Thursday, December 17, 2020

Get Out! And View The Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn on December 21

Photo credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
by Peggy Robin

The highlighted event for this week’s “Get Out!” column is astronomical! Literally.

It’s the Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn – producing the effect of a single star of a brightness not seen on earth for 800 years!

The best day for viewing happens to be on Monday, December 21, which is also the Winter Solstice.

You won’t need binoculars to see it, either. If it’s clear, you will find it easily with your naked eye – but that should be the only naked part, as you had better bundle up! Temperatures will be in the 30s at night for the next full week.

Your best viewing will be in a clear meadow with no artificial sources of light. Get away from urban life, if you can. Look to the southwest, about an hour after sunset. As I said, you won’t need any viewing aids, but a good wide-angle telescope will definitely enhance your view, allowing you to see some of the moons of Jupiter and the rings of Saturn.

Some say this conjunction was what became the story of the Star of Bethlehem that guided the Magi to the Nativity.

Here are some viewing tips and facts about this event from an interview with astrophysics professor Tony Crider, shown on WUSA: 

More information about this event, complete with charts, photos, and other graphics, at:  

Can’t get out on Monday night? Or what if it’s cloudy? Watch online via The Virtual Telescope:  


Still Life with Robin is published on the Cleveland Park Listserv and on All Life Is Local on Thursdays.

1 comment:

  1. The Carnegie Institution for Science is hosting a Virtual Star Party:

    Join us Monday for a Special Opportunity!

    Next week there will be a " great conjunction" during which Saturn and Jupiter will be in their closest proximity on the night sky since 1263—nearly 800 years ago!

    Join the Carnegie Observatories, Glendale Community College, and Mt. Wilson Observatory on Zoom or YouTube to see the rare phenomenon from a small telescope on Mt. Wilson and then hang around for as long as you'd like afterward to remotely check out other astronomical objects through the historic 60-inch telescope.

    Carnegie astronomers Chris Burns and Jeff Rich, Glendale Community College astronomer Jenny Krestow, and Mt. Wilson Observatory Executive Director Tom Meneghini will share this exciting event and answer all your most-pressing astronomy questions on Monday, December 21, 2020, starting at 5:00 p.m. Pacific.

    The conjunction will be visible early in the evening—too low on the sky to use the 60-inch. But when we move on to other fun celestial objects, feel free to come and go as you please. Star parties are casual, conversational, and fun!

    Tune in on Zoom:
    Dec 21, 2020, 05:00 PM in Pacific Time (US and Canada)

    Tune in on YouTube:
    Mount Wilson Virtual Star Party
    Scheduled for Dec 21, 2020 at 5:00 PM Pacific Time
    Live view of Saturn and Jupiter from the Mt. Wilson Observatory.
    Remote viewing through the 60-inch telescope (weather permitting)