We’ve written before about what NASA calls The ‘Great’ Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn. They say, with bold font added by us for emphasis, and occasional Curmudgeonly interjections that look [like this]:
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 Dec. 21.
That’s tomorrow evening, dear reader. Then they say:
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.”
It’s a rarity, so you don’t want to miss it. They tell you the best way to look:
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.
But not everyone has a scientific attitude. A good example can be found in the Daily Express, a British tabloid. Their headline is End of the world claims: Preacher thinks December 21 Christmas Star is a prophetic sign. [Ooooooooooooh! A prophetic sign!] Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis, and occasional Curmudgeonly interjections that look [like this]:
Conspiracy theorists have come out in force this month [Hee hee!] after it was announced Jupiter and Saturn will pass within touching distance of one another on the evening of December 21 – the night of the winter solstice. The so-called Great Conjunction, which only happens every 20 years, will be the closest visible conjunction since 1226. The planets will come within 0.1 degrees, which has led some to believe the conjunction will resemble the Christmas Star of Bethlehem from the Bible’s New Testaments.
It gets crazier:
Even more bizarrely, niche groups of evangelical Christians believe this event, which will unfold just four days before Christmas, is somehow a prophetic sign from God. [Gasp!] Matters are further complicated by claims the ancient Mayan calendar will run out on December 21 – the supposed date of the end of the world.
There’s a lot more, but it’s all crazy stuff. Click over there and read it if you like. Anyway, we plan to take a look tomorrow evening. It’s something one should see — weather permitting, of course.
Your Curmudgeon is prepared for whatever may happen. We’re ready for the Cosmic Aardvark to carry us on his back and fly us to the firmament. There’s nothing left to be done except to declare what may be our final Intellectual Free-Fire Zone.
You know the rules. We’re open for the discussion of pretty much anything — science, politics, economics, whatever — as long as it’s tasteful and interesting. Banter, babble, bicker, bluster, blubber, blather, blab, blurt, burble, boast — say what you will. But avoid flame-wars and beware of the profanity filters. The comments are open, dear reader. Have at it!
Oh, wait! Because this is a doomsday post, we adhere to tradition and close with this:
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