The Great Conjunction – December 21st

Merry Solstice, y’all! And a Happy Yule to everyone!

Today was the day, Jupiter and Saturn closer than the width of the full Moon. About 1/10th of the width of the full Moon, to be exact. Hasn’t been visible from Earth like this for something like 800 years, won’t be visible again for another 60 years.

To the naked eye, once it got dark you could separate the two, but they were definitely a “double planet.”

View with the 70mm setting on the 70-300mm zoom lens. (Remember, click on the images to see them full sized.)

Zoomed in a bit, which I took as much because there was a plane there as for anything else. (Yes, I’m easily amused.)

As soon with a 300mm zoom lens. You can compare this with pictures taken and posted here over the past couple of weeks. Three of Jupiter’s Galilean moons visible – Europa is very near Jupiter on the lower right, Io is very close on the upper left, Callisto is further out on the upper left. Technically Ganymede is also visible since it was passing in front of the planetary disk of Jupiter, but you might have trouble seeing it with the Hubble Space Telescope, let alone using my 300mm off-brand telephoto lens.

I did not take any still photos through the eyepiece of my 8″ Newtonian telescope using my iPhone. Instead I had an idea late this afternoon when I was seeing so many friends across the country saying they were clouded out and couldn’t see a thing. My telescope was set up, but instead of using my phone to take pictures, I used my phone to have a 40+ minute Facebook Live session!

The question wasn’t whether or not it was a stupid idea – the question was whether or not it was stupid enough!

I’ve uploaded the whole thing, warts and all, no editing. There were times when I was taking pictures with the DSLR and you get to listen to me blather on with nothing more to look at than the back of the camera and the neighbors’ dark yards. There was a time when someone from down the street wandered by and I offered them a look, so I didn’t pay much attention to what was going on in “the show.” You’ll hear me answering questions that came up on the chat and talking to old high school friends, family members, and friends from work.

It’s sort of a hot mess. (That’s why God invented the fast forward and rewind buttons!) I haven’t looked at it yet, just lived it live, but I had a tremendous amount of fun doing it.

The video that came from me holding the phone camera up to the eyepiece – meh quality, at best.

Saturn is elongated, you can see the Galilean moons, but that’s about it. Go check out the saved broadcasts from Griffith Observatory, Lowell Observatory, and others for the good stuff.

The Moon looked nice as I was shutting down after Jupiter and Saturn were setting. But the image quality could be much better with the right equipment. (New life goals…)

Remember, this was not a one-day thing or something that’s over. As much as the two planets have been coming slowly together for the past several weeks, they’ll slowly drift apart over the next several weeks. They’re also both moving toward the point where they go on the other side of the Sun from our viewpoint, so by mid-January they’ll be gone, reappearing in the morning sky in mid to late February. But that leaves three weeks for you to go out and see it yourself with your own eyes (and your own binoculars) when you get a clear evening.

Finally, there were a lot of really good photographers with really good equipment posting their photos today. Hundreds and thousands of them. Like these:

Let these planets a billion kilometers away be the sparks in the night that inspire and sustain you on this shortest day of the year, but also the longest night of the year.

“We love the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.”

It’s not just words. The days get longer, and we still have the winter upon us to get through, but the cycles will continue and the warmth and light will return.

2 Comments

Filed under Astronomy, Photography, Space, Video

2 responses to “The Great Conjunction – December 21st

  1. So glad you got a clear look! I’ll check out the FB thing when I can settle to it. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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