2021 Guide to Upcoming Planetary Conjunctions
Look up to the stars! After reading this guide, of course
Great Conjunction of Jupiter & Saturn, December 2020 - Photo Credit: M.B. Louis
Whether you’re an avid sky watcher or or just head out to catch the occasional meteor shower, there is a good chance you heard about last year's especially vivid “Christmas Star”, Jupiter and Saturn’s Great Conjunction on December 21st. The event made national news as the two planets haven’t been this close since the year 1623. What few people know is that conjunctions are fairly common between other planets and astronomical objects. They may not all be worthy of the title of “Great”, but these events are quite interesting regardless. You’ll be able to see two or more of these stunning astronomical objects — most of which are not usually visible to the naked eye — and their orbits will be so close together that they’ll appear within the same lens of a telescope! Want to know more? Pathloom’s Official Guide to Planet Conjunctions is here for everything you need to know about these astronomical wonders!
Throughout January, we experienced seven conjunctions, including a rare triple conjunction of Mercury, Jupiter, and Saturn on January 10th. We witnessed six more in February, with so many more to come throughout the rest of 2021. Scroll down to the bottom of this page (or click here) for a list of conjunctions occurring throughout the remainder of the 2021 Calendar Year.
Starry Starry Timelapse: Joshua Tree National Park, CA - Photo Credit: Scott Carnahan
What are Planetary Conjunctions?
Astronomical Conjunctions occur when two astronomical objects - such as planets, stars, moons, or the sun - align in the sky, creating an illusion that they are close together when in reality they are thousands of miles apart. The objects are bright, so you’ll be able to see them with the naked eye, but with binoculars or a telescope, you can view amazing details - such as the rings of Saturn, or the moons surrounding these planets!
Moraine Campground: Rocky Mountain National Park, CO - Photo Credit: Scott Carnahan
How to View Planetary Conjunctions
Viewing conjunctions is easy, but it does require a bit of planning. First, know when to arrive at your location. These events often occur all day but they’re typically most visible about 45 minutes after sunset. Be aware of the sun’s afterglow, however, which may wash out the view. If this happens, you may have to wait a little longer to see anything.
Also, be mindful of the placement of the objects in the sky. It’d be disappointing to go out of your way to see an astronomical wonder that is hidden behind trees from your viewpoint because it’s lower in the sky than you expected! The ideal viewing locations have a horizon that is as clear as possible, such as open fields and beaches. If these flat areas aren’t available to you, look for high vantage points like balconies, hills, or anywhere else that can provide an elevated view of the horizon. When you get there, apps such as Star Walk 2 are a great help to ensure that you’re looking in the right direction. This app maps out the entire sky so you can view the locations of planets, constellations, and moons in real time, directly through your phone.
If you live in an urban area, you’re going to want to find somewhere with as little light pollution as possible. Luckily, you won’t have to go as far as you’d necessarily think. The suburbs just outside your city often work well enough, depending on the brightness of the planets. I was able to see the Great Conjunction last December just while driving around in my suburban town! Alternatively, if you’re feeling adventurous, use the conjunction as an excuse to go camping, or take a night hike into the wilderness for optimal viewing conditions.
The one factor you won’t be able to plan for, but arguably the most important, is the presence of a clear sky. Planets are seen best without overcast clouding your experience so try to avoid nights that will definitely be rainy or foggy. Conjunctions also vary in brightness so they might not as easily visible at first - but don’t lose hope! Many of these events last for several days, so you may be able to try again the following day when viewing conditions have improved. Although rare, some conjunctions are bright enough to be visible in the daytime!
Kern Canyon, CA - Photo Credit: Scott Carnahan
Photographing Planetary Conjunctions
If you like to take pictures, you may want to try your hand at photographing the conjunctions you see. Astronomical objects photograph best in dark skies with little light pollution surrounding it, but they can sometimes come through in front of colorful sunsets. Staying out long enough to capture your planets in both sunset and night sky settings can make for some very interesting shots! If you do go with the dark sky option but want your planets to come off as brighter, see if your phone has a “night mode”. This will stabilize long exposure and make your darks look darker, providing a better contrast to the stars and planets . If using a DSLR camera, you can stabilize this exposure manually by using a tripod to get a sharper image. You can also make your image sharper by utilizing the Manual Focus mode. Finally, experiment with different lenses. A wide lens will allow you to capture more of the foreground and scenery of your viewing location, while a telephoto lens will give you a clearer, zoomed in shot. Capturing these events can be a challenging, but extremely rewarding experience!
Sequoia National Forest, CA - Photo Credit: Scott Carnahan
Upcoming Planetary Conjunctions in 2021
April 22th: Venus and Uranus
April 24th: Uranus and Mercury
April 25th: Venus and Mercury
May 2nd: Mars and Mu Geminorum (Giant star in Gemini Constellation)
May 8th: Mars and Gamma Geminorum (Star in Gemini Constellation)
May 9th: Mercury and Aldebaran
May 16th: Venus and Aldebaran
May 28th: Venus and Mercury
May 31st: Mars and Pollux (Orange Giant Star in Gemini Constellation)
June 6th: Venus and Mu Geminorum
June 9th: Venus and Gamma Geminorum
June 21st: Venus and Pollux
June 22nd: Mercury and Aldebaran
July 13th: Venus and Mars
July 21st: Venus and Regulus (Star in Leo Constellation)
July 24th: Mercury and Pollux
July 29th: Mars and Regulus
August 11th: Mercury and Regulus
August 18th: Mars and Mercury
September 5th: Venus and Spica (Star in Virgo Constellation)
September 17th: Jupiter and Deneb Algiedi
September 21st: Mercury and Spica
September 24th: Venus and Zuben Elgenubi (Star in Libra Constellation)
September 30th: Mars and Porrima (Binary Stars in Libra Constellation)
October 2nd: Mercury and Spica
October 9th: Venus and Dschubba (Star in Scorpio Constellation)
October 14th: Venus and Alniyat (Star in Scorpio Constellation)
October 16th: Venus and Antares (Red Supergiant Star in Scorpio Constellation)
October 21st: Mars and Spica
November 2nd: Mercury and Spica
November 10th: Mars and Mercury
November 12th: Venus and Kaus Borealis (Orange Giant or Subgiant Star in Sagittarius Constellation)
November 17th: Jupiter and Deneb Algiedi
November 19th: Venus and Nunki (Hot Blue-White Star in Sagittarius Constellation)
November 22nd: Mars and Zuben Elgenubi
November 30th: Mercury and Antares
December 11th: Pluto and Venus
December 17th: Mars and Dschubba
December 27th: Mars and Antares
December 28th: Venus and Mercury
December 30th: Pluto and Mercury
Do you have any great night sky photography you'd like to share with us? Send a photo to firstname.lastname@example.org, or connect with us on Social Media for a chance to be featured in an upcoming post!
Pathloom Intern Justine Imburgio majors in Secondary Education and English at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA. Look for more of Justine's writing in the Pathloom blog in the summertime!
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