I'm resending information about tomorrow's Jupiter and Saturn planetary
conjunction because a good percentage of our email list didn't receive
last week's note in a timely manner. Also, I'm sharing some photos Mojo
and I took using our cell phones on the 16th, 17 and 19th. Check out the
views tonight, and also after Monday, and let us know what you see!
I love this description of conjunctions from NASA Astronomer Henry
Throop in this article
“You can imagine the solar system to be a racetrack, with each of the
planets as a runner in their own lane and the Earth toward the center of
the stadium,” said Henry Throop, astronomer in the Planetary Science
Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “From our vantage point,
we’ll be able to be to see Jupiter on the inside lane, approaching
Saturn all month and finally overtaking it on December 21.
"The planets regularly appear to pass each other in the solar system,
with the positions of Jupiter and Saturn being aligned in the sky about
once every 20 years." He goes on to remind us of Galileo's views of
Jupiter's 1623 conjunction. The whole article is worth a read!!
For those who would like to see this phenomenon for themselves, here’s
what to do (also copied from the NASA article):
* Find a spot with an unobstructed view of the sky, such as a field or
park. Jupiter and Saturn are bright, so they can be seen even from
* An hour after sunset, look to the southwestern sky. Jupiter will
look like a bright star and be easily visible. Saturn will be
slightly fainter and will appear slightly above and to the left of
Jupiter until December 21, when Jupiter will overtake it and they
will reverse positions in the sky.
* The planets can be seen with the unaided eye, but if you have
binoculars or a small telescope, you may be able to see Jupiter’s
four large moons orbiting the giant planet. (Jane's note: steady
your binoculars against a pole or wall for stability.)
Here are a few snaps from our driveway in Monrovia over the past few
nights, taken shortly after sunset. On the 16th, the moon is below the
planets, on the 17th above, and on the 19th the moon is too high in the
sky for a photo. I took the first two cell phone photos, and Mojo took
last night's photo.
Moon, Saturn, Jupiter Dec 16, 2020
Moon, Jupiter, Saturn Dec 17, 2020
Jupiter, Saturn Dec 19, 2020
Jane Houston Jones, retired JPLer
Twitter: @jhjones @otastro Instagram @janehoustonjones
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