Covering the great conjunction -let our expert help with your questions about this stellar holiday eventDecember 17, 20202 min read
As the world continues to turn during the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us are settling in for a holiday season unlike any other in recent memory. One that, on its face, seems to lack the usual magic of holidays in the past.
That would be the case, if not for the once-in-a-lifetime great conjunction that will occur on Dec. 21. A great conjunction that many are calling the “Christmas Star.” Shannon Schmoll, director of the Abrams Planetarium at Michigan State University, offers her insight on the astronomical event that will be sure to brighten the holidays.
An astronomical conjunction occurs when any two heavenly bodies appear to pass or meet each other as seen from Earth. To make one “great,” though, requires an encounter between our solar system’s two largest planets. The orbits of Jupiter and Saturn align to allow the giant worlds to seemingly convene roughly every 20 years.
However, some great conjunctions are, well, greater than others. The slightly oval shape of Jupiter and Saturn’s orbits, and how inclined each orbit is with respect to the sun’s equator, causes the planets’ closeness in the sky to fluctuate across their cyclic conjunctions. During some great conjunctions, the two worlds appear to come so close as to practically hug each other; during others, they seem to approach no nearer than arm’s length. (Of course, the planets are never actually close at all; during their December 21 encounter, they will still be separated by more than 730 million kilometers.)
This coming conjunction is an event that’s getting a lot of attention and a lot of scientists, star-gazers and reporters looking up and looking to know more. December 17 – Scientific American
So, if you are a journalist covering this rare event – then let our experts help.
Shannon Schmoll is the director of the Abrams Planetarium at Michigan State University and an expert on basic astronomy, naked-eye astronomy, eclipses, constellations, night sky. Shannon is available to speak with media regarding this event – simply click on her icon now to arrange an interview today.
Shannon Schmoll Director, Abrams Planetarium
Shannon Schmoll is an expert on basic astronomy, naked-eye astronomy, eclipses, constellations and the night sky.