Our solar system is in constant motion. The planets orbit the sun. The sun orbits the center of our galaxy. Celestial bodies twirl and tilt, creating a grand cosmic ballet. When we look up at the sky, the view is always changing. This is what makes stargazing so fascinating.

Since we understand how celestial bodies move, we can predict not only what you can see, but where you will be able to see it and when. For instance, four planets — Mars, Venus, Jupiter and Saturn — aligned last month. This month, you can see several other pairings in the night sky. 

What is a conjunction?

In astronomy, a conjunction is a type of optical illusion. It occurs when you look up in the sky and see two (or more) objects that appear close together. This event is only an illusion because the two objects are not really close together. In fact, they are many, many millions of miles apart from each other. However, because of the viewer’s perspective, these two celestial objects look like they are next to each other. In some instances, they might even appear to be touching. When this happens, however, it is called an ​​occultation, not a conjunction.

Alignment vs. conjunction

While there are precise astronomical definitions that involve terms like right ascension or ecliptic longitude, you can get the gist of the essential difference between alignment and conjunction by using your imagination.

Alignment

If you were standing on the sidewalk as a parade marched by, from your perspective, that would be an alignment: The individual planets are roughly all lined across a section of the sky.

Conjunction

If you were standing in the street and a parade was marching toward you (in a single file), as long as you could fully see each member in the parade, that would be a conjunction. If the front member obscured or blocked your view of one of the members who was standing further back, that would be an ​​occultation.

The last half of May 2022 has several conjunctions

While planetary conjunction is rare, the moon moves much faster, so it offers far greater chances to witness a conjunction. Beginning on May 22, there are five events you may be able to see throughout the week. The times are in Eastern Daylight Time, and they are approximate, as they will vary slightly depending on your exact location within a time zone. You will be able to view these conjunctions with the naked eye or through binoculars. Some may be better viewed with a telescope.

May 22: Moon-Saturn conjunction

The moon and Saturn will be in proximity for nearly four hours, rising in the southeast at 1:36 a.m. (EDT) and fading at 5:18 a.m. (EDT). 

May 24: Moon-Mars conjunction

The moon and Mars will be in proximity for a little over two hours, rising in the southeast at 2:56 a.m. (EDT) and fading at 5:16 a.m. (EDT). 

May 24: Moon-Jupiter conjunction

The moon and Jupiter will be in proximity for a little over two hours, rising in the southeast at 2:59 a.m. (EDT) and fading at 5:16 a.m. (EDT). 

May 27: Moon-Venus conjunction

The moon and Venus will be in proximity for a little over one hour, rising in the east at 3:57 a.m. (EDT) and fading at 5:15 a.m. (EDT). The best way to view this conjunction is with a telescope

May 28: Mars-Jupiter conjunction

Mars and Jupiter will be in proximity for roughly 2 1/2 hours, rising in the southeast at 2:45 a.m. (EDT) and fading at 5:14 a.m. (EDT). 

What you need to see the upcoming conjunctions

Orion Astronomy Binoculars

Orion Astronomy Binoculars

If you want top-of-the-line celestial binoculars, this high-end pair is for you. They have long eye relief for eyeglass wearers and multicoated optics for brighter, sharper images. One word of warning: These binoculars are heavy — 10 pounds — so a tripod is highly recommended.

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Celestron Skymaster Binoculars

Celestron Skymaster Binoculars

Celestron is a respected name in optics. These powerful binoculars offer low light functionality with a crisp focus. At 25 times magnification, this model is suitable for astronomical viewing. The long eye relief makes these binoculars ideal for people who wear glasses, while the protective rubber coating gives the stargazer a secure grip.

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Gskyer Telescope

Gskyer Telescope

This telescope will offer too tight of a view for most of this month’s conjunctions. However, you can still focus on one celestial object at a time when using this popular model. Additionally, purchase includes a smartphone adapter and a wireless camera remote to facilitate taking pictures. It features an adjustable tripod and has a coated lens to enhance the images.

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Gosky Stargazing Binoculars

Gosky Stargazing Binoculars

These compact binoculars are designed for outdoor activities. At 10 times magnification, these will be wide enough to encompass both celestial bodies in most conjunction events. The multilayer-coated lenses — green objective and blue eyepiece — and BAK4 prism produce clearer, brighter images. These binoculars come with a lifetime warranty.

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Gskyer Stargazing Binoculars

Gskyer Stargazing Binoculars

If you’d like a budget option to see if watching celestial events is right for you, this entry-level pair of binoculars is a great option. This lightweight model weighs less than 2 pounds and has slip-resistant rubber armor for durability. A smartphone adapter is included so you can take pictures.

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