Jupiter and Saturn’s 2020 great conjunction, sometimes referred to as the Christmas star, inspired plenty of skygazers to head outside Monday night to catch a glimpse of the rare event. Ed Piotrowski, chief meteorologist for South Carolina’s WPDE-TV, was one of many to share a spectacular view.”The great conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn thru my telescope just after 6 p.m.,” he said in a photo tweet. “4 of Jupiter’s moons; Europa, Ganymede, Io & Callisto, and Saturn’s Titan moon visible.”
A conjunction in astronomy occurs when two objects appear close together in the sky when observed from Earth, and a great conjunction specifically involves Jupiter and Saturn. The 2020 event is the closest observable conjunction of the two since the 1226, and the two planets won’t get this close again until 2080.You may hear the conjunction referred to as the Christmas star. That’s because some argue that a similar planetary meetup created the legendary Star of Bethlehem that led the biblical Magi, also known as the three wise men, to the Christ Child. Not everyone accepts that — astronomy educator and former planetarium director Jeffrey Hunt said “there are other planetary alignments that could explain the Star of Bethlehem” — but it adds a timely element to this December dazzler.And if you missed it Monday, you can head outside nightly through Christmas Eve. The planets will remain cozily close through Dec. 24.
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Whether or not you’re heading outside to view the conjunction, you can appreciate the photographs taken and shared by many viewers. Some, like Piotrowski, noted that they were stacking the images, (taking multiple photos with different focus points and combining them) and many described the camera setup they used.
some pictures from different places around the world of the phenomenon known as #GreatConjunction that is currently taking place, during which Jupiter & Saturn converge to the maximum extent 🤩this phenomenon will not be repeated until 2080 pic.twitter.com/Mxh8LMf1y6— Asma 🇩🇿 (@13Semsouma) December 21, 2020
Wow! #GreatConjunction from Tampa. Jupiter moons from top to bottom. Callisto, Io, Ganymede (almost touching Jupiter) and Europa below it. Check out Rhea and Titan, the two moons of Saturn. Equipment: Sony a7r4 with 10-400 GM lens with 2X teleconverter. 📷 Frank Delargy pic.twitter.com/B6PY9UVqnq— Paul Dellegatto⚡️FOX (@PaulFox13) December 22, 2020
Great Conjunction. Jupiter and it’s 4 largest moons (550 million miles away) and Saturn (1 billion miles away). Telescope image from Melbourne, Australia by Sajal Chakravorty pic.twitter.com/q5971CTD4A— Tom Kierein (@TomKierein) December 22, 2020
And there were even some pretty good jokes.
I don’t want Jupiter to align with Saturn. I want it to align with Mars. Then Peace will guide the planet…and love will steer the stars.— Duncan Stuart (@duncan_stuart) December 22, 2020
Of course, NASA got in on the fun, with a shot only they could offer. “That’s no star, it’s two planets! TheGreatConjunction looks great from the Moon!” a tweet read.
Sadly, not everyone got a great view of the great conjunction. “We have cloudy skies in Toronto and can’t see a thing,” wrote one Twitter user. “Disappointing.”
Wow. Amazing. We have cloudy skies in Toronto and can’t see a thing. Disappointing.— lanamy01 (@cochraf) December 22, 2020
Unfortunately here in Minneapolis, Minnesota the weather wouldn’t cooperate. Clouds in the way of seeing the Great Conjunction.— Linda Levin (@shirameanssong) December 21, 2020
And in a year of unprecedented pain and grief for many, the great conjunction had some people thinking deeply about our place in the universe. “Beautiful night sky,” wrote one Twitter user. “I look at (that) and think. There’s bound to be life out there somewhere.”Wrote another, “Brilliant. I’m crying looking at this. Something so much bigger and more beautiful than what’s down here on earth right now.”
Beautiful night sky. I look at tht and think. There’s bound to be life out there somewhere— Darren Taylor (@DarrenT06578985) December 22, 2020
Brilliant. I’m crying looking at this. Something so much bigger and more beautiful than what’s down here on earth right now. Jupiter, Europa, Io, Callisto, Gannymede and Saturn.— Elaine Calder (@calder_elaine) December 22, 2020
Use our tips to try and spot the great conjunction through Christmas Eve, Dec. 24.