Jupiter & Saturn: A Grand Conjunction

   Where were you early in the morning on May 31st 2000? Did you notice two bright star-like objects and a thin waning crescent Moon low over the eastern horizon? As the graphic shows the planets Jupiter and Saturn were paired in a close conjunction. This, however is a special conjunction, one that only occurs about every 20 years between these two planets. This is known as a “Grand Conjunction”.

   And the next “Grand Conjunction” is this year, December 21st, where we will see the two planets low over the western horizon at sunset local time. If the weather or other circumstances keep this conjunction out of view just be patient, really patient.

   The next “Grand Conjunction” following this year is November 5th 2040.


Start a “Grand Conjunction” Watch
   Observe Jupiter and Saturn over the next two months as Jupiter catches up with Saturn. During a conjunction, the objects appear to be close physically, but the objects are just in the same direction in the sky. Lunar conjunctions with planets and some stars close to the ecliptic are relatively common however a conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn, called a ‘Great Conjunction’ only happens approximately every 19.86 years. The two planets follow a repeating pattern of within which constellation the conjunction happens. This year it is within Sagittarius the Archer, in 2041 it will be within Capricornus the Sea-Goat, and then in 2061-62 the Great Conjunction will be within Aries the Ram, which is the start of the repeating pattern.

   Animated graphics are set to 10-day intervals starting with October 22nd.

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.

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