“Look in the southwest direction soon after sunset. You’ll see Jupiter and Saturn become a ‘double star’ as the two planets make their closest approach to each other in more than 500 years.” Remember the excitement during this time last year? The Great Conjunction on the day of the winter solstice in 2020 was a memorable astronomical event. A year later, we have another reason to look in the southwest at dusk. This time, we have five planets, two asteroids, and one comet that will almost align this week. So here’s everything you need to know.

We will be releasing our Astronomy Calendar for 2022 this week on our YouTube channel. Make sure you subscribe to our channel so that you don’t miss the video of all the important events next year.

Party in the southwest!

The Three Kings

5 Planets, 2 Asteroids, And A Comet Will Almost Align This Week. Here's How To See The Celestial Parade. 1
Image: Stellarium Web

Let’s start with the brightest objects. As soon as the dusk sky fades, you’ll get to see the three kings of the evening sky in December: Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn. The brightest speck of light you see is Venus, at an apparent magnitude of -4.7. It’s the second brightest object in the sky after sunset, only after the Moon. Once you have located Venus, look for Jupiter and Saturn, as shown in the image above. After Venus, Jupiter is the brightest object in the sky around that time. Sandwiched between Jupiter and Venus is Saturn, the faintest of the three.

The three planets can be easily seen with naked eyes as the dusk sky fades. Jupiter and Saturn are heading for their solar conjunction, and as days pass, they will get closer to the Sun as seen from the Earth. After solar conjunction, Jupiter and Saturn will remain hidden in the Sun’s glare for several weeks.

The Telescope Guests

5 Planets, 2 Asteroids, And A Comet Will Almost Align This Week. Here's How To See The Celestial Parade. 2

There’s a lot more in the southwest than what meets the naked eyes. Uranus, Neptune, Pallas, and Ceres lie further away from the three planets visible to naked eyes. If you got a telescope, look for Neptune and Uranus higher in the sky as shown above. Locating Ceres and Pallas through a telescope would be very challenging.

The once-in-a-lifetime comet

On January 3 this year, Senior research specialist Greg Leonard at Mt. Lemmon Observatory discovered a faint speck. The 19th magnitude speck was an incoming comet, now called A1 Leonard (or simply comet Leonard). This comet will pass the closest to the Sun, its perihelion, on January 3, 2022, exactly a year after its discovery.

5 Planets, 2 Asteroids, And A Comet Will Almost Align This Week. Here's How To See The Celestial Parade. 3
Image: Stellarium Web

A1 Leonard passed close to Arcturus on December 6. It passed its perigee over the weekend on December 12 and will flip to being an evening object this week. To see comet Leonard, you will need access to very clear horizons. On December 17, about 30 minutes after sunset, A1 Leonard will be located below planet Venus. The following day, the comet will pass just 0.028 AU (4.2 million km) from Venus, probably creating a Venusian meteor shower.

To quickly locate all these celestiab objects according to your place, use these space apps.

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