Jupiter and Saturn Have Historic Dusk Encounter – Sky & Telescope

Contacts:Gary SeronikConsulting Editor, Sky & [email protected]

Diana HannikainenObserving Editor, Sky & Telescope+1 855-638-5388 [email protected]

Rick FienbergPress Officer, American Astronomical Society+1 202-328-2010 [email protected]

Note to Editors/Producers: This launch is accompanied by excessive-high quality graphics; see the tip of this launch for the photographs and hyperlinks to obtain.

As an eventful 2020 attracts to a detailed, the photo voltaic system’s two largest planets meet within the night in a “Great Conjunction,” nearer one another on the sky than they’ve been for almost 400 years.

“Witnessing this special event couldn’t be easier,” says Gary Seronik, consulting editor at Sky & Telescope. “On December 21st, simply step outdoors roughly 45 minutes after sunset, face southwest, and look about 15° above the horizon – that’s a span greater than the width of your clenched fist at arm’s length.”

You ought to simply spot Jupiter, the brighter of the 2 planets. Saturn shall be to its higher proper, however as a result of Jupiter is greater than 10 instances brighter and so shut, Saturn is perhaps difficult to identify initially. This is the place binoculars turn out to be useful — even with minimal optical help, finding Saturn must be straightforward.

And when you’ve got a telescope, you’ll get the uncommon probability to see the planetary twosome occupying the identical area of view. The sight may even embrace Jupiter’s 4 brightest moons and at the very least one in every of Saturn’s — that’s an astonishing seven worlds in a single telescopic view!

At their closest, the 2 planets shall be separated by simply 1/10° — that’s solely about 1/fifth the width of the complete Moon. Of course, this tight pairing is merely a line-of-sight impact: In house, Jupiter and Saturn are literally greater than 730 million kilometers (450 million miles) from one another.

After December 21st, they’ll stay inside one Moon diameter of one another till December 26th. That implies that, if the climate doesn’t cooperate on the 21st, skywatchers could have a number of further alternatives to see the 2 planets fairly shut collectively. Once Jupiter and Saturn half firm this month, they gained’t meet up once more till 2040. That yr’s conjunction shall be farther aside.

“So start watching now, tonight — you won’t want to miss every opportunity you can get to witness this amazing sight,” Gary Seronik urges.

This night’s occasion is one thing stargazers seek advice from as a conjunction, although appulse is the extra technically right time period. How uncommon is that this specific one? The final time Saturn and Jupiter have been comparably shut was in 1623, although it’s potential few noticed that conjunction as a result of the planets have been positioned nearer to the Sun within the sky and awash in shiny twilight. Telescopes in 1623 have been nonetheless a uncommon novelty — it was, in spite of everything, lower than 14 years after Galileo made his preliminary groundbreaking astronomical observations. The most up-to-date readily observable Jupiter-Saturn conjunction that was as shut as this yr’s occurred in 1226 — across the time Genghis Khan’s profession as a conqueror was nearing its finish.

Read extra on this historic conjunction in contributing editor Bob King’s “Jupiter and Saturn Embrace in Solstice Conjunction” and within the December 2020 concern of Sky & Telescope journal.

Sky & Telescope is making the illustrations beneath out there to editors and producers. Permission is granted for nonexclusive use in print and broadcast media, so long as applicable credit (as famous) are included. Web publication should embrace a hyperlink to skyandtelescope.org.

This illustration reveals the view going through southwest at nightfall on December 21st. Jupiter must be a simple discover, however Saturn could require cautious scrutiny.Sky & Telescope / Gregg DindermanThe hole between Jupiter and Saturn shall be narrowing on the evenings main as much as their shut encounter on December 21st. The waxing crescent Moon provides luster to the scene on each December 16th and 17th.Sky & Telescope / Gregg DindermanFor skywatching data and astronomy information, go to skyandtelescope.org or choose up Sky & Telescope journal, the important information to astronomy since 1941. Sky & Telescope and SkyandTelescope.org are revealed by the American Astronomical Society, together with SkyWatch (an annual newbie’s information to the evening sky) in addition to books, star atlases, posters, prints, globes, apps, and different merchandise for astronomy fanatics.

The American Astronomical Society (AAS), established in 1899, is the key group {of professional} astronomers in North America. Its membership (approx. 8,000) additionally contains physicists, mathematicians, geologists, engineers, and others whose analysis pursuits lie throughout the broad spectrum of topics now comprising the astronomical sciences. The mission of the American Astronomical Society is to reinforce and share humanity’s scientific understanding of the universe, which it achieves via publishing, assembly group, science advocacy, training and outreach, and coaching and skilled improvement.

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