2018, April 2: Saturn-Mars Conjunction


Update:  Conjunction morning!

In early April, Mars moves past Saturn. The separation is just over 1 degree. Mars is growing in brightness and heading toward its own opposition in July, yet it is only slightly brighter than Saturn at this conjunction.

During its apparition, Mars marches eastward against the starry background, reaching Saturn on April 2, 2018 ,when the two planets are about 1.25 degrees apart. The Red Planet is slightly brighter (about 23%) than Saturn. At many conjunctions, Saturn is brighter than Mars or the two planets are of nearly equal brightness.   The color contrast is distinct, with Saturn’s pale yellow-orange color distinguished from Mars’ red-orange hue. This conjunction occurs north of the main stars of Sagittarius, also commonly called “The Teapot.”

 

On April 7, the moon passes 1.5 degrees from Saturn, making one of the closest passings of the year. The moon is about 4 degrees from Mars.

A few days later, the moon passes 1.5 degrees from Saturn, making one of the closest passings of the year.  Mars is about 4 degrees from Saturn.  (On the chart the moon is oversized, so the grouping looks closer than it is.)  Mars is nearly 3 degrees to the lower left of Saturn.

Saturn-Mars conjunctions occur a few days longer than two Earth years.  The next conjunctions occur closer to the time of solar conjunction for both planets.  What follows are descriptions of conjunctions between the two planets:

  • March 31, 2020: Separation, 0.92 degree (d); Southeast, 1 hour before sunrise.  The planets rise about 3 hours before sunrise.  They are nearly equal in brightness.  Jupiter is 6.4 d to the right of Saturn and Mars.
  • April 4, 2022Separation, 0.38 d; East-Southeast, 1 hour before sunriseSaturn and Mars rise about 2 hours before sunrise.  Both are dimmer than the last conjunction as they are farther from Earth. Brilliant Venus is 6.5 d to the left of Saturn.  Jupiter rises about 50 minutes before the sun and appears nearly 30 degrees to the lower left of the conjunction.
  • April 10, 2024Separation, 0.52 d; Slightly right of east, Low in east 45 minutes before sunrise.  Saturn and Mars are now rising during bright twilight.
  • The next 5 Saturn-Mars conjunctions occur in the sun’s glare when they are near their solar conjunctions.  They are difficult to see.  The conjunction dates are:  May 2, 2028; May 17, 2030; June 4, 2032; June 26, 2034; July 20, 2036.
  • August 12, 2038Separation, 1.02 d; Low in the west 45 minutes after sunset.  Saturn and Mars now appear east of the sun, in the western evening sky after sunset. Saturn is about twice as bright as Mars.  They set about 70 minutes after sunset.
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