The first planet to join this group is Jupiter which enters the picture on 14 April. The next planet to join the group is Saturn. Mars and Venus will be aligned on 6 and 3 May respectively. During these times skywatchers can see the first plants taking alignment. However it’s still too early to know how long the planets will stay aligned. Read on for some predictions and ideas.
Jupiter enters the scene on 14 April
Mars and Venus are currently engaged in a nebulous cosmic dance. On 14 April Jupiter and Saturn will join them in a rare planetary conjunction similar to the one seen in 2020. It will be one of the most spectacular celestial events of this year and observers will be able to see the entire spectacle from Earth. During the April 14-22 alignment Jupiter will be close to Venus while Venus will be near Saturn.
How long will the planets be alignecing? The alignment begins early on 14 April. The four planets will be in a near-perfect alignment before sunrise. The first planetary alignment occurs early in the month when Mars and Saturn appear to be separated by only six degrees. Since then however Saturn and Mars have become more distant increasing their separation by a degree or two each day. Jupiter will rise in the early morning hours on 14 April. This is a great opportunity to observe Jupiter and its rings.
This alignment will be visible in India but you need to be in a place where the sky is clear of light pollution to see it. This alignment will last all month long and the first part of it will occur before dawn. Then Venus Mars and Saturn will follow. While they may not be visible they will be visible to the naked eye or binoculars.
Mercury aligned with Jupiter on 1 May
This rare alignment of four celestial objects occurs in mid-northern latitudes approximately 45 minutes before sunrise. Mercury will rise a little before dawn joining Jupiter and Saturn at the horizon. The thin crescent Moon which is about nine percent illuminated will appear five degrees to Jupiter’s right. These three stars will make a spectacular display in the morning sky. Read on to find out more about this spectacular alignment of our planets!
In pre-dawn skies this Saturday Jupiter and Venus will appear to ‘nearly collide’. These two planets are some of the brightest in the night sky and some observers may see the combined radiant overlapping. This will continue to occur on Sunday when Jupiter and Venus will swap places. Observers will be able to see both planets at dawn but they may not have as good a view on Sunday.
The moon will also be higher than Mercury on May 2. At this time the crescent Moon will be higher than the moon and the 1st-magnitude star Aldebaran M45 and Hyades. The planet will be invisible by May 15 but will be visible in the early morning sky the next day. Mercury will be at its lowest point on May 21 and then return to its usual position in the morning sky.
Saturn aligned with Mars on 6 May
The planets Jupiter and Saturn will be close to each other on 6 May. They will be only 0.2 degrees apart during their closest approach. They are far from each other however as they are 690 million miles apart. That is four times the Earth-Sun distance. Even with the close approach these two are a far cry from being in our direct orbit. However this won’t stop us from observing these beautiful planets.
The first viewing opportunity for astronomers will be on May 1 when Saturn will rise about 3 A.M. local time. By the end of the month it will be rising at 1 A.M. It will be a slender 0.6 magnitude and will be rising in the early morning sky. The planet will be in the same constellation as Deneb Algedi but will be 1.7deg further north.
This alignment will be even more impressive when the planets are in the same general location as the Sun. During this rare alignment the planets will be in a straight line in the southeast sky before sunrise. The four planets are also precursors to a rarer planetary alignment later this summer. However it is unlikely that anyone will be able to observe this event with the naked eye. But it’s a good time to be outside and if the sky is not cloudy you can enjoy the show without a telescope.
Venus aligned with Mars on 3 May
The waning crescent Moon will be near the bright stars of Jupiter and Mars on 3 May with the pair rising just before three a.m. local time. Jupiter is 5.5 degrees east of Mars while Mars is 0.6 degrees south of Jupiter. The conjunction will be impossible to see during daylight so plan your trip for twilight. The planets will be near the horizon as the sun slowly sinks below the horizon.
Both Jupiter and Venus rise at around 4 a.m. local time and will be at magnitude -2.1. Using a low-power telescope both will be easily visible. They each have a disk about 17 inches across and Jupiter has four Galilean moons which make for a spectacular sight. Watch for early twilight as this will be the best time to see them.
This alignment has been building all month but the two planets will appear so close on Monday night that they can barely fit between each other. The full moon can’t fit between them. And the closest planetary conjunction to Earth was on March 4 1226. However there are many events in the sky this week that will make it even more spectacular. If you’re looking to get a glimpse of the stars don’t miss the Venus-Mars conjunction on 3 May.
Mars and Venus appear in a straight line on 3 May
On 3 May a slim crescent moon will be in the sky making it easier to see Venus and Mars. The planets are in a perfect alignment and visibility will be much better than usual. After the conjunction Venus will move to the left each night and appear near the bright star Regulus. This alignment will only happen a few times so take advantage of the rare opportunity.
This conjunction will be quite close but not a ‘great’ one. Jupiter will appear near the sun while Venus will be above and to the left. Look east before dawn to catch this transit. The best time to view it is in the twilight hours or predawn. As Jupiter spins once every 10 hours the sight of it might be slightly tan.
To view this event you will need a clear sky and few obstructions on the southeast horizon. Look for the cluster of three bright objects known as Altair. The two planets will be closest to each other at dawn on April 4 and will be separated by about half a degree – about the width of a full moon. In the morning hours Venus will be close to the eastern horizon.
Lyrid meteor shower
The Lyrid meteor shower peaks in rural areas and dark moonless skies. The American Meteor Society expects up to 18 meteors per hour during its peak this year. While urban skyscrapers may not see nearly as many as rural areas they will likely be able to see a few per hour at a time. It is best to train your eyes on the night sky and face east to look for the radiant of the Lyrid meteor shower.
The maximum Lyrid meteor shower typically occurs in the evening of the waning gibbous phase of the Moon. The peak of the shower is expected on the evening of April 22 and early morning of April 23. It is possible to see meteors during the evening hours on April 22 but the best viewing will be at dawn on April 23. The Lyrid meteor shower is known to surge and die off quickly so watch for a meteor shower during the evening and dawn of April 23.
The peak of the Lyrid meteor shower is expected to be at 19:00 UTC on April 22. During the peak nights it will be dark enough for Europeans to go out shooting stargazing. You can also continue shooting stars into the night on April 23 until early morning on April 24. You can see Lyrids as they pass through Earth’s atmosphere and the Moon in the south. This meteor shower is best seen in the northern hemisphere.
Total lunar eclipse
The duration of a total lunar eclipse varies depending on the distance of the Moon from Earth. The Moon will be at its slowest distance from the Earth at apogee. The diameter of the Earth’s umbra will not change as the distance decreases. Thus if the eclipse is happening near apogee the duration of the totality will be longer. A partial lunar eclipse occurs at the beginning of an eclipse when the Moon is half-way into the umbra. As the moon begins to exit the umbra it will begin to appear orange and start to cast its shadow over the Moon.
To observe a lunar eclipse you must be on the night side of Earth and make sure the sky is clear of clouds. It is best to choose a location with little or no light in the vicinity as the eclipse can last several hours. During this time the Moon will be partially obscured by the Earth’s atmosphere and totality will last for about an hour. The entire duration of a total lunar eclipse will be seen by millions of people around the world.