Tonight

Get ready for the Jupiter and Mars conjunction before dawn

Jupiter and Mars conjunction: Star chart showing 2 crescent moons, Jupiter, Mars and the Head of Taurus the Bull.
We’re headed toward a Jupiter and Mars conjunction in August. Start watching the 2 planets now. For an especially dramatic scene, look during the early morning hours of July 30 and 31. The crescent moon joins Mars, Jupiter, the Pleiades, Aldebaran and the Hyades. Chart by John Jardine Goss/ EarthSky.

Heading toward a Jupiter and Mars conjunction

Mars will sideswipe Jupiter in a conjunction, culminating on August 14, 2024. You can start watching the two neighboring planets now, as they pull together in the morning sky. By mid-July, Mars will enter the constellation Taurus, where Jupiter is currently hanging out.

But a bonus planetary conjunction occurs on July 15, when Mars is about half a degree from Uranus. Use binoculars to zero in on reddish Mars, then spot Uranus right beside it. You may be able to make it out as a bluish-green disk. The two are not far from the misty Pleiades star cluster.

Then Mars will pull away from Uranus and get a bit closer to the Pleiades as it makes a beeline toward Jupiter. Just to make it even more interesting, the crescent moon enters the scene on July 30.

On that date, bright Jupiter, red Mars, the bright star Aldebaran, the pretty Pleiades and the V-shaped Hyades star cluster will create quite a scene. They’ll all be in the eastern sky two hours before sunrise. Then, the next morning, the moon – as an even thinner crescent – hangs a bit farther northeast of the celestial grouping.

The big event: Jupiter and Mars on August 14

Star chart showing a red dot for Mars very close to a larger white dot for Jupiter and the V-shape of the head of Taurus the Bull nearby.
Red Mars narrowly misses bright Jupiter in the early morning hours of August 14. Look in the east for this planetary conjunction. Chart by John Jardine Goss/ EarthSky.

The closest pairing of this planetary duo comes on the morning of August 14. The bright gas giant Jupiter will get a visit from rocky red Mars. Then, the little planet appears less than the width of a full moon from Jupiter. Of course, that’s just where they appear on our sky’s dome. In reality, the two remain more than 300 million miles (500 million km) apart.

Using just your unaided eyes, the bright, white light of Jupiter will contrast nicely with the somewhat dimmer and distinctly redder shine of Mars. In binoculars, Jupiter’s moons will add to the view. And it’ll be a great event for telescope owners and astrophotographers to capture both planets in one view and thoroughly examine these remarkably different worlds.

A circle showing a binocular view of Jupiter with Mars shown as red dots moving past Jupiter.
Binoculars will help you see Mars pass bright Jupiter from August 10 through August 18. They’ll be at their closest to each other in the early morning hours of August 14. Chart by John Jardine Goss/ EarthSky.

For a precise view from your location, visit Stellarium.

Charts from Guy Ottewell

The following charts all come from Guy Ottewell. You’ll find charts like these for 2024 in his Astronomical Calendar.

Chart showing the night sky on August 9 with Mars and Jupiter close together in the constellation Taurus.
On the morning of August 9, 2024, Jupiter and Mars will be nearing their closest approach to each other. Chart via Guy Ottewell’s 2024 Astronomical Calendar. Used with permission.
Chart showing the sky on August 12 with Mars and Jupiter right next to each other in the constellation Taurus.
On August 12, 2024, look for the Jupiter and Mars conjunction in the morning sky. The planets will be in the constellation Taurus. Chart via Guy Ottewell’s 2024 Astronomical Calendar. Used with permission.

Heliocentric solar system of the planets in July and August 2024

Here’s a heliocentric view of the solar system from above for July and August when Mars and Jupiter will appear close together in the morning sky.

Guy Ottewell explains heliocentric charts.

Circle with sun at center, planets around, and zodiac names on outer edge.
Heliocentric view of solar system, July 2024. Chart via Guy Ottewell’s 2024 Astronomical Calendar. Used with permission.
Circle with sun at center, planets around, and zodiac names on outer edge.
Heliocentric view of solar system, August 2024. Chart via Guy Ottewell’s 2024 Astronomical Calendar. Used with permission.

Bottom line: Start watching on July mornings for the upcoming Jupiter and Mars conjunction. The neighboring planets will get closer and closer in the constellation Taurus, culminating on August 14, 2024.

Posted 
July 2, 2024
 in 
Tonight

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