Posted by: Bonnie Phelps | December 13, 2020

Christmas Star Dec 21st 2020

Most of you have heard about the ‘Christmas Star’ that is to appear on December 21st. I decided to check with one of our local star pros, Mike Pique for his opinion if he thought we could see it from Palomar. Yes, as long as we have clear sky!

Think we should have a good view from the look-out across from the Fire Department. Meanwhile, here is Mike’s response and a link for more info, below:

From: Michael Pique
Subject: Jupiter and Saturn – yes, for sure

Remember when we were out looking for the comet during the summer? Waiting for the comet, we first saw Jupiter, then Saturn rise in the southeast.  They were about 5 “fingers” (at arm’s length) apart then.  By September I measured three fingers.  I’m trying not to “read” articles about date of closest approach, just so I can continue in eager suspense.  One of my astrophoto friends, now in Alaska, has been building a special camera adapter to take pictures.  I do point out that  Saturn is much dimmer than Jupiter, as you can see if you look the next time we have a clear night – what a surprise to wake up this morning to overcast.  So I do not expect any dramatic brightening.  It’s mostly the predictable but not-often event that’s fun, and with a good bit of history-of-science aspects to it.  Newton famously tried to calculate the effect of Jupiter’s gravity on Saturn’s position, unsuccessfully, 300 years ago.  And these are the two largest planets we have!

If you pull up “Pocket Planetarium” or “Star Walk” on your iPad you can run the date forward (or backwards) and see the motions.  Go back to last December and run forward to see the complicated back-and-forth zig-zags that we now know are from the earth zipping past the line of sight between us and Jupiter/Saturn. Those were fun to watch from the deck these summers. Every time Jupiter got almost to Saturn, it would back up and “try again”.

Michael Pique

Here is lots more info: Rare ‘Christmas Star’ to Appear December 2020 as Planets Jupiter and Saturn Align

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