Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Jupiter/Saturn "Conjunction"

 Waxing Gibbous Moon

Great fun has been had over the past weeks in anticipation of the once in several lifetimes visual event that has been called the Jupiter/Saturn Conjunction. That's a misnomer, but really, what else are you going to call it without using more words? I prefer the Jupiter/Saturn Alignment, but maybe I am being picky. 

What bugs me more, though, is calling it the "Christmas Star" and the "Star of Bethlehem." Planets aren't stars. But all the North Pole/Santy Claus romance and possible religious brainwashing aside, at least the U.S. government hasn't figured out a way to make it into an occasion for flag waving like an NFL game, so I suppose I should be grateful. The fact of the matter is that there is only one star in this solar system and it has nothing to do with Santa, Jesus, or the Dallas Cowboys. 

The alignment of these planets from our point of view on Earth that is the cause of all the hubbub and the extra brightness in the sky is still the result of our star, the biggo-baddo Sun. Jupiter and Saturn would not shine on their own were it not for the Sun. We think. It is not a testable hypothesis! Ha!

Anyway, one of my neighbors (Kurt Kurasaki) is a Berkeley-educated computer wizard and amateur astronomer with a telescope so complicated that it too went to Berkeley for nigh on a decade. I saw a picture of it yesterday and I immediately got a headache. You can't just hook it up to a tripod and check out the sky. You have to program it with a laptop, wheel it out of the house on a gurney, and ceremoniously synchronize its whirring, clicking gizmos with a tracking station in Greenwich, England. You lost me at laptop.

Kurt knows how to strap a DSLR camera to this bad boy and take photos of stuff. He sent me this one last night, the goldurn showoff. 

Photo credit: Kurt Kurasaki, San Juan Bautista, CA

Saturn, as most of you probably know, is the uppermost bright object and Jupiter the lowest. The little objects are some of the many moons of Jupiter. I was taught that Jupiter has 67 moons, but recently I have read it has at least 79. Jupiter of course is much, much bigger than Earth (see figure below). So is Saturn. If Jupiter, a gas giant, was much bigger it would have produced nuclear reactions in its core and would have become a star in its own right. Lucky for us, it was not and did not. As it is, because of its enormous gravitational mass, Jupiter attracts asteroids and other space junk, keeping them in orbit between itself and Mars, acting as a shield as it were to protect Earth from inconvenient and disastrous potential bombardment.

Learn much much more easy-to-read info about Jupiter at the
  planet dot org website, where I borrowed this figure.

So be real, the planets are aligned, not conjoined, okay? Jupiter and Saturn orbit the Sun in separate paths, as does Earth, at different distances away from El Sol. This rare occurrence of the positions in their orbits coming into alignment like they are right now is super-interesting and visually exciting from here on Earth. If you put yourself in swaddling clothes in a manger a couple of millennia ago in Bethlehem with Mary and Joseph and little lambs, donkeys, etc. looking on, and the grown ups showed up gushing about this twinkling thing in the sky they never saw before, a little quick thinking on your part could easily parlay the scene into a real money-maker down the road.

I am probably going to hell for that one.

But this is what is going on, simply diagrammed. Note: no holy cards, Ouija boards, or tarot cards were harmed in drawing this figure. Possible psychological, religious, or military affects associated with this alignment may or may not be purely hallucinatory. 

Jupiter/Saturn alignments happen every 20 years or so, but this one, the 2020 one, is the closest one that has been observable from Earth since 1226 A.D.. So it IS a big deal. None of my traceable ancestors ever saw what I saw this week. Maybe we should all feel pretty special. Maybe we should all do something special to celebrate. If that means dancing in circles 'til you fall down dizzy, go right ahead. If it means living your best life and treating all the other special beings on Earth with honor and respect, do that, too. Earth is a pretty cool place to learn.

Peace, Love, and Alignment,

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.