Great Conjunction

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Dani R.
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Great Conjunction

Post by Dani R. »

The next Great Conjunction occurs just before Christmas on December 21 - coincidentally, exactly on the shortest day of the year during the winter solstice, when the calendrical winter begins. The phase of closest approach lasts from Dec. 17 to 25, culminating on Dec. 21 at 5:37 p.m. (UTC) in the zodiac sign Aquarius. Then the apparent distance is only 0.1 degrees - about one fifth of a full moon diameter.

Those who want to observe the celestial spectacle do not need any special equipment. However, the planetary duo can only be seen briefly in the early evening hours before 5 p.m. (UTC) each night (from Europe), low in the night sky toward the southwest. But it is a little bit lower in the sky every evening.

The sight is especially rewarding even before the actual conjunction: In the nights of December 16 and 17, the moon joins the planetary duo. It will be in the sky as a narrow crescent, since there was still a new moon on December 14. On December 16, the moon will be below the two planets, and on the 17th, all celestial bodies will be on the same plane as seen from Earth.
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Re: Great Conjunction

Post by rprosperi »

I was able to observe this on the 14th, just after dusk. Mercury was also present, even lower in the sky. A rare event, I wish I had access to a telescope to see this more clearly, there's (hopefully) only one more chance in my lifetime. Also, a huge snowstorm is expected tonight and tomorrow night so no chance to see it again for a couple days; maybe again over the weekend.

While traveling with my son in 2011, we coincidentally stumbled onto the annual meeting of some large Astronomy club's annual meeting at a hotel in Nevada, near Bryce Canyon National Park (where it is near perfect darkness at night). I had a chance to observe Saturn through an original Clark Telescope which was a truly amazing experience. I had my own amateur telescope at home and has seen Saturn before, but through a 'real' telescope this was a completely different experience. Bright, vivid, clearly able to see the various different ring zones.

Get out there folks and catch this if you can; if you miss it, it's a 20 year wait.
--bob p

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Re: Great Conjunction

Post by reavy »

Thanks for the heads up! I’m going to try to get the kids out to see this, too.
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