The moon and Saturn will 'kiss' on Friday. Cincinnati Observatory tells us what to know

Calling all astronomers and ... romantics?

The moon and Saturn will 'kiss' on Friday, according to the Farmer's Almanac. As much as we might love the idea of two inanimate objects smooching each other, of course, kissing is just a metaphor for what we'll have a chance to see.

The actual term is called a "conjunction," said Dr. Wes Ryle, an astronomer with the Cincinnati Observatory. A conjunction occurs when the paths of two astronomical objects – planets, moons, asteroids – line up so that it looks like the objects are close together. They may actually be millions of kilometers apart.

What makes this conjunction special?

The occurrence isn't what makes it special. The moon passes in conjunction with every planet roughly once a month. But how close it gets varies. "The moon is getting really close to Saturn," said Ryle. "So they'll really look right close next to each other." Hence, the kiss.

Picture of the waxing crescent moon in conjunction with the planet Jupiter in 2023.
Picture of the waxing crescent moon in conjunction with the planet Jupiter in 2023.

The phenomenon is also special because it's visible. That's not the case when a conjunction occurs during the day, because of the sun's brightness.

Just how close will the moon and Saturn get?

Saturn and the moon will appear about half a degree to 1 degree apart. The moon and planet will still be separate, so you'll be able to see both, astronomer Dean Regas said.

What time will the moon and Saturn 'kiss'?

The conjunction will be visible between 4:30 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. on Friday. Set your coffee timer to early.

How can I see the moon and Saturn 'kiss'?

You don't need a fancy telescope. You can observe the phenomenon with the naked eye.

Ryle suggests using a pair of binoculars for a better look at the planet. "If you point the binoculars at Saturn," he said, "you might be able to even make out some of the rings."

When is the next conjunction?

Since the moon is in conjunction with each planet roughly once a month, you don't have to wait long for the next conjunction. The educational astronomy app Star Walk created a schedule for when a planet will be near the moon.

The next time the moon will be in conjunction with Saturn will be June 27. However, this will occur when the sun is up and so, it will not be visible, Ryle said.

What is a planetary conjunction?

A rarer phenomenon is a planetary conjunction, or when two or more planets appear close to each other in the sky.

Jupiter in conjunction with Saturn in the Louisville sky on December 21, 2020.
Jupiter in conjunction with Saturn in the Louisville sky on December 21, 2020.

The next notable planetary conjunction will occur between Mars and Jupiter on Aug. 14. "They will get really close to each other," said Ryle. "Mars and Jupiter are both nice and bright, so this will be one that is easy to see."

Others will happen between now and then, he said. "But they involve like Mercury or Uranus, which aren't as easy to see with the eye. So Mars and Jupiter (is)the next really good one."

This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: The moon will kiss Saturn on May 31. What this means