This week a relatively rare cosmic alignment is taking place in which Mars, Jupiter and Saturn can be seen strolling alongside the Moon on consecutive nights – and the planetary parade started this morning, April 14th, so if you’re a fan of astronomy, you can’t miss the other passages!
At the end of dawn this Tuesday to Wednesday, it will be the turn of the Moon to parade next to the Lord of the Rings of the Solar System. The truth is that alignment is a matter of perspective, since our satellite is about 390 thousand kilometers away from Earth, while Saturn is just over 1.5 billion kilometers from us.
Because of this entire distance, the planet will appear in the sky with a magnitude -2.2 brightness, which is not much when compared to the Moon’s magnitude, which is +0.6, which means that our satellite will have a brightness 13 times that of Saturn. Still, it will be possible to identify a yellowish star in the sky passing close to the Moon – and it will be the brightest around the satellite.
The best time for observations will be just before dawn, from the east, that is, from the direction in which the sun rises. In fact, if you have a simple telescope or a good pair of binoculars around, the better, because, depending on the quality of the equipment, even the rings can be seen!
At dawn on Thursday, April 15, it will be the turn of Mars to make its parade next to the Moon, with better time for observations also close to dawn. Like Saturn, you must focus to the East, and the Red Planet promises a much brighter appearance than the Lord of the Rings, since our neighbor will have a magnitude of +0.6.
Taking advantage of the fact that we’re talking about him, Mars will gradually become brighter in the sky over the course of the year, culminating in October, when he will be able to be observed 20 times brighter than now. This will happen because in the coming months the orbit of the Red Planet will make it 800 thousand kilometers closer to Earth than the normal average distance, which is just over 203 million kilometers.
It passed, but you can still see it!
Unfortunately, one of the parades already took place this morning, just before dawn, when the Moon moved towards the largest planet in the Solar System, Jupiter. As with previous alignments, the “approach” of our satellite to the gas giant was only a matter of perspective, since it is more than 760 million kilometers from us.
Still, for those who own or have access to good quality telescopes, even at such a huge distance, it is possible to identify some of Jupiter’s bands, as well as the quartet composed of its 4 largest moons, Io, Europe, Ganymede and Callisto. And we comment that it is still possible to identify why, although the Jupiter parade has already taken place, the truth is that the events involving the three planets consists of a planetary conjunction, which means that they can be identified next to each other in the sky during the week – always from 1 am.
Make a note in the agenda!
In December, Jupiter and Saturn will be the protagonists of another conjunction – one that occurs every 20 years or so. But this time, the alignment will be special, since, instead of being 5.5 degrees apart from each other in the night sky, as now, the two planets will be a mere 0.1 degree apart or the equivalent of 1 / 5 of the diameter of the Moon. Basically, the pair will be glued and can be observed in the smallest relative distance recorded since 1623, so it is worth following.