The Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn

Join me on December 21 at 5:30 PM for a meeting of giants – the Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn! FREE, on Instagram Live at @KuiperKat.

The Winter Solstice will provide a rare opportunity to see Jupiter and Saturn in the same view of a high-powered telescope! All four of Jupiter's famous Galilean satellites will also be on display, while the north face of Saturn’s rings will be tilted 21.3 degrees toward Earth. This rare event happens every 300 years or so, with the last conjunction dating back to July 16th, 1623!

While December 21 will be the evening these two heavenly bodies are closest, it will not be the only evening this month where you can see Jupiter and Saturn together. You can catch this event happening in real-time with the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York via their Facebook and YouTube from December 18 – December 22!

What is a Conjunction? A conjunction occurs when two celestial bodies – such as Jupiter and Saturn – are "close together" as seen from Earth. While this doesn't mean that Jupiter and Saturn are physically next to one another, optically they appear to share the same space with the naked eye.

 

Is this rare? Not at all. Conjunctions happen often, and with other objects outside of our Solar System. What makes this special is that this would be a meeting of the two largest planets in our Solar System within 0.1 degree of each other since the invention of the telescope itself.

I missed it! When is the next one? You're in for a long wait; the next Jupiter-Saturn conjunction of this magnitude will be in March 2080. But like with the Great American Solar Eclipse of 2017, Comet NEOWISE in 2020, and other amazing events, the Internet will likely have you covered.

As always, all events are weather permitting.

 

Image Credit: NASA

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© 2021 by Katherine Troche  Kuiper Kat's Astronomy