Planetary Conjunctions: What Are They and When Is the Next One?
In this article, you’ll learn when the planets will meet in the sky and how to quickly identify them using the free stargazing app Sky Tonight.
- What is planetary conjunction?
- Planetary alignment
- Locating planets with Sky Tonight
- Upcoming conjunctions
- December 28: Mercury-Mars
- January 27, 2024: Mercury-Mars
- February 22, 2024: Venus-Mars
- March 21, 2024: Venus-Saturn
- April 3, 2024: Venus-Neptune
- April 10, 2024: Mars-Saturn
- April 20, 2024: Jupiter-Uranus
- April 29, 2024: Mars-Neptune
- May 31, 2024: Mercury-Uranus
- June 4, 2024: Jupiter-Mercury
- July 15, 2024: Mars-Uranus
- August 7, 2024: Mercury-Venus
- August 14, 2024: Mars-Jupiter
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.
December 28: Mercury-Mars
On December 28, at 00:31 GMT (December 27, 8:31 p.m. EDT), Mercury (mag 2.1) will pass 3°34' from Mars (mag 1.4) in the constellation Ophiuchus. Observing conditions will be poor from both hemispheres as the planets will be close to the Sun. Be careful when observing objects close to our star — its bright light could damage your eyesight. You can view this event safely in the Sky Tonight app.
January 27, 2024: Mercury-Mars
In 2024, the planetary conjunction with the least apparent distance (among those visible to the naked eye) will occur on January 27, at 15:48 GMT (11:48 a.m. ET). Mercury (mag -0.2) will pass within 0°12' of Mars (mag 1.3). During this event, the planets will be almost as close as Jupiter and Saturn were during the Great Conjunction in 2020. Both planets will be visible to the naked eye in the morning, just before sunrise. From the Northern Hemisphere, Mars and Mercury will be low above the southeastern horizon in the constellation Sagittarius. From the Southern Hemisphere, the planets will be a little higher.
February 22, 2024: Venus-Mars
On February 22, at 09:01 GMT (05:01 a.m. ET), bright Venus (mag -3.9) will pass very close to reddish Mars (mag 1.3) in the constellation Capricornus. The apparent distance between the planets will be less than one degree — 0°36'. Observers from southern latitudes should definitely observe this spectacular event! There, Mars and Venus will be visible close together above the eastern horizon in the morning before the Sun lights up the sky. The view from northern latitudes will be worse — the planets will be closer to the southeastern horizon and sunlight may outshine Mars. To see the planets, you'll need to find a place without tall buildings or trees.
March 21, 2024: Venus-Saturn
On March 21, at 22:06 GMT (06:06 p.m. ET), Venus (mag -3.8) will pass close to Saturn (mag 1.1) in the constellation Aquarius. This will be a particularly close conjunction: the planets will be only 0°18' apart, while most such events occur at a distance of 30 to 78 arcminutes. From the Southern Hemisphere, look for the objects in the morning, about an hour before sunrise; they will be visible low above the eastern horizon. From the Northern Hemisphere, the planets will be too close to the eastern horizon, rising just before sunrise. The chances of seeing this conjunction from northern latitudes aren't high.
April 3, 2024: Venus-Neptune
On April 3, at 10:53 GMT (06:53 a.m. ET), Venus (mag -3.8) will pass 0°17' of Neptune (mag 8.0) in the constellation Pisces. Venus is visible with the naked eye, but Neptune requires a telescope or binoculars with good magnification. From the Northern Hemisphere, the conjunction will be difficult to see because the planets will be too close to the eastern horizon in the morning. From the Southern Hemisphere, the event will be slightly easier to see as the planets will be higher above the eastern horizon.
April 10, 2024: Mars-Saturn
On April 10, at 18:46 GMT (2:46 p.m. ET), Mars (mag 1.2) will pass 0°24' from Saturn (mag 1.1) in the constellation Aquarius. Both planets will be visible to the naked eye. Observers in the Southern Hemisphere will be able to see the planets high above the eastern horizon in the morning. In the Northern Hemisphere, the view will be poorer as the planets will be closer to the eastern horizon, rising just before sunrise.
April 20, 2024: Jupiter-Uranus
On April 20, at 07:30 GMT (03:30 a.m. ET), Jupiter (mag -2.0) and Uranus (mag 5.8) will meet in the constellation Aries. The distance between the planets will be only 0°31'. Observe the planets in the evening, low above the western horizon, just after sunset. This conjunction will be better seen from the Northern Hemisphere; in the Southern Hemisphere, Jupiter and Uranus will be very low. Don't forget to bring binoculars to see Uranus — this planet is too faint for the naked eye, especially from light-polluted cities.
April 29, 2024: Mars-Neptune
On April 29, at 04:01 GMT (12:01 a.m. ET), Mars (mag 1.1) will pass extremely close to Neptune (mag 7.9) in the constellation Pisces. The apparent distance between the planets will be only 2'14" — even the distance between Jupiter and Saturn during the Great Conjunction in 2020 was greater (6.1 arcminutes). The conjunction of Mars and Neptune will be much less spectacular, however, because Neptune is too faint to be visible to the naked eye. Grab a pair of binoculars or a telescope and look for the duo in the east in the morning. Observers in the Southern Hemisphere will have a better view.
May 31, 2024: Mercury-Uranus
On May 31, at 01:24 GMT (May 30, 9:24 p.m. ET), Mercury (mag -0.8) will pass 1°21' from Uranus (mag 5.8) in the constellation Taurus. The planets will be above the eastern horizon in the morning. This conjunction will be difficult to see from either hemisphere, as the planets will be obscured by sunlight. Also, Uranus isn't visible to the naked eye and requires optics.
June 4, 2024: Jupiter-Mercury
On June 4, at 10:04 GMT (06:04 a.m. ET), Jupiter (mag -2.0) will pass 7'04" from Mercury (mag -1.2) in the constellation Taurus. Unfortunately, the conjunction will be difficult to see from most locations because the planets will be too close to the Sun. You can try your luck and look for them low over the northeastern horizon in the morning.
July 15, 2024: Mars-Uranus
On July 15 at 09:22 GMT (05:22 a.m. ET), Mars (mag 0.9) will pass very close (0°33') to Uranus (mag 5.8) in the constellation Taurus. From the Northern Hemisphere, the planets will be visible high above the eastern horizon in the morning, about an hour before sunrise. From the Southern Hemisphere, they will be a little lower, in the northeastern direction. You'll need at least a pair of binoculars to see Uranus.
August 7, 2024: Mercury-Venus
On August 7, at 17:23 GMT (1:23 p.m. ET), Mercury (mag 1.8) will pass 5°42' from Venus (mag -3.8). Venus will be in the constellation Leo, while Mercury will be on the border of Leo and the small constellation Sextans. Because the planets will be close to the Sun, they will be difficult to observe. You can try to see them in the evening, low in the west.
August 14, 2024: Mars-Jupiter
On August 14, at 14:45 GMT (10:45 a.m. ET), reddish Mars (mag 0.8) will pass just 0°18' from bright Jupiter (mag -2.2). This beautiful duo will be visible to the naked eye in the constellation Taurus. Considering the brightness of both planets, the distance between them, and their visibility, this conjunction can be considered the best of the year. From the Northern Hemisphere, Mars and Jupiter will be visible from about midnight until morning, rising high above the eastern horizon. In the Southern Hemisphere, the planets will rise in the northeast in the morning, a few hours before sunrise.
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!