Jupiter-Saturn Conjunction Monday Dec 21st

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Location: Kenner, LA

Jupiter-Saturn Conjunction Monday Dec 21st

Post by Bjohnson » Mon Dec 07, 2020 9:49 am

As we discussed at the December meeting, on Monday Dec 21st we will be able to see The Great Conjunction!
This is sure to be an event worth viewing, if the weather cooperates.

From Space.Com:
Most of the time, when Jupiter overtakes Saturn, they usually are separated by more than a degree. But come Dec. 21, they will be separated by just about one-tenth of a degree or 6.1 arc minutes. To gauge how close that is, on the next clear night, check out Mizar, the middle star in the handle of the Big Dipper. A fainter star, Alcor, is positioned only 11.8 arc minutes away and the ability to perceive the separation of these two stars, was once considered a test of good vision.
And yet Jupiter and Saturn will approach to within about half that distance!
That's just 0.102 degrees
This means, under high magnification in your telescope you'll be able to see both planets — Saturn with its famous ring system and Jupiter with its cloud bands and Galilean satellites — simultaneously in the same field of view!

Me again-
As an added treat, there will be a transition of Ganymede across Jupiter around 6:00PM. This should be a spectacular sight to see.

Because the planets are so bright, you can view this from just about anywhere- backyard, nearby park, or anywhere convenient to you. No need for a dark sky location, and SPMOS is NOT a good option, as the treeline is too high to view this event.
Jupiter is pretty bright in the western sky just after Dusk, and Saturn can be seen right next to it.

My suggestion is to set up anywhere that is convenient to the western sky and view these two planets at least a few days before the Conjunction. Confirm that you are actually looking at Jupiter and Saturn, and that you have the best location for viewing. Note that that while it does get dark just around 5:15 or so, they will not be in the sky long after sunset. Jupiter sets about 7:21PM on the 21st, and will be close to any trees well before that time. If you don’t have an ideal spot, look for a better location the next night.

Spend a bit of time viewing each planet individually. Make a note of which eyepieces are best suited to view the planets. On Dec 21st you can then really appreciate what a wonderful sight it will be to see both planets so close together in the telescope.

Binoculars are also good to view the two large planets, but I suggest you use a sturdy tripod with the binoculars. Again, do some viewing a few night before to work on any possible bugs in focusing and aligning the binoculars. If you do not have a telescope or binoculars, you can still look up to the night sky to view and appreciate the conjunction of the two planets. It will just not be as spectacular to the naked eye.

It is unfortunate that this is the era of Covid, as any other time the PAS would probably host an observing party for the public. Perhaps in the near future it will be safe to gather in large groups, and we will be able to offer public observing events again.

This is the closest they have been since 1623, and that was only 14 years after the telescope was invented. They won't get this close again until 2080. I would love to hear about your experience!
Bill Johnson
PAS President, 2018-2020

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Joined: Tue Feb 27, 2018 12:57 pm

Re: Jupiter-Saturn Conjunction Monday Dec 21st

Post by Lmccormick » Mon Dec 07, 2020 2:15 pm

Here is my experience so far. I've been going out every clear night to see them get closer to each other over time. About 5 weeks ago or so the moon was in the mix. so I headed out to take a photo. I was looking up while walking towards a spot with a clear view and tripped on the the garden hose and broke my hand. Fortunately, I didn't break my camera. I think the 4 pins will be removed Thursday. I'm less agile and more brittle than I once was. I either need to look down when I'm walking or get some training wheels. It's been a good season for planetary observation. There have been some nice steady skies allowing for 350x magnification on some nights and 525x on one night.


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