Prepare for the close confrontation of Jupiter and Mars – Astronomy Now
Keep the log free towards the end of May to witness another very close conjunction between two of the major planets in the solar system. Echoing Jupiter’s early morning close to dazzling Venus in early May, Jupiter and Mars are just over half a degree apart before sunrise on May 29. This time, Jupiter is the brightest planet, surpassing the red planet Mars by three magnitudes. Both planets are low in a strongly twilight sky to the east-southeast as dawn approaches, so finding a vantage point with a clear horizon is key to getting a good view.
Currently, Jupiter and Mars are located among the stars southeast of Pisces, with the red planet, bright at magnitude +0.75 and placed slightly higher in the sky, located 5.4 degrees to the southeast ( to the right of) magnitude -2.24 Jupiter. At the start of the month, the planetary pair was more than 15 degrees apart.
At the start of civil twilight (when the Sun is six degrees below the horizon) at 4:18 a.m. BST London at dawn on Friday May 20, the two planets are about 10 degrees high to the east. -South East. Unfortunately, their altitude gradually worsens towards more northern parts of the UK; from Edinburgh, the two planets are about four degrees above sea level.
Before the main event, the Moon takes part in the show to provide a picturesque but modest scene for observers and pre-dawn imagers. On the morning of May 25, an illuminated 25% waning crescent Moon lies about four degrees south of Jupiter and Mars. At this time, they are about 2.5 apart, but at dawn on May 28, the planets are one degree apart, a separation persists for the next two mornings.
The closest approach, a separation of about 36 arc minutes (0.6 degrees), occurs the following morning, before dawn on Sunday, May 29. Jupiter (magnitude –2.3) is above and slightly to the left of Mars (+0.7) in the east-southeast. Around 4 a.m. from London (the start of civil twilight), Jupiter rose to an altitude of about 12.5 degrees from London (almost 19 degrees at sunrise).
The scenario is only slightly worse the next dawn on Monday, May 30, when Jupiter and Mars have just over 42 arcminutes of real estate in Pisces between them. At the end of May, the pair is separated by 1.3 degrees.
In case the sky is foggy, it would be a good idea to have a pair of binoculars or a small portable telescope handy. Jupiter’s disk, about 37 arcseconds in apparent diameter, could be discerned if the view isn’t too destructive, though Mars’ comparatively tiny 6.3 arcsecond globe is probably too difficult. to be resolved by telescope.
During the month of June, Jupiter and Mars gradually move away from each other, both on their way to a much improved midsummer morning outlook. In mid-June, they are nearly ten degrees apart.