After all that has happened in 2020, the year will end with a beautiful, bright, star-like celestial event in the western twilight – a much-needed “candle in the dark”.
This rare event called a conjunction will bring two bright planets, Jupiter and Saturn, very close together in the sky.
Normally widely separated, on occasion they come within about 10 degrees of each other. For comparison, the two stars in the front of the “bowl” in the Big Dipper are 5 degrees from each other.
However, on December 21, the two planets will be only 6 minutes of arc apart. That is so close, some people will perceive them as a single brilliant star. For comparison, the moon is 30 minutes (half a degree) in diameter.
What will it look like? Saturn will appear as close to Jupiter as some of Jupiter’s attendant moons. Attachment 1 shows what the two planets will look like through a small to medium size telescope:
Where will it be visible? Look to the Southwest sky between 5:00 and 5:30pm. The sun sets at 4:30 so, unfortunately, the sky may not be completely dark. Jupiter and Saturn will then be 12 degrees above the horizon. Above and to the right, the bright star Altair can be used as a guide and on the left the half-full moon will be a third of the way up above the south:
All of this assumes that we in Salem, Oregon, will have clear skies. If not, not to worry, someone elsewhere in the world will photograph it and make it available to other astronomers. I will make sure that it is passed on to you.
Do not miss Bernie Taylor as he mixes modern astronomy and it’s relations to 34,000 year old ancients of the Mediterranean region.
Naturalist and author Bernie Taylor presents an origin of modern astronomy in European Paleolithic caves from 34,000 years ago that connects with global myths of hunter-gatherers and the ancients in the Mediterranean region.
As an independent naturalist and author, Bernie Taylor explores the mythological connections and biological knowledge among prehistoric, indigenous and ancient peoples. His works in these areas include Biological time (2004) and Before Orion: Finding the Face of the Hero (2017).
Spacefest is THE celebration of space for enthusiasts of every type! Our very own Stephanie Barth spent her summer vacation at Spacefest, and will take us there as she describes the first-hand stories from Apollo astronauts and flight controllers:
–The wives and daughters of Gene Cernan and Alan Bean
–The upcoming movie, “Searching for Skylab”
–The Dawn mission to Vesta and Ceres
–What are “Space Hipsters”?
–What is it like to have lunch and dinner with astronauts?
–Hearing first-hand accounts of space exploration by Apollo astronauts and flight controllers.
–What do astronauts and the family of Neil Armstrong think of
the new movie, “First Man”?
–and much more!
Stephanie Barth became interested in astronomy and the space program in the 1970s. She has built a telescope with her family and has taught numerous astronomy classes to children around the Salem area. She’s a member of Space Hipsters since 2016 and of NightSky 45 since 2001.