An Eye-Popping Apparition


With today’s grey overcast and tomorrow’s prediction of snow, this amateur astronomer spent the better part of this Sunday feeling bummed out that, ONCE AGAIN, lousy Michigan weather would wind up ruining yet another major celestial event; namely, the December 21st planetary conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn; their closest encounter (from the Earthling’s perspective) since 1623.

However, just as I was finishing my early supper, the clouds began to dissipate. By sunset, the sky was sufficiently clear to warrant my venturing outdoors to more closely scope out the situation. In a word? Wow!

Albeit low in the murky, urban light polluted, SW sky, my naked eye could already locate brighter Jupiter. However, it wouldn’t be until I hauled out my 90 mm refractor that the fainter Saturn showed up in the finder scope; scant centimeters below Jupiter.

Even tho, on this night, these two gas giant planets were not at their closest, my first look thru the telescope eyepiece did permit me to see both of them simultaneously. And my fun could only double with the installation of the 2X Barlow Lens.

Granted, near horizon, urban viewing doesn’t make for the sharpest of images; e.g., Jupiter’s cloud bands were poorly defined and only one of its four Galilean moons (Callisto?) was visible. As for Saturn’s rings, they were not as well defined as I’ve been accustomed to.

Of course, my first time, synchronous observation of the juxtaposed Jupiter and Saturn was the whole point, anyway. So, aside for the fact that some stray clouds eventually rolled in, too, which prematurely ended this scope session, no one will hear me grousing much.

My hope now is that tomorrow evening’s meteorological conditions will wind up as cooperative as today’s.

Weather permitting, be sure to see this eye-popping apparition for yourself!


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