After a wait of 397 years in orbit, we’re finally getting a truly ‘Great’ Conjunction.
Recently, December 21, 2020, Jupiter and Saturn finally met.
Passing within 0.1° of each other, this is the closest Great Conjunction since 1623, and a sight unseen since 1226.
Here are 7 must-follow tips.
1.) Look southwest ~30–45 minutes after sunset. Jupiter will be the “first star” visible post-sunset, appearing worldwide once the sky darkens.
2.) Look with your naked eye first. You’ll see Jupiter and Saturn separately if your vision is better than 20’/100’ (6m/30m), with bright Jupiter outshining Saturn by over 1000%.
3.) Europe and Africa have the best views. The exact moment of closest approach is 18:37 Universal Time on December 21: just 8½ hours after solstice.
4.) What will I see? Binoculars or a 3” (8cm) telescope reveal up to four of Jupiter’s moons, with larger telescopes showcasing planetary bands, Saturn’s Titan, and ring features.
5.) Marvel at Saturn’s rings! Saturn is 15% smaller than Jupiter and twice as distant, but its enormous rings cause Saturn to apparently exceed Jupiter’s diameter.
6.) Don’t let clouds discourage you. Watch virtually here, while the planets remain close until 2021’s arrival.
7.) If you miss it, come back soon. Jupiter/Saturn conjunctions occur every ~20 years; March 15, 2080’s pre-dawn Great Conjunction will appear equally spectacular.
Mostly Mute Monday tells an astronomical story in images, visuals, and no more than 200 words. Talk less; smile more.
Starts With A Bang is written by Ethan Siegel, Ph.D., author of Beyond The Galaxy, and Treknology: The Science of Star Trek from Tricorders to Warp Drive.