Last week of April brings planetary parade into view
Since ancient times, planets have been viewed by mankind with great interest and awe.
To many of us in the modern world, that same fascination continues today.
This is a special week in my mind, as many of the major planets of the solar system will align in the eastern sky just before dawn. This is a most amazing week as we get to view five or possibly six planetary objects in a span of some 30 degrees or so.
For a good portion of 2022, the major planets of the solar system moved into position ahead of the rising sun.
Those planets are Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and Neptune and the moon.
This is a week to remember, as these objects will all align in the sky in a magical display of celestial precision.
Let’s begin with the morning sky on April 24.
Looking to the east-southeast sky about one hour before sunrise and in a clear sky we got to view the waning crescent moon and the planet Saturn to its upper left.
The waning moon moved further to the left on Monday morning between the planets Mars and Saturn.
The illustration shows more detail.
Things begin to get much better, as the moon closes in on the next two brighter planets, Venus and Jupiter on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings.
By this time, the moon and these two planets will make for a great predawn showing.
Get out those camera and binoculars, to get the best memory of this series of events.
But, things are going to get even better yet!
Both Venus and Jupiter will begin to form a most memorable conjunction Saturday morning in a most incredible close conjunction.
On that morning, we will experience Venus and Jupiter set apart by less than a full moon diameter.
If you follow these two planets over this week, you can notice how they get close to each other by the day.
• April 24: Venus and Jupiter are 5.9 degrees apart
• April 25: Venus and Jupiter are 5 degrees apart
• April 26: Venus and Jupiter are 4.1 degrees apart
• April 27: Venus and Jupiter are 3.2 degrees apart
• April 28: Venus and Jupiter are 2.3 degrees apart
• April 29: Venus and Jupiter are 1.4 degrees apart
• April 30: Venus and Jupiter are 0.5 degrees apart
• May 1: Venus and Jupiter are 0.5 degrees apart
There is yet another interesting conjunction which will occur Wednesday before dawn.
On that date, Venus and Neptune will appear to be only 25 minutes of arc in separation.
This is less than a full moon diameter apart. Venus is super bright, while Neptune will appear like a fain blue star, magnitude plus 7.9.
That view gets better for observers in Australia and Japan, when the two will be only 1 minute of arc apart, almost like Venus covering Neptune.
In astronomy an event like this is known as an appulse.
Here is a better view of what this might look like in low power binoculars.
In summary, Venus and Jupiter have not been this close since Aug. 27, 2016.
Here are some close approaches of planets in this and the next century.
To print your own monthly star chart, click here.
To view satellites/dates/times of passage, click here.
Listen to the Dr. Sky Show on KTAR News 92.3 FM every Saturday at 3 a.m.
Podcasts are available here.
Reach Dr. Sky at firstname.lastname@example.org