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The Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn

The Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn

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Credits:  NASA/Bill Ingalls

Have you noticed two bright objects in the sky getting closer together with each passing night? It’s Jupiter and Saturn doing a planetary dance that will result in the Great Conjunction on Dec. 21. On that day, Jupiter and Saturn will be right next to each other in the sky – the closest they have appeared in nearly 400 years!

Skywatching Tips from NASA

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Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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.

How to Photograph the Conjunction

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Credits: NASA/Bill Dunford

Saturn and Jupiter are easy to see without special equipment, and can be photographed easily on DSLR cameras and many cell phone cameras. Here are a few tips and tricks:

  • These planets are visible in the early evening, and you’ll have about 1-2 hours from when they are visible, to when they set. A photo from the same location can look completely different just an hour later!
  • Using a tripod will help you hold your camera steady while taking longer exposures. If you don’t have a tripod, brace your camera against something – a tree, a fence, or a car can all serve as a tripod for a several-second exposure.
  • The crescent Moon will pass near Jupiter and Saturn a few days before the conjunction. Take advantage of it in your composition!

Get more tips HERE.

Still have questions about the Great Conjunction?

Our NASA expert answered questions from social media on an episode of NASA Science Live on Thursday, Dec. 17. Watch the recording HERE.

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