Saturn, top, and Jupiter, below, are seen after sunset from Shenandoah National Park, Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020, in Luray, Virginia. The two planets are drawing closer to each other in the sky as they head towards a “great conjunction” on December 21, where the two giant planets will appear a tenth of a degree apart.
Credits: NASA/ Bill Ingalls

In 1610, Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei pointed his telescope to the night sky, discovering the four moons of Jupiter – Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto. In that same year, Galileo also discovered a strange oval surrounding Saturn, which later observations determined to be its rings. These discoveries changed how people understood the far reaches of our solar system.

Thirteen years later, in 1623, the solar system’s two giant planets, Jupiter and Saturn, traveled together across the sky. Jupiter caught up to and passed Saturn, in an astronomical event known as a “Great Conjunction.”  

“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.

What makes this year’s spectacle so rare, then? It’s been nearly 400 years since the planets passed this close to each other in the sky, and nearly 800 years since the alignment of Saturn and Jupiter occurred at night, as it will for 2020, allowing nearly everyone around the world to witness this “great conjunction.”

See the entire post here: https://www.nasa.gov/feature/the-great-conjunction-of-jupiter-and-saturn


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6 thoughts on “The ‘Great’ Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn | NASA

  1. Simon, I attempted to take a photo of the Great Conjunction this evening unsuccessfully.

    I find it interesting that this “Great Conjunction” was first noticed and discovered around the same time as the Great Plague of the 1600s. How amazing we are in a similar situation throughout the world. “Conjunction, the action or an instance of two or more events or things occurring at the same point in time or space.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know this is the thing about celestial events, they seem to come with history and warnings. Like a comet’s coming signals bad times. We had that this year too.

      Like

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