December 21 was Winter Solstice and one of the best days to see the Great Conjunction of Jupiter/Saturn. The Great Conjunction of Jupiter/Saturn is when the two planets are close together and on the 21st the pair was only 0.1 degree apart. Some call it the Christmas Star, but they look like an elongated star.
So where does the term conjunction come from? Astronomers use the word conjunction to the describe the meetings of the planets. They use the term “Great Conjunction” to describe meeting of Jupiter and Saturn, which are the two biggest planets in our solar system. Jupiter, which is the larger planet, takes 12 years to revolve around the sun, while Saturn takes 29 years.
Jupiter/Saturn conjunctions happens every 20 years, but not all conjunctions are created equal. The next Great Conjunction between the two planets (although not nearly as close together as on the 21st of December) will be in November 2040. The conjunction that happen on the 21st was the closest they been since 1623. The next time they will appear that close with in the morning skies in March of 2080.
Sunset at Harkers Island – Cape Lookout National Seashore Visitor’s Center:
Jupiter and Saturn appeared 40 minutes after sunset in the southwest sky. The best dark sky site in my area is the Cape Lookout National Seashore Visitor’s Center on Harkers Island. I met some friends there from the Crystal Coast Stargazers Club at the club dark sky site.
I had to verify that my equipment, so I took some test photos of the Moon in the First Quarter and picnic area at the visitor’s center.
The Great Conjunction of Jupiter/ Saturn:
I only posted two of the best photos I took on the 21st. You can barely see the rings of Saturn with a 300mm lens. I’ll fit that issue the next time the conjunction happen or when I plan on taking photographic of planets and stars. I am going to add a star tracker for long exposure, and 600mm zoom lens, and/or a camera adapter for a telescope to my camera bag. I am slowly adding items to my camera bag for astrophotography. But in one of the photos, you can see three moons of Jupiter. Starting at the top, Jupiter’s moon Castillo, then Lo, the below Jupiter the moon Europa.
Nikon DX AF-S NIkkor 55-300mm
Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8