Morning “Parade of Planets”

In the second half of April, we can observe an interesting planetary configuration. In the predawn sky, within a sector about 30° wide, four planets visible to the naked eye will converge — Jupiter, Venus, Mars and Saturn.

Planets and the Moon on the morning of April 26

It is best to observe the entire “four” after April 20. Starting from this date, Jupiter will appear above the horizon early enough, almost exactly in the direction to the east. Of all the listed objects, it is now projected into the sky closest to the Sun. Above and to the right, 10° from it, the most noticeable celestial body will be located — the bright Venus. In space, it will be the closest to the Sun and the Earth: it will be separated from us by 0.916 au (137 million km). At another 12° to the right of it, we can see a dim red Mars. Finally, the distant Saturn closes the “planetary chain”.

Later, the Moon will join the participants of the “sky show”. On the morning of April 25, it will pass 5° south of Saturn, on April 26 — 4° south of Mars, and on April 27 it will be near Venus and Jupiter. These two planets at that time will approach each other at a distance of 3.5°, which is only 7 diameters of the lunar disk.

From an astronomical point of view, this phenomenon cannot be called a “parade of planets”. Firstly, Mercury is lacking until the “full parade” of large planets visible to the naked eye, now it is passing through the period of evening visibility. Secondly, scientists usually use this term to refer to a different configuration, when the planets converge in a narrow sector (ideally less than 90° in size) on one side of the Sun. It is clear that at such moments, from the point of view of land observers, the inner planets — Venus and Mercury — will be visible in one part of the celestial sphere, not far from our luminary, and the outer ones — in the opposite. That is, we will definitely not see any “planetary grouping” in the sky.

On the contrary, the planets, which in April 2022 will be visible in the sky not far from each other, will be “scattered” over long distances in space. And most of all, our Earth will “break out” from the sector centered in the Sun: it is clear that it is now almost on the opposite side of our luminary relative to Jupiter, Mars and Saturn.

The location of the planets of the Solar system in orbits (except for the two furthest from the Sun) on April 15, 2022

Nevertheless, “almost a parade of planets” like the current one happens quite rarely. The previous similar phenomenon could be seen in May 2011. The current conjunction of the planets is best seen in the Southern Hemisphere of the Earth. But in good weather, it is worth trying to observe it in our latitudes, especially on those days when the Moon will help to find its “participants”. A small binocular with a field of view with a diameter of 4-5° will greatly facilitate observation.

It is worth adding that another interesting planetary configuration awaits us on June 24 of this year. All the planets of the Solar System from Mercury to Neptune will appear in the sky in a 115° sector. They can also be seen before dawn. We just need to remember that Uranus from Earth is very difficult to see with the naked eye, and Neptune is impossible at all.