Jupiter, Saturn mingle on Winter Solstice overlapping for first time since 1623

Liz Heidhues was out at the World’s Edge along the Pacific to witness the mingling of Jupiter and Saturn for the first time in nearly 400 years. She took many shots to commemorate this historical astrological event.

For some musical accompaniment I am posting a link to the Pink Floyd piece Astronomy Domine from the 1970 double LP Ummagumma


San Francisco Chronicle 12.21.2020

For the first time in centuries, the planets Jupiter and Saturn crossed paths in the night sky Monday, a rare celestial phenomenon made all the more special by falling on the winter solstice.


The notoriously unpredictable Bay Area weather cooperated, and residents were able to spot the glow of the overlapping planets — known to astronomers as a “conjunction”— just after twilight.

It was a highly unusual convergence: the last time Jupiter and Saturn came this close was in 1623, said Andrew Fraknoi, a professor of astronomy at University of San Francisco’s Fromm Institute.

As the planets aligned, Fraknoi said, they appeared as a single, bright point of light in the southwest night sky. While the planets weren’t actually any closer to each other, they looked aligned to earthbound observers.

Star VI 12.21.2020

In the end, the clouds cooperated.

Monday night’s forecast for the Bay Area called for some high clouds to drift in between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m., but they failed to obscure the fleeting planetary alignment.

Even after Monday, Jupiter and Saturn will still be visible in the night sky — just moving a little further apart.

Star VIII 12.21.2020

The two planets’ next rendezvous won’t occur until 2080, Fraknoi said. After that, they won’t overlap again until the year 2400. Each planet’s unique path and tilt around the sun make the conjunction a rare and irregular event for Jupiter and Saturn, the two largest planets in our solar system.


Saturn’s comet-filled rings could be observed through a telescope as the planet orbited past Jupiter. But unlike many other celestial events, the conjunction was also visible to the naked eye — no high-powered telescope or camera lens necessary.

“It’s very democratic — easily observable by anyone,” Fraknoi said.



Lovers I 12.21.2020https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/Jupiter-Saturn-to-mingle-in-night-sky-getting-15820296.php#photo-20415239

Top photo – San Francisco Chronicle

All other photos – Liz Heidhues