28: Mercury-Jupiter conjunction
On March 28, at 04:53 GMT, Mercury will pass within 1°16' of Jupiter as they meet in the constellation Pisces. Mercury, with a magnitude of -1.5, will shine brightly alongside Jupiter (magnitude -2.0). Both planets will be visible to the naked eye right after sunset.
March 16: Mercury-Neptune conjunction
On March 16, at 17:28 GMT, Mercury will meet Neptune at a distance of 22'. Neptune (magnitude 7.9) will be located in the constellation Pisces, and Mercury (magnitude -1.7) will be in the neighboring constellation Aquarius. The Mercury-Neptune conjunction will occur between Neptune's solar conjunction on March 15 and Mercury's solar conjunction on March 17, so the planets will be lost in the Sun’s glare. However, you can track their paths using the stargazing app Sky Tonight.
March 2: Venus-Jupiter conjunction
On March 2, 2023, at 04:15 GMT (March 1, 11:15 p.m. EST), Venus (magnitude -4) will meet Jupiter (magnitude -2.1) in the constellation Pisces at a distance of 29' 24”. The conjunction will be observable through a telescope or binoculars as well as with the naked eye. Enjoy the view of the two bright dots shining close to each other in the dusk sky.
March 2: Mercury-Saturn conjunction
On March 2, at 14:29 GMT, Mercury will pass within 52' south of Saturn. This celestial event will be visible right before sunrise. You can spot both planets with the naked eye or using a pair of binoculars. Look for Mercury (magnitude -0.8) and Saturn (magnitude 1.0.) in the constellation Aquarius.
February 15: Venus-Neptune conjunction
On February 15, 2023, at 12:19 GMT (7:19 a.m. EST), one of the closest planetary conjunctions of the year will occur. Venus and Neptune will pass within mere 45” from each other in the constellation Aquarius. Dim Neptune (magnitude 8) can’t be seen without optical devices, unlike prominent Venus (magnitude -4). Start your observations in the evening, right after sunset, and watch the planets getting closer to the horizon (they set 1-2 hours after the Sun).
January 22: Venus-Saturn conjunction
On January 22, 2023, at 21:53 GMT (4:53 p.m. EST), Venus will be 21' away from Saturn. The distance between them will be close enough to spot both planets at once through a telescope. Venus (magnitude -3.9) and Saturn (magnitude 0.7) will be bright enough to be observed with the naked eye as well. They will shine close to the horizon and set about an hour after the Sun. Find them in the constellation Capricornus.
Now you know how and when to spot the planets close together. If you enjoyed this article, share it with your friends.
We wish you clear skies and happy observations!