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Dancing planets: How can I see Venus, Saturn and Mars this week?

Published: 24th March, 2022 at 11:04
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Take advantage of the clear skies and look out for the three planets as they come into view.

This month sees Venus, Saturn and Mars holding a planetary party in the night sky, and if you’re up with the larks, you’ve probably already spotted Venus shining brightly, living up to its nickname of the 'morning star'.

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But when exactly can you see these planets performing their celestial dance? And which constellations will they appear in?

For those who missed it, check out our meteor shower calendar for 2022. If you’re looking forward to making the most of clear skies this year, why not plan ahead with our full Moon UK calendar and astronomy for beginners guide?

How can I see the planets in the night sky this month?

Earlier this month, Saturn was too close to the sunrise horizon to be seen in the northern hemisphere, but it starts to peep over the early morning horizon in the last week of March. For the casual astronomer, there will be an excellent opportunity to identify it thanks to Mars and Venus.

© NASA/ESA/ESO/Space Telescope Science Institute/IAU Minor Planet Center/Fabien Chereau/Noctua Software

Once the skies begin to lighten in the early morning of 24 and 25 March, Venus will appear very bright in the east-southeast, forming a nearly isosceles triangle (two sides of equal length) with Mars to the right, and Saturn to the lower left. Appearing low in the sky in the early morning, the three planets will be visible 60 minutes before sunrise, 5:54am on 24 March, and 5:52am on 25 March.

© NASA/ESA/ESO/Space Telescope Science Institute/IAU Minor Planet Center/Fabien Chereau/Noctua Software

You won’t need a telescope to view this terrific trio, as they will be visible with the naked eye. Venus will appear to be in the constellation Aquarius the water-bearer, while Saturn and Mars will sit nicely in Capricornus the goat.

With the triangle sitting low in the sky, you’ll be able to identify the planets thanks to their colours. Mars will appear orange, Saturn will be a slightly brighter yellowy-white colour, while Venus is the brightest object in the night sky, forming the highest point of the triangle, and moving slightly to the northeast (left) on the morning of 25 March.

Later on, on 28 March, a waning crescent Moon will join Venus, Saturn and Mars. Around 40 minutes before sunrise, the slender lunar sliver will appear around 7° to the bottom-right of Venus, providing an excellent opportunity for astrophotography as the Moon's illumination sits at just 17.3 per cent, and decreases over the next few nights.

By 31 March, Saturn will have moved so that it’s positioned in between Mars and Venus.

The planets align

As the planets continue their celestial dance, by 4 April 2022, Saturn and Mars will reach conjunction, when they will appear with nearly identical brightness in the night sky. Not to be left out, the granddaddy of the Solar System, Jupiter, joins the party throughout April, creating an almost-perfect, pre-dawn line on 20 April 2022.

Jupiter, Venus, Mars and Saturn will align on 20 April 2022 © NASA/ ESA/ ESO/ Space Telescope Science Institute/ IAU Minor Planet Center/ Fabien Chereau/ Noctua Software

Jupiter will be lowest on the horizon, then (looking towards the right) Venus, then Mars, and finally Saturn. 5:30am will be the ideal time to view this heavenly hurrah.

© NASA/ ESA/ ESO/ Space Telescope Science Institute/ IAU Minor Planet Center/ Fabien Chereau/ Noctua Software

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Authors

Holly SpannerStaff Writer, BBC Science Focus

Holly is the staff writer at BBC Science Focus. Before joining the team she was a geoenvironmental consultant and holds an MSc in Geoscience from UCL.

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