The 2020 Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn is here. We have all been watching Jupiter and Saturn continuing to get closer together in the night sky over these last days. On Monday, December 21, they will be the closest they have been in 800 years.They will be close enough together to appear in the same field of view in a telescope even at moderate to high powers. As a naked-eye event, this is an event of great interest even to the most casual observers. Since COVID-19 has prevented us from doing any major outreach events, let’s get the word out! I encourage all of you to put a message out there on Nextdoor or whatever your favorite networking app is and let your circle know what’s going on.
As Aaron Clevenson shared with us via some of our messaging platforms earlier, the Astronomical League is also awarding a special observing award related to the conjunction. All you need to do is image or visually observe the two planets in the same field of view, and conduct an outreach event related to the conjunction. Because of COVID, any broadcast communication to observe the event can count as an outreach for this award. Please refer to the Astronomical League website (astroleague.org) for more information. Additionally, two planets in the same field of view is also acceptable to count toward your 100 observations for the AL’s Two in the View program if you are interested in that one (see AL website for requirements).
To locate Jupiter and Saturn, you will need to look low in the Southwest after sunset. The two planets set by 7:30 PM so for best results you will want to observe them before 6:30 at least, from a location with a decently clear horizon (see illustration). Our dark site is a good place to go as always, but you don’t need dark skies to observe the planets. The weather forecast is looking iffy for Monday so I will be taking one of my small scopes to George Bush Park in west Houston on *Sunday*, and I invite any of you who want to come out to join me out there (socially distanced of course). While they won’t be quite as close together on Sunday as Monday, we must take what the weather gives us. Look out for announcements from other members about what they’re doing on the email lists or the Facebook page. Clear skies all! --Stephen Jones, VP, VSIG