Lately, it seems like there’s always some cool astronomical event worth seeing. Solar eclipses, lunar eclipses, regular meteor showers, and new meteor showers. Never mind rocket launches, occultations, and everything else going on this year. If your calendar has gotten quite busy with late nights and early mornings, you’re not alone.
Here’s another event worth adjusting your sleep schedule for: in June 2022, there will be a “Grand Alignment” of the five visible planets. This means it’s a fantastic opportunity to see Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn in the same part of the sky, and easily hop between them if you’re using a telescope or binoculars to enjoy the alignment.
In this post, I’ll be covering the basics of the Grand Alignment and what you need to know to see it. Need the basics quickly? The Grand Alignment will be visible in the ~90 minutes before sunrise on June 22, 2022, and you’ll be able to see all five visible planets in a line in the sky.
(Note: I’ve been getting some questions about June 22nd vs June 24th – the main difference is that the best planetary alignment occurs on the 22nd; the moon also joins the slightly less perfect alignment on the 24th.)
If you want to learn more about how to see the Grand Alignment in 2022, read on for additional details and my top tips to spot this cool astronomical event.
Featured photo via Stellarium web.
Tip #1. Mark Your Calendar
The most important detail you need to know for seeing the “Grand Alignment” this year is the date: the Grand Alignment of Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn will be visible in the morning on June 22, 2022.
As you already know, that means the Grand Alignment is taking place one day after the June Solstice – the longest day in the Northern Hemisphere. On the days before and after this, the five visible planets will be in the same part of the morning sky, but they won’t have the same picturesque alignment that gives this unique astronomical event its name.
Reminder: the Moon joins the lineup on June 24th, so if you missed the 22nd, you still have a chance two mornings later!
Be sure to check the forecast too, so you know whether you might need to plan a drive to escape cloud cover in your area.
Tip #2. Find a Good Viewing Spot
Once you’ve committed to seeing the Grand Alignment of the visible planets, your next priority is to find a good place to view the event.
Because the Grand Alignment is a morning event, this means we – for once – don’t have to worry about light pollution. All five planets will be visible in the dawn sky when light pollution doesn’t affect our ability to see them.
Tip #3. Look in the Right Part of the Sky
Since finding a dark location isn’t as important for seeing this particular astronomical event, the most important part of choosing a location to view the Grand Alignment is ensuring you have a direct, unobstructed eastern view. Because Mercury sits so low above the horizon – even on this morning where it’s ideally placed for viewing – there can’t be any trees, buildings, or other structures in the way of your view to the east.
As for me in Cleveland, I’ll be heading to Edgewater Park where I viewed the June 2021 Partial Solar Eclipse. This eclipse occurred at a very similar time of year, and that means the Great Alignment will be visible in almost the same part of the morning sky as the eclipse was. (So if you had a good viewing spot for that eclipse, this is a chance to go there again!)
Tip #4. Set an Alarm
Not only does the date matter for seeing this year’s Grand Alignment, the planets will also only be visible at a specific time on June 22nd. That’s why it’s important to check the time of sunrise in your area and set a timer to remind you when to drag yourself out of bed and get that eastern view. (Or when to leave if you’re driving to a better viewing area.)
Here’s how to figure out the timing for the Grand Alignment in your area:
- The five visible planets will only be visible in alignment before sunrise on June 22nd.
- Once the sun rises above the horizon, you’ll no longer be able to see the planets.
- To maximize your time enjoying the 2022 Grand Alignment viewing opportunity, plan to go out about one hour before sunrise (during Astronomical or Nautical Twilight) to enjoy the view for as long as possible.
Tip #5. Use Your Equipment
They call Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn the “visible planets” because we can see them with the unaided eye – but the Grand Alignment will be a fun opportunity to use your telescope or binoculars to look at each planet more closely.
Be careful though: once the sun rises even 1°, using a telescope in such close proximity to the sun is dangerous for your eyes. I recommend using your equipment up until about halfway through Civil Twilight (about 15-20 minutes before sunrise, depending on your latitude), then switch to using your eyes to see the visible planets.
That covers the basics of how to watch the 2022 Grand Alignment. Have any other questions about how to see the Grand Alignment this year? Let me know in the comments.