header image

[Sign Up Now] to Receive Our FREE Daily SCVTV-SCVNews Digest by E-Mail

Inside
Weather
Santa Clarita CA
Sunny
Sunny
58°F
 
Calendar
Today in
S.C.V. History
January 18
1899 - Martin & Richard Wood buy J.H. Tolfree's Saugus Eating House, rename it Saugus Cafe [story]
Saugus Cafe


| Monday, Dec 21, 2020
conjunction
Saturn, top, and Jupiter, below, are seen after sunset from Shenandoah National Park, Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020, in Luray, Virginia. The two planets are drawing closer to each other in the sky as they head toward a “great conjunction” on December 21, where the two giant planets will appear a tenth of a degree apart. | Photo: NASA / Bill Ingalls.

 

Skywatchers are in for an end-of-year treat. What has become known popularly as the “Christmas Star” is an especially vibrant planetary conjunction easily visible in the evening sky over the next two weeks as the bright planets Jupiter and Saturn come together, culminating on the night of Monday, Dec. 21.

In 1610, Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei pointed his telescope to the night sky, discovering the four moons of Jupiter – Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto. In that same year, Galileo also discovered a strange oval surrounding Saturn, which later observations determined to be its rings. These discoveries changed how people understood the far reaches of our solar system.

Thirteen years later, in 1623, the solar system’s two giant planets, Jupiter and Saturn, traveled together across the sky. Jupiter caught up to and passed Saturn, in an astronomical event known as a “Great Conjunction.”

“You can imagine the solar system to be a racetrack, with each of the planets as a runner in their own lane and the Earth toward the center of the stadium,” said Henry Throop, astronomer in the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “From our vantage point, we’ll be able to be to see Jupiter on the inside lane, approaching Saturn all month and finally overtaking it on December 21.”

The planets regularly appear to pass each other in the solar system, with the positions of Jupiter and Saturn being aligned in the sky about once every 20 years.

What makes this year’s spectacle so rare, then? It’s been nearly 400 years since the planets passed this close to each other in the sky, and nearly 800 years since the alignment of Saturn and Jupiter occurred at night, as it will for 2020, allowing nearly everyone around the world to witness this “great conjunction.”

The closest alignment will appear just a tenth of a degree apart and last for a few days. On the 21st, they will appear so close that a pinkie finger at arm’s length will easily cover both planets in the sky. The planets will be easy to see with the unaided eye by looking toward the southwest just after sunset.

covid-19 roundup monday dec 21 2020

Jupiter and Saturn approaching the Great Convergence of Dec. 21, 2020. | Photo: NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

From our vantage point on Earth the huge gas giants will appear very close together, but they will remain hundreds of millions of miles apart in space. And while the conjunction is happening on the same day as the winter solstice, the timing is merely a coincidence, based on the orbits of the planets and the tilt of the Earth.

“Conjunctions like this could happen on any day of the year, depending on where the planets are in their orbits,” said Throop. “The date of the conjunction is determined by the positions of Jupiter, Saturn, and the Earth in their paths around the Sun, while the date of the solstice is determined by the tilt of Earth’s axis. The solstice is the longest night of the year, so this rare coincidence will give people a great chance to go outside and see the solar system.”

Want to learn when and where to look up? Join Throop as he talks about the “Great Conjunction” on #NASAScience Live Thursday, Dec. 17. Submit your questions by using #askNASA. The NASA Science Live episode will air live at 3 p.m. EST Thursday on NASA Television and the agency’s website, along with the NASA Facebook, YouTube, and Periscope channels.

For those who would like to see this phenomenon for themselves, here’s what to do:

* Find a spot with an unobstructed view of the sky, such as a field or park. Jupiter and Saturn are bright, so they can be seen even from most cities.

* An hour after sunset, look to the southwestern sky. Jupiter will look like a bright star and be easily visible. Saturn will be slightly fainter and will appear slightly above and to the left of Jupiter until December 21, when Jupiter will overtake it and they will reverse positions in the sky.

* The planets can be seen with the unaided eye, but if you have binoculars or a small telescope, you may be able to see Jupiter’s four large moons orbiting the giant planet.

Each night, the two planets will appear closer low in the southwest in the hour after sunset as illustrated in the below graphic:

conjunction

Skymap: NASA/JPL-CalTech

Read more skywatching tips from NASA here.

Comment On This Story
COMMENT POLICY: We welcome comments from individuals and businesses. All comments are moderated. Comments are subject to rejection if they are vulgar, combative, or in poor taste.
REAL NAMES ONLY: All posters must use their real individual or business name. This applies equally to Twitter account holders who use a nickname.

1 Comment

  1. Geri says:

    Where in the scv can we see the “Great Conjunction best?

Leave a Comment


SCV NewsBreak
LOCAL NEWS HEADLINES
Friday, Jan 15, 2021
Pandemic Death Toll Hits 2 Million Worldwide
The death toll from the novel coronavirus pandemic surpassed 2 million on Friday and the World Health Organization warned the global health crisis may get even worse as people weary of restrictions let down their guard and contagious strains of the virus spread around the globe.
Friday, Jan 15, 2021
Residents Mostly Impacted by Power Shutoffs Express Concern Over Ongoing Events
At least once a month, residents of the Cali Lake RV community, nestled in a quiet canyon off a rural part of Soledad Canyon Road, have had their power shut off due to Southern California Edison’s Public Safety Power Shutoffs.
Friday, Jan 15, 2021
City Council OKs Dedications in Tesoro Area, Newhall Pass Open Space
A future open space trailhead in the Tesoro area will be named after a founding Santa Clarita city councilman, and a portion of land in Newhall after a family who has donated several acres of land to the city for open-space preservation.
Keep Up With Our Facebook

Latest Additions to SCVNews.com
1899 - Martin & Richard Wood buy J.H. Tolfree's Saugus Eating House, rename it Saugus Cafe [story]
Saugus Cafe
1994, 4:31 a.m. - Magnitude 6.7 Northridge earthquake rocks Santa Clarita Valley [video]
bridge
1926 - Newhall Community Hospital, est. 1922, opens in larger, more modern hospital building at 6th & Spruce streets [story]
Newhall Community Hospital
The death toll from the novel coronavirus pandemic surpassed 2 million on Friday and the World Health Organization warned the global health crisis may get even worse as people weary of restrictions let down their guard and contagious strains of the virus spread around the globe.
Pandemic Death Toll Hits 2 Million Worldwide
At least once a month, residents of the Cali Lake RV community, nestled in a quiet canyon off a rural part of Soledad Canyon Road, have had their power shut off due to Southern California Edison’s Public Safety Power Shutoffs.
Residents Mostly Impacted by Power Shutoffs Express Concern Over Ongoing Events
Late Friday afternoon, a group of parents and student-athletes gathered in front of the William S. Hart Union High School District office to urge the district to bring athletic-conditioning back to school campuses.
Parents, Student-Athletes Gather to Urge Hart District to Bring Athletics Back
A future open space trailhead in the Tesoro area will be named after a founding Santa Clarita city councilman, and a portion of land in Newhall after a family who has donated several acres of land to the city for open-space preservation.
City Council OKs Dedications in Tesoro Area, Newhall Pass Open Space
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health on Friday confirmed 258 new deaths and 15,051 new cases of COVID-19 countywide, with cases likely to reach over 1 million this weekend. In addition, the Santa Clarita Valley has reached 21,189 total cases.
Friday COVID-19 Roundup: Cases Near 1 Million Countywide; 258 New Deaths in County
Jim and Anita Lombardi of Federal Escrow, Inc. donated $50,000 to the Boys and Girls Club to help the organization continue providing COVID-19 relief services in the Santa Clarita Valley.
SCV Boys and Girls Club Receives $50,000 Financial Gift from Federal Escrow, Inc.
The Castaic Union School District governing board appointed a new president during its annual organizational board meeting last month.
CUSD Board Appoints Mayreen Burk as New Board President
The California Supreme Court declared Thursday that worker classification standards set forth in its Dynamex decision should apply retroactively to a labor class action from 15 years ago, as well as all non-final cases that predate the 2018 landmark ruling.
California High Court Makes Landmark Independent Contractor Ruling Retroactive
Los Angeles County officials announced five additional mass-vaccination sites set to open next week which include Six Flags Magic Mountain and California State University, Northridge.
Six Flags, CSUN Set to Open as Mass Vaccination Sites
Waste Management has extended its temporary residential green waste pick-up schedule for customers in Santa Clarita, with regular service anticipated to resume the week of Jan. 25.
Waste Management Extends Modified Green Waste Pick-Up Schedule
The College of the Canyons ‘Canyons Promise’ free tuition program for new students is now accepting applications for the 2021-22 year.
COC’s Canyons Promise Program Now Accepting 2021-22 Applications
The ice rink in Valencia, which the City acquired last year, is currently undergoing renovations prior to its highly anticipated grand reopening later this year.
Renovations for Highly Anticipated City-Owned Ice Rink Continue
The MAIN is set to host eight weeks of free virtual productions from around the world from Jan. 22 through March 12 via Zoom for the Stage on Screen Theatre Fest's International Edition of online theatre.
Jan. 22-March 12: The Main’s Stage On Screen Theatre Fest Goes International
1875 - Henry Mayo Newhall buys western half of the Santa Clarita Valley for $2 an acre [story]
Henry M. Newhall
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health confirmed Thursday 287 new deaths and 17,323 new cases of COVID-19, with 20,918 total cases in the Santa Clarita Valley.
Thursday COVID-19 Roundup: County Surpasses 13,000 Deaths; SCV Cases Total 20,918
Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital announced Thursday the opening of its COVID-19 vaccine-distribution site, with the goal of vaccinating nearly 500 people a day.
Henry Mayo Announces Opening of COVID-19 Vaccine-Distribution Site
L.A. County Parks can help you achieve your New Year’s goals while bringing L.A. vibes into virtual classes.
Registration Open for L.A. County Parks’ Online Classes
Join the Santa Clarita Artists Association's first meeting of 2021, which will take place virtually Monday, Jan. 18, at 6:30 p.m.
Jan. 18: Artist Virginia Kamhi to Demonstrate Pastel Techniques
Get ready to get your game on Sunday, March 14, as Soroptimist International of Valencia presents their annual fundraiser to benefit the Soroptimist’s Dream Programs: Live Your Dream and Dream It, Be It.
March 14: ‘Games for a Cause’ Benefiting Soroptimist’s Dream Program
As the COVID-19 surge has continued to overwhelm hospitals over the past couple of months, it has also dramatically impacted the mortuaries where many of the pandemic’s victims end up.
Eternal Valley Struggles to Keep Up With Demand as COVID-19 Surges
The William S. Hart Union High School District governing board voted 4-1 to suspend small cohorts returning to campus through Feb. 8.
Hart District Votes 4-1 to Suspend Return to Campus Until February
%d bloggers like this: