2018, January 13: Mercury – Saturn Conjunction

The Mercury-Saturn conjunction of January 13, 2018.

Mercury makes one of its best morning appearances during the year as the new year begins.  On January 13, Mercury passes less than one degree from Saturn.  Jupiter is 44 degrees to the upper right of the conjunction with the moon about midway from Saturn to Jupiter.  While dimmer, Mars is about 3 degrees to the lower left of Jupiter and 5 days after its conjunction with the Giant Planet.

Mercury has a conjunction with Jupiter late in the year.

The articles that follow provide details about the planets visible without optical assistance (binoculars or telescope):

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2017, November 28: Jupiter and Mars

Bright Jupiter and Mars shine from the eastern sky this morning.  Mars is 3.2 degrees from Spica and 17.4 degrees from Jupiter.  Mars moves closest to Spica on November 30.  It moves toward and passes Jupiter early in the new year.

The articles that follow provide details about the planets visible without optical assistance (binoculars or telescope):

2018, April 2: Saturn-Mars Conjunction

In early April, Mars moves past Saturn. The separation is just over 1 degree. Mars is growing in brightness and heading toward its own opposition in July, yet it is only slightly brighter than Saturn at this conjunction.

During its apparition, Mars marches eastward against the starry background, reaching Saturn on April 2, 2018 ,when the two planets are about 1.25 degrees apart. The Red Planet is slightly brighter (about 23%) than Saturn. At many conjunctions, Saturn is brighter than Mars or the two planets are of nearly equal brightness.   The color contrast is distinct, with Saturn’s pale yellow-orange color distinguished from Mars’ red-orange hue. This conjunction occurs north of the main stars of Sagittarius, also commonly called “The Teapot.”

 

On April 7, the moon passes 1.5 degrees from Saturn, making one of the closest passings of the year. The moon is about 1.5 degrees from Saturn.

A few days later, the moon passes 1.5 degrees from Saturn, making one of the closest passings of the year.  The moon is about 1.5 degrees from Saturn.  (On the chart the moon is oversized, so the grouping looks closer than it is.)  Mars is nearly 3 degrees to the lower left of Saturn.

Saturn-Mars conjunctions occur a few days longer than two Earth years.  The next conjunctions occur closer to the time of solar conjunction for both planets.  What follows are descriptions of conjunctions between the two planets:

  • March 31, 2020: Separation, 0.92 degree (d); Southeast, 1 hour before sunrise.  The planets rise about 3 hours before sunrise.  They are nearly equal in brightness.  Jupiter is 6.4 d to the right of Saturn and Mars.
  • April 4, 2022Separation, 0.38 d; East-Southeast, 1 hour before sunriseSaturn and Mars rise about 2 hours before sunrise.  Both are dimmer than the last conjunction as they are farther from Earth. Brilliant Venus is 6.5 d to the left of Saturn.  Jupiter rises about 50 minutes before the sun and appears nearly 30 degrees to the lower left of the conjunction.
  • April 10, 2024Separation, 0.52 d; Slightly right of east, Low in east 45 minutes before sunrise.  Saturn and Mars are now rising during bright twilight.
  • The next 6 Saturn-Mars conjunctions occur in the sun’s glare when they are near their solar conjunctions.  They are difficult to see.  The conjunction dates are:  May 2, 2028; May 17, 2030; June 4, 2032; June 26, 2034; July 20, 2036.
  • August 12, 2038Separation, 1.02 d; Low in the west 45 minutes after sunset.  Saturn and Mars now appear east of the sun, in the western evening sky after sunset. Saturn is about twice as bright as Mars.  They set about 70 minutes after sunset.

2017, November 26: Jupiter and Mars

Jupiter and Mars shine this morning  from the east-southeastern sky.  Mars is quickly moving eastward toward the slowly lumbering Jupiter.  Mars catches and passes Jupiter on January 7.  (See this article for more information about this Jupiter-Mars conjunction.)  Mars passes Spica on November 30.  This morning Mars is 18.2 degrees to the upper right of Jupiter.  Watch it slowly approach and pass Jupiter during the next several weeks.

The articles that follow provide details about the planets visible without optical assistance (binoculars or telescope):

2018, January 7: Jupiter – Mars Conjunction

A few days after the Jupiter-Mars conjunction, the moon moves through the region and makes one of its closest passes near Jupiter during this appearance as viewed from the Western Hemisphere. The waning crescent moon is about 4 degrees from Jupiter.

On a few mornings around January 7, 2018, Mars passes close to Jupiter near the stars of Libra with the star Antares nearly 23 degrees to the lower left of the planetary pair.  Jupiter is over three times farther away than Mars, yet it outshines the nearer planet by 20 times.  Jupiter’s brightness is from its enormous size compared to Mars and its highly reflective cloud tops.  Jupiter’s clouds reflect nearly 40% more sunlight than Mars’ rocky and dusty surface.  Since it is over 3 times farther away than Mars early in the new year, it receives only 11% of the sunlight that reaches its red neighbor.  Jupiter is highly reflective and much larger, yet it receives much less sunlight than Mars.

Future Jupiter-Mars Conjunctions

The next five Jupiter-Mars conjunctions are highlighted below:

  • March 20, 2020: Separation, 0.7 degree (d); Southeast, one hour before sunrise.  The pair rises 3 hours before sunrise.  Jupiter is about 15 times brighter than Mars.  Saturn is 7 degrees to the left of the conjunction with the crescent moon on the horizon 25 degrees away.  Mercury rises about the same time as the moon and appears 15 degrees to the left of the crescent moon.
  • May 29, 2022: Separation, 0.6 d; East-Southeast, one hour before sunrise.The pair again rises about 3 hours before sunrise.  Jupiter is about 15 times brighter than Mars that appears below the Giant Planet.  Brilliant Venus is 27 degrees to the lower left of conjunction.  After their close conjunction in 2020, Jupiter is now 38 degrees east of Saturn which is higher in the southeast.
  • August 14, 2024: Separation, 0.3 d; East, one hour before sunrise. The planets in conjunction rise in the east-northeast after 1:30 a.m. CDT.  Mars again is dimmer, about 16 times.  The planets are in Taurus with Aldebaran  8 degrees to the right of Jupiter.
  • November 15, 2026Separation, 1.2 (d); South-Southeast, 1 hour before sunrise.  Jupiter and Mars rise in the east-northeast just after midnight near the “Sickle” of Leo.  Again Jupiter is about 15 times brighter than Mars.  Regulus is 4 degrees from Jupiter.  Just before sunrise on the same morning Venus is 1.3 degrees from Spica.
  • July 21, 2029Separation, 1.8 (d); Southwest, 1 hour after sunset.  This widely spaced conjunction is only one visible in the evening sky during the next five meetings.  Mars is slightly brighter at this conjunction when Jupiter is about 10 times brighter.  Spica is 7 degrees to the left of Jupiter.  On the same evening Venus is 1.2 degrees from Regulus, 48 degrees from Jupiter.  The interval between these successive oppositions is over 32 months.  Leading up to this conjunction, Jupiter reaches opposition before Mars.  At this conjunction, Mars reaches opposition on March 15; Jupiter on April 12.  On February 20, Mars closes to about 13.75 degrees before it begins to retrograde and moving through opposition.  It completes its retrograde motion and begins is eastward motion, not reaching Jupiter until July 21.

A closer than the 2018 conjunction (0.2 degree) occurs on December 1, 2033.  The planets appear in the evening sky in front of the dim stars of Aquarius, setting at about 10:30 p.m.

The articles that follow provide details about the planets visible without optical assistance (binoculars or telescope):

2017, November 19: Saturn and Moon

2018: The Evening Sky

This article summaries the planetary activity in the evening sky during 2018.  The articles that follow provide details about the planets visible without optical assistance (binoculars or telescope):

The chart shows the setting of planets, stars, and the moon (circles) compared to sunset.  This occurs in the western sky.  The three phases of twilight are graphed as well.

Conjunctions are displayed with squares.  Yellow triangles and the letters “GE” show the greatest elongation of Mercury or Venus.  A yellow diamond with the letters “GB” indicate the interval of Venus’ greatest brightness.

The rising of Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn are displayed.  This occurs in the east.  The opposition dates of those planets are also indicated.

It is important to emphasize that the chart shows setting times.  When the setting lines of two objects cross, it indicates that they set at the same time.  Because we have chosen planets and stars along the ecliptic, the virtual path along which the sun, moon and planets appear to move along, they can appear at conjunction or near each other.   This can occur within a few days of the date of coincident setting.  For the purposes of the chart, the conjunction is indicated on the setting time curve of the brighter planet.  Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky, sets at about the same time as Aldebaran in Taurus.  The stars, though, are 46 degrees apart in the sky.  Sirius sets in the southwest and Aldebaran sets in the west-northwest.

The charts below summarize some of the evening events during the year.  This includes oppositions of Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars.  Just before the opposition of Mars, the five naked eye planets can be seen at once.  Observers at more southerly latitudes see this event easier.

Jupiter and Venus do not have a conjunction.  At the end of September the planets are closest at 14 degrees.