ORLANDO, Fla. – Monday night Jupiter and Saturn inspired people all over the world to step outside and look up to see a sight that hasn’t happened since the 17th century.
There is something unifying about looking up at the night sky anywhere in the world and knowing you are looking at the same celestial event, especially during this year.
Monday night marked the “Great Conjunction” of Saturn and Jupiter when the two planets were separated --from Earth’s view-- by .1 degree in the sky, or about a pinkie finger’s width if held up to the sky. The planets were close enough to look like one bright star and due to the timing the event was called the “Christmas Star.”
According to NASA, it’s been nearly 400 years since the planets passed this close and nearly 800 years since the alignment happened at night when it’s visible to the naked eye.
However, even though on Earth the two planets appeared to kiss in the sky they were not actually physically close. Jupiter and Saturn were more than 450 million miles apart.
Central Florida lucked out with clear sky and cool weather prompting sky gazers to observe the Great Conjunction. Astronomers set up their telescopes and hosted virtual events due to the pandemic to share enhanced views of Saturn’s rings.
Photographer Michael Seeley captured Jupiter and Saturn in the night sky above the Space Coast Lightfest in Melbourne at Wickham Park.
Emil Buehler Planetarium Director Derek Demeter, at Seminole State College, shared the view below taken from Seminole County. The planetarium hosted a virtual watch party for the occasion.
Museum of Arts and Science Daytona Beach curator Seth Mayo shared viewing tips with News 6 meteorologist Jonathan Kegges ahead of the event.
“The problem for this Great Conjunction is that it occurred very near sunset, so the sun’s glare most likely obscured the pair of planets,” Mayo said. “The last observable time these planets were this close was the year 1226.”
He captured the image below using a telescope Monday night.
View through a telescope of the #GreatConjunction tonight. It was a bit hazy where I was, but I was very happy that I could see and capture this moment. Love seeing these planets so easily in one field of view through the scope. You can see the moon Ganymede just above Jupiter. pic.twitter.com/6IHudKKOmx— Seth Mayo (@seth_mayo) December 22, 2020
The astronauts on the International Space Station shared their view of Jupiter and Saturn from 200 miles above Earth.
NASA photographer Bill Ingalls captured the image below near the National Monument a few days before the closest approach.
Their next Jupiter and Saturn Great Conjunction won’t happen again until March 15, 2080.
If you captured “Christmas Star” and want to share your images email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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