Jupiter / Saturn conjunction
Frank's Astrophotos

The “Christmas Star?” Not really.

On December 21, 2020, something really special happened in the sky: Jupiter and Saturn had an approach so close that it only happens every 800 years or so. They were so close in the sky that to the unaided eye, they looked like a single, bright star.

This led many to proclaim it to be the “Christmas Star” or the “Star of Bethlehem,” but in reality it is what we call a conjunction. The planets didn’t actually align, but they came close. It is however possible that a similar event where Venus and Jupiter aligned is the “star” described in the Bible; that would have been an even brighter event, and we know it did happen around the time of Christ.

There’s nothing magical about it, though. In reality Saturn is still twice as far away from us as Jupiter – they only appear close from our viewpoint. And both planets are so far away from Earth that they have no effect on us, gravitationally or otherwise. But it is still a rare and special event, and I’m glad to have captured it through my telescope. Look closely, and you’ll see three of Jupiter’s brighter moons (in all there are almost 80 of them – and Saturn has even more!)

This image was taken using a Celestron 11″ EdgeHD with a f/6.3 focal reducer, and a ZWO ASI 224 MC camera. About 1500 frames were stacked and sharpened, and processed further in Photoshop to even out the brightness of Jupiter and Saturn. Saturn was actually much dimmer compared to Jupiter; it is a smaller planet and much farther away.

Jupiter / Saturn conjunction

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