The solar system’s two giant planets, Jupiter and Saturn, travel together across the sky nightly. Jupiter leads the way and Saturn trots contentedly behind. On December 21, 2020 Saturn caught up to and passed Jupiter in the astronomical event known as a “Great Conjunction.”
I was totally stoked to memorialize the Great Conjunction. (It’s the pinpoint of light to the left of my head.)
To the naked eye they looked like one star, but through the telescopes and binoculars they were distinct and apart. We did not actually see Jupiter and Saturn pass each other but even so, they are millions of miles apart according to NASA. “They’re not close in space – they’re still hundreds of millions of kilometers apart from each other said, NASA Astronomer Henry Throop. “But … they appear as two points very close in the sky … in fact they’re so close that if you extend your pinky at arms length you’ll be able to cover both planets with just your pinky finger.”
One of the best shots of Saturn and Jupiter in vertical alignment was taken by one Michael Sandford. The moons of Jupiter are visible in this wonderful photo.
Twas a wonderful night. Many thanks to my husband who snapped picture after picture in the chilling cold until we got the planets and me in one frame. This was particularly exciting as I had not captured Comet Neowise during summer. Grateful to God to see the “Christmas Star” as it was dubbed.
Many may have found the “star” over-hyped. Artificially created pictures floating on the Internet showed larger-than-life brilliance of the planets when aligned. None of it came true. Mars in the zenith was much more luminous that the conjunction. Venus on any given day surpassed the aligned expectation. Band of clouds teased the watchers, their gazes fixed on the southwest horizon. And Jupiter and Saturn were tiny glows as they faded into setting.
For me the astronomical event was glorious, counting down the nights and contemplating on the great God who made the giant planets.
The Great Conjunction culminated last night, and Jupiter and Saturn are now moving apart gradually, but over the next few nights they won’t appear much farther apart than the less than 1 degree of separation of December 21. Keep on watching.