May is the month of love. So it’s fitting that it should start with two planets surreptitiously “kissing”, in the early hours of Sunday morning.
If you get up early this Sunday, 1 May, you’ll be able to spot a rare planet alignment. Saturn, Mars, Venus and Jupiter will appear from the Earth to be in a straight line.
Jupiter and Venus will get so close together that they’ll overlap – looking like one planet, or, according to astrophysicist Dr Brad Tucker from the Australian National University, like they’re “kissing”.
“Venus and Jupiter have been moving closer together over the past several weeks, so this romantic spark between them has been brewing for some time,” says Tucker.
Between 4:30 AM AEST and sunrise will be the best time to view the planets. They’ll be visible to the naked eye in the eastern skies.
“On the morning of Sunday 1 May AEST, they will appear to be so close that they’ll look like one object, or appear as if they are kissing. Similar to what Jupiter and Saturn did at the end of 2020.”
The additional alignment of Saturn and Mars makes this a one in a thousand year event.
“Although Venus and Jupiter get close to one another every few years, this time there is also Mars and Saturn in the mix which is pretty rare, watching from afar like the creepy neighbour next door,” says Tucker.
You shouldn’t need any special equipment to spot the planets. Apps like SkyView, Night Sky and Star Walk 2 can help you find the right dots of light.
“If you have a telescope, a pair of binoculars or a decent camera, then you’ll get an even better view,” points out Tucker.
Cosmos contacted both Jupiter and Venus for comment, but neither responded. The thrill of new love is distracting.
Saturn, however, told us that it’s a good thing that Mars is also present.
“Being the third wheel is awkward,” says Saturn. “But being the fourth wheel is manageable.
“If they need some rings, they can hit me up.”
Ellen Phiddian is a science journalist at Cosmos. She has a BSc (Honours) in chemistry and science communication, and an MSc in science communication, both from the Australian National University.
Read science facts, not fiction...
There’s never been a more important time to explain the facts, cherish evidence-based knowledge and to showcase the latest scientific, technological and engineering breakthroughs. Cosmos is published by The Royal Institution of Australia, a charity dedicated to connecting people with the world of science. Financial contributions, however big or small, help us provide access to trusted science information at a time when the world needs it most. Please support us by making a donation or purchasing a subscription today.