Tonight — if conditions are favorable for viewing — Saturn and Jupiter will appear closer in the sky than they’ve had since 1623.
Another close approach — but not as close — will occur on March 15th of 2080. I hope to see it, but I’m concerned because the weather prediction for the Ides in March of 2080 is not favorable.
I’ve been photographing the approaching conjunction whenever the skies are clear (I missed a few nights because of the weather). I’m hoping tonight’s sky will be clear, but I’m pleased with the effort so far and, if I miss tonight, there’s always 2080.
Last night gave me pretty good conditions. You might remember this photo from the 10th . . .
Here’s a shot from the 17th (you can see they are closer than a week earlier) . . .
And here’s a couple of photos from last night, the 20th, much closer (and they will get even closer) . . .
I was once again lucky to focus well enough to discern Saturn’s rings. I say lucky because the automatic focus doesn’t get you the sharpest focus and I have to manually tweak it by eyeballing a little bright spot so that it appears the smallest it can be . . . a tad difficult with my astigmatism.
Click on the above photo to get a larger view and you can make out the position of the Jovian moons.
By the way, you can/should easily make out the moons with a pair of binoculars (almost anything you have should be better than what Galileo used) unless you live somewhere with a lot of smog or light pollution.
If you remember and you have favorable conditions, it’s maybe worth a looksee . . . for my location, at 5:30 pm Central Time (Chicago), they appear at about 14° elevation from the horizon at a South-Southwest direction.
That might put them below my field of view, but — if the sky is clear — I should see them starting at about 4:55pm (according to Stellarium), after local sunset, with Jupiter appearing first, and as twilight progresses into darkness, Saturn becoming visible.
Realistically, it will be closer to 5:00-5:05 before I’ll see them both with the naked eye, but I’ll be out there ahead of time double-checking visibility and camera settings.
I suggest Stellarium<<link or other sky exploration apps to help you plan your viewing, and remind you that they “drop” pretty quickly so — even if your sky is clear — your viewing window is not that long.If you don’t want to load the program onto the computer, they have a WEB Version<<link.
It will open to your location and “looking” North, but you can use your mouse to move the view. It should automatically set the time to after dusk but you can click on it to manually change it (lower right corner of the window). The rectangle on the lower-left corner of the screen is where you can set the location if it doesn’t automatically detect it.
But, as I said, if you miss it, just wait for 2080.
Good luck and good weather.
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