Celestial Parade 2022: The coming two months are going to be exciting for astronomy enthusiasts. Five planets — Jupiter, Neptune, Venus, Mars, and Saturn — will align in the dawn sky of April with a comet and an asteroid. However, the alignment is not the only exciting event to look forward to. As the planets go into a straight line configuration as seen from the Earth, some of them will pass too close to each other, leading to spectacular planetary conjunctions. In this article, all the important dates leading up to the alignment have been discussed.

Before we start, make sure you download one of these space apps. They will help you quickly locate the planets according to your place.

March 28 – The Clustering

Celestial Parade 2022
Looking southeast in the pre-dawn sky on March 28 | Image: Stellarium Web

The first important date to look forward to is March 28. On this day, the Moon will pass close to the triangle formed by Venus, Mars, and Saturn. The brightest of the three planets will be Venus (mag -4.22), followed by Saturn (mag +0.86) and Mars (mag +1.09). The apparent magnitude or mag is a number that describes the brightness of a celestial object. The smaller the number, the brighter the object. The Moon will be 26 days old.

All four celestial objects will be in Capricornus. Look for them in the southeast direction in the pre-dawn sky.

Also Read: All the 30 articles of our Basics of Astrophysics series

April 1 – Planetary Belt

Celestial Parade 2022
The “Planetary Belt” in the pre-dawn sky of April 1 | Image: Stellarium Web

You must be familiar with Orion’s belt — an asterism comprising three stars in a line (Alnitak, Alnilam, Mintaka) in the constellation Orion. On April 1, you’ll see a roughly identical configuration formed by Mars, Saturn, and Venus. The three planets will almost come in a straight line, with Saturn in the middle. After a close approach with Venus in the last week of March, Saturn is now heading for close conjunction with Mars.

April 5 – Conjunction of Mars and Saturn

Celestial Parade 2022
The conjunction of Mars and Saturn in Capricornus on April 5 | Image: Stellarium Web

This is going to be epic. Mars and Saturn will be just 0°19′ apart in the southeastern pre-dawn sky of April 5. Saturn will be at mag +0.7, and Mars at mag +1.0, both in the constellation Capricornus. The pair will be close enough to fit within the field of view of a telescope but will also be visible to the naked eye or through a pair of binoculars.

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April 16-24 – The Alignment

Celestial Parade 2022
The alignment as seen on April 18; Neptune is close to Jupiter, invisible to unaided eyes | Image: Stellarium Web

After April 5, the angular separation between Mars and Saturn will increase, with Saturn gaining altitude in the dawn sky. Jupiter will start emerging from behind the Sun in these two weeks and become an early morning object. It will be too close to Neptune. April 16-24 will be a good week to see the five planets align. Venus will be the brightest, followed by Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, and Neptune.

Comet 22P/Kopff will be close to Mars, and the asteroid Vesta will be close to Saturn, as shown.

April 24 – The Moon Joins The Party

Celestial Parade 2022
The Moon joins the celestial parade on April 24 | Image: Stellarium Web

April 24 is one of the best days to witness the planetary alignment as the 23-day old Moon joins the parade. The Moon will eclipse the Sun a week later on April 30.

May 1 – Jupiter – Venus Conjunction

5 Planets, An Asteroid, And A Comet Are Going To Align; Here's How To See The Celestial Parade. 1
Jupiter and Venus in the southeast direction in the pre-dawn sky of May 1 | Image: Stellarium Web

As Jupiter gains altitude in the pre-dawn sky, it will pass close to Venus. They will be just 13.8 arcminutes of each other. Although this is double the separation compared to the 2020 Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, this planetary conjunction is unique because Jupiter and Venus are two of the brightest planets in the solar system, as seen from the Earth. During the Great Conjunction, the two planets had an apparent magnitude of -1.82 and +0.64.

In the upcoming Jupiter-Venus conjunction, the two will have an apparent magnitude of -1.96 and -4. Hence, Jupiter and Venus will produce an even more spectacular view in the dawn sky that will be easily visible with naked eyes.

May 12 – Planets Realign

5 Planets, An Asteroid, And A Comet Are Going To Align; Here's How To See The Celestial Parade. 2
Planets realign after the Jupiter-Venus conjunction | Image: Stellarium Web

After the Jupiter-Venus conjunction, the five planets will realign, but the order will be (starting from the horizon) Venus, Jupiter, Neptune, Mars, and Saturn. Jupiter will then go further up and form planetary conjunction with Mars on May 29.

Good luck with the celestial parade!

Also Watch: Astronomy Calendar 2022

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