If you wake up early and look in the southeast pre-dawn sky, you’ll see a spectacular alignment of planets. Starting from the horizon, they’ll be Jupiter, Neptune, Venus, Mars, and Saturn. All of them will be easily visible to unaided eyes except Neptune. But the planet parade is not the only celestial event to look forward to. As the planets move in each other’s vicinity, they will end up in close conjunctions with other planets. And one of the most spectacular planetary conjunctions will be the Jupiter-Venus conjunction. This article explains everything you need to know about the planetary conjunction and how to see the two planets with naked eyes.
Before we start, make sure you download one of these space apps. They will help you quickly locate the planets according to your place.
What is a conjunction?
A conjunction is an astronomical event in which two celestial bodies appear close to each other as seen from the Earth. However, in reality, they are millions of kilometers apart. Technically, a conjunction occurs when two astronomical objects or spacecraft have either the same right ascension or the same ecliptic longitude, usually as observed from Earth. Planetary conjunctions are rare. One of the most well-known planetary conjunction is the Great Conjunction, a close encounter between Jupiter and Saturn every two decades. The last time it happened was on the day of the winter solstice in 2020.
The Jupiter – Venus conjunction
Undoubtedly the pairing of Jupiter and Saturn is a treat to watch, but the conjunction of Jupiter and Venus has its charm for two main reasons. The first is that Jupiter and Venus are the two brightest planets as seen from the Earth. Although Mars sometimes takes the place of Jupiter to become the second brightest planet, that happens for a short period when Mars is around its opposition or the closest approach to Earth. When Jupiter and Venus pair up in the sky, it’s like a double star that can be easily seen with unaided eyes.
The second thing that makes the Jupiter-Venus conjunction unique is that, unlike the Great Conjunction, you don’t have to wait for two decades for the planets to pass close to each other. Since Venus always remains close to the Sun, it follows the Sun as seen from the Earth. On the other hand, Jupiter is an outer planet that moves around the Sun slowly.
As a result of the Earth’s motion around the Sun, Jupiter appears to circle the sky relative to the Sun roughly once a year as viewed from Earth. So it will pass by Venus, which is always somewhere in the vicinity of the Sun, annually. Hence, Venus and Jupiter typically have one conjunction (lining up as seen from the Earth) each year.
Technically, if Venus and Jupiter appear together in the sky, then 3.20 years later, Venus will be in the same position relative to the Sun, and in 3.27 years, Jupiter will be in that position. As a result, similar conjunctions of Venus and Jupiter occur in regular intervals of about three years and three months.
Jupiter and Venus’ conjunction of 2022
Since Venus always lies close to the Sun, the Jupiter-Venus conjunction can occur in the dawn sky or at dusk. In 2022, the meeting will be in the pre-dawn sky of May 1. They will be just 13.8 arcminutes of each other, close enough to fit within the view of a telescope or a pair of binoculars. Although this is double the separation as compared to the Great conjunction of 2020, let’s compare the brightness of the planets. The brightness is denoted by the apparent magnitude. The smaller the number, the brighter the celestial object.
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 unaided eyes.
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.
In the alignment of April 2022, Mercury and Uranus are missing. But these two planets will join the parade, and on June 24, you’ll get to see all the eight planets aligning in the dawn sky with the Moon. The grand alignment of June 2022 will be the flagship astronomical event of 2022.
Good luck seeing the conjunction of Jupiter and Venus!
Admin and Founder of ‘The Secrets Of The Universe’ and former intern at Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bangalore, I am a science student pursuing a Master’s in Physics from India. I love to study and write about Stellar Astrophysics, Relativity & Quantum Mechanics.