Enjoy the great alignment of planets on June 22: you won’t see another in your lifetime

A grand planetary alignment (with the Moon) occurs on Wednesday, June 22, 2022, very early. This type of grouping of solar system objects is a rare phenomenon: we will not see another one before 2124.

A ” grand alignment of planets is announced on the night of Tuesday June 21 to Wednesday June 22, 2022, around 5 a.m. The expression seems to borrow from astrology: one is tempted to imagine the planets of the solar system positioned in a straight line in the sky, on a line starting from the Sun. “ This will not be the case “, warns the Institute of Celestial Mechanics and Ephemeris Calculation (IMCCE) in his newsletter.

But then what will we see? It looks more like a grouping than an alignment, to our naked eyes. ” From our position – anywhere on Earth – we will have the opportunity to see between June 14 and June 27 a grouping in the sky of 8 solar system objects: the Moon and the 7 other planets, all rows on the side west of the Sun. It will thus be possible to see them all simultaneously just before sunrise. “, describes the IMCCE. To observe this procession of stars, it is recommended to scan the sky above the horizon, in the direction of the east and towards the south-east.

The visibility of all the planets is not comparable. For Venus, Jupiter, Saturn and Mars, the observation presents no difficulty, because they are the brightest planets. The other planets are more difficult to spot, due to their lower brightness and their proximity to the Sun – to access Uranus and Neptune, a telescope is essential. Here is the order in which they appear in the night sky: Saturn, Neptune, Jupiter (then, the Moon), Mars, Uranus, Venus and Mercury.

A “great containment of the planets”, rather than an alignment

Seen from Earth, the planets and the Moon move through the zodiac, a narrow strip of the sky. This band is cut by a central line, which is called the ecliptic. ” In space, this great circle is actually a plane – the ecliptic plane – to which the planets and the Moon, in their movement around the Sun, remain very close. », Details the IMCCE. However, continues the institute, it turns out that in June, for about ten days, all the planets – apart from the Earth of course – and the Moon will be confined to a narrow band of the ecliptic “. It is not an alignment of the planets along the ecliptic, but the concentration of the planets and the Moon in this region of the sky. To avoid confusion, we could rather speak of great containment of the planets “, instead of ” grand alignment “.

The following diagram helps to understand what is happening in the solar system. Not all the planets are represented simultaneously, because some are so far from the Sun that the diagram would become unreadable. It is clear that there is no real physical alignment of the stars in the solar system.

Great alignment of planets of June 22, 2022. // Source: IMCCE

It can be emphasized that this type of grouping is quite exceptional. The opportunity to see them does not come often. The last time this happened was January 28, 1984, reports the IMCCE. As for the next major line-up, the delay will be even longer: “ The next reconciliations will occur on December 1, 2124, then on February 21, 2161 “, warns the institute. In other words, it will be necessary to wait a little more than a century for this celestial spectacle to reproduce itself! Enough to motivate you to set your alarm clock very early, to admire the great alignment of June 22.


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