Beauty Without Borders - May 2023

Encounter of Planets and the Moon

Date and Time of the Campaign
May 22 – May 24, 2023

During a few days in late May, keep an eye on the sunset western sky.  The bright worlds in our skies, the Moon, Venus, and Mars will be seen close together. Also nearby will be the two brightest stars of the Gemini Constellation.

This close encounter with the Moon will make it easy for even the novice skywatcher to find the classical naked-eye worlds in the evening sky. And if we share the images taken at different geographical locations across the world, we can discover and visibly demonstrate how the relative apparent positions of the planets and the Moon change with time, and how they look different depending on the latitude of the observation site.

Enjoy the beauty of this sky show with friends all over the world!

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How to Observe the May 2023 Conjunction

Sunset View on May 22, 2023

Sunset view on May 23, 2023

Sunset view on May 24, 2023

How to Observe Planetary Conjunctions:

Tips on photographing planets and the Moon in the same frame

If you take wide-angle photos, hold the camera so that the lower edge of the image is parallel to the horizon.

The auto-focus mechanism of your camera may not work in the darkness, so you should set your camera to manual mode. Set the camera focus to infinity.

The ISO number and the exposure time should be set properly. In the next set of photographs, we demonstrate the impact of these two factors in snapping conjunctions with both your DSLR cameras and smartphones.  

Figure 1 shows an example of a photo taken with a smartphone on March 18 2021 or both planet Mars and the Moon. ISO number and exposure time were set to 3200 and 1/8 second, respectively. Here you can find Mars above the Moon. However, the Moon looks saturated (overexposure), so it would have been better to have chosen a smaller ISO number or shorter exposure time. If ISO numbers or exposure times are too small, Mars will disappear from the photo.

Figure 1

Figures 2 to 4 show photos taken with a compact camera with different ISO numbers. Their exposure times were all 1/2 second. A tripod was used to avoid camera shake. The ISO numbers of Figure 2, 3, and 4 are 3200, 1600, and 800, respectively. The smaller the ISO number, the clearer the shape of the moon, but the darker Mars. Which do you think is the best shot?

Figure 2

Figure 3

Figure 4

The best ISO and exposure time depends on camera and zoom condition. So, you should consider trying out several sets of ISO numbers and exposure times to obtain a good photo.

Even if you are not satisfied with your photo, don’t worry. Enjoy this space show and keep records and memories of your experiences.

How to Capture the Conjunction

During the event, if you see an impressive sight of the Moon and planets, or the encounter of Venus and Jupiter, take a picture with your smart phone or digital camera. Taking a picture of the ground and foreground objects as well in the same frame can show the difference in appearance from other sites. At the time of the closest approach of Venus and Jupiter, you may be able to use telephoto lenses and telescopes with smartphone adapters to magnify the image and capture Venus, Jupiter, and Jupiter's moons within the same frame.

When taking pictures, the focus should be on the Moon and planets (at infinity); the moon around the 27th is still bright, so it may be in focus automatically, but if it is not in focus and the picture is blurry, manually focus on the Moon and planets or at infinity. Also, the moon may be overexposed in automatic focus and appear larger than it actually is. 

In this case, manually adjust the exposure time and ISO number. If you adjust them well, you will be able to capture the "earthshine," which is a faint glow in the shadow area of the Moon. If the planets or the Moon appear in a linear pattern, there is a possibility of camera shake, so try fixing your phone or camera on a tripod or similar device.


tad__logo-600.png'Night Sky Map
customized to your town or city is a wonderful resource that can help you get the most out of your observing this conjunction and skywatching in general.

Views from Around the World

Depending on the latitude of the observing location, the appearance of these planets and the Moon varies greatly. In the northern hemisphere, the further north you go, the smaller the angle between the alignment of the planets and the horizon, limiting the  time you can photograph them before sunrise. In some sites it is difficult to photograph the Moon, but just seeing Jupiter and Venus side by side promises to be a wonderful viewing experience.

Conversely, the angle between the  alignment of the planets and the horizon increases as one moves south of the equator, becoming almost perpendicular around 35 degrees south latitude, and then the tilt is reversed and the angle decreases.

Venus and Jupiter will be closest to each other between April 30 and the morning of May 1 (the date depends on the longitude of the observation location). The distance between Venus and Jupiter will be about half the apparent size of the Moon (the Moon will not be visible at this time because it will be a new moon). Until this date, enjoy the approach of the brightest and second brightest objects in the eastern sky at dawn. The next time Venus and Jupiter will be close again will be around early March next year in 2023.

Try taking pictures of the moon and planets with practice starting around the 24th, when the moon will be closer to Saturn. It will be good practice for the 27th.

Once you have captured an impressive scene, post it on social media with the hashtag #BeautyWithoutBorders or on the Astronomers Without Borders website. From the images posted on the AWB website, we are going to create an album or a slideshow and make them public. Please note that images submitted to the AWB website must be astrophotographs taken by the submitter him/herself and appropriate for the BWB.

Remember to keep safe

Follow all local health regulations regarding COVID-19 when photographing in public areas. If you take photos from a window or a balcony, do not lean out of the window or the edge of the balcony.

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