Wake up early on Sunday to see Mars and Jupiter side by side

The next instance when they would be marginally closer than this time falls on December 1, 2033.

January 06, 2018 04:36 pm | Updated 04:36 pm IST

Wake up very early, 3.30 a.m. to be precise, on January 7 to see Mars and Jupiter side by side. If you continue your Sunday slumber, you will have to wait 15 more years to witness a better version of the event.

Ajay Talwar, an astrophotographer and the India Representative in The World At Night (TWAN), a project that features images of the night sky, explained this celestial conjunction in an email interview with The Hindu .

How close will the two planets be?

Jupiter and Mars are far from each other in space, but as seen from Earth, the two bright planets will seem to rise together in a celestial conjunction, on January 7, 2018. At their closest, the apparent separation between the two would be just 12 minutes of arc, i.e. one-sixth of a degree. As a handy reference, the diameter of Moon is about 31 minutes of arc.

What time can I see the planets and which direction should I be looking at ?

Jupiter and Mars will rise after 2:30 a.m. in the constellation of Libra, close to the brightest star of Libra - Zubenelgenubi.

Observe around 3:30 a.m. towards the east-southeast and you will not be able to miss the planet pair. These days, in the age of smart phones, you can install a free app such as Sky Map to confirm Jupiter and Mars in the sky. You just need to point the phone towards the eastern direction.

When can I next see both these planets together?

This is quite a close conjunction between Jupiter and Mars. Although conjunctions between them would occur on March 20, 2020, May 29, 2022 and more, the next instance when they would be marginally closer than this time falls on December 1, 2033.

As you can see them only as brighter stars from Earth, here a few pictures to show you how the planets look up-close.

The pictures of Mars were taken by Curiosity Mars rover's Mast Camera (Mastcam); and those of Jupiter were taken bythe Juno space probe, orbiting Jupiter.


Image taken in March 2017 shows ripples and other such textures on the Mars surface.


This image taken in September 2016 shows layered rocks on the Mars surface.


Sand grains and small nodules seen on the Mars surface.


A small mount and mineral veins are seen in this picture taken in March 2015.



Juno took this picture of Jupiter’s clouds in December 2017.

Picture taken in October 2017 shows clouds over the Northern hemisphere of Jupiter.


Multiple images taken by Juno were combined and colour-enhanced to produce this picture of Jupiter's south pole. The image was released by NASA in May 2017.


Titled “Jovey McJupiterface” by NASA, this picture shows two white storms which look like eyeballs making a grumpy face on Jupiter. The picture was taken by Juno in May 2017.

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