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Let's add one more bummer for the year 2020. Certainly not as serious as some but still sad. A wonderful astronomy event takes place on my birthday this year. A conjunction (a close appearance of two objects in the celestial sky) of Jupiter and Saturn like no other. It's the closest these two planets have been together since 1643. To give an idea of what that means, here's a picture my friend sent me that he recently took showing the moon with Jupiter the brightest of the two dots.

So, to get a sense of this the moon is about half a degree across in the sky. Extending your hand and looking at your pinky with one eye shut is about this width. You can see Jupiter and Saturn are about 3° apart. On December 21, at sunset, they will be .1° apart, or 1/5th of a moon width.

So what's the problem? This will be a spectacular sight in a telescope. You will not only have Jupiter and Saturn fitting into the field of view of an eyepieces of decent power but also their moons. So naturally I'm was going to set up and get a bunch of people to see it. And then I realized, it can't be done safely. You've not only got people with masks that aren't hyper-sealed breathing vapor out the top, It will be moist out at night giving that vapor a nice place to condense on the eyepiece and holder. In addition you have possible fluid transfer from eyes pressed up against the eyepiece. Even if everyone wore a good mask and gloves there is just too much possible exposure for people in my demographic to risk.

However it can certainly be see with family members and other possible isolated groups. To the naked eye the pair will definitely be noticed by anyone even casually looking that way at the right time--look to the southwest around 45 minutes after local sunset. Again very obvious. It will be very good in any pair of binoculars. And of course it's best for telescopes. What's interesting is this will be just even those junky telescopes you may have sitting in the closet from when you thought you'd get into astronomy. Due to their brightness in the sky they are extremely easy to find. So one way or another one should see this amazing event in the sky. Highly recommended.

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Best I could do with my 80 mm Hanukkah trash refractor and cell phone. The top image is Jupiter with one moon, Io, above and two on the other side close to the sphere and Callisto almost a third of the way out towards Saturn. Saturn does appear with its ring in the telescope eyepiece but couldn't get my phone steady enough to capture it. Unless you're into amateur astronomy you have no idea how amazing it is to seem them both in one eyepiece. And if I could haul out my larger, and more stable, telescope, I could easily obtain this view at 4x higher power.

20201218_173922

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