Don’t miss Jupiter and Saturn joining our Solstice celebrations this year! Galileo saw the last time they came this close to each other in the sky! This month brings many celestial wonders, with meters showering our Earth, and a total solar eclipse in addition to the planetary conjunction. Also – updated Solstice online event links.
Let’s look at all of these Solstice Season opportunities, starting with the planetary conjunction.
Jupiter and Saturn Appear to Merge – December Solstice, 2020
In a fortunate turn of events, Jupiter and Saturn will make their historic close encounter on the day of the Solstice! These two bright planets have been drawing closer and closer, and will be so close in the sky on December 21 that they will appear as one bright point of light! It’s incredible to realize that not only has it been so long since this last happened that Galileo saw it, and that it’s happening on Winter Solstice! Unlike some astronomical events (such as comet Neowise, the auroras, or the Perseid meteor shower), nearly anyone on our planet can be practically certain to see this (and share this joy with kids!), if you want to. OK, you might not be lucky enough to have clear skies on the night of the Winter Solstice, to see the absolutely closest approach of these planets, but they’ll be practically as close for a window of around a week, and it’s very likely you’ll have clear skies sometime in that time.
To see it, simply go out on any clear night an hour or so after sunset, within a week or so of the Solstice (December 21). Once outside, and aware of which way is North, look for the bright, double “star” in the West – that’s Jupiter/Saturn! With binoculars, you’ll probably be able to see both planets. The closer you are to December 21, the closer together the planets will be.
From this Space.com article:
Most of the time, when Jupiter overtakes Saturn, they usually are separated by more than a degree. But come Dec. 21, they will be separated by just about one-tenth of a degree or 6.1 arc minutes. To gauge how close that is, on the next clear night, check out Mizar, the middle star in the handle of the Big Dipper. A fainter star, Alcor, is positioned only 11.8 arc minutes away and the ability to perceive the separation of these two stars, was once considered a test of good vision.
And yet Jupiter and Saturn will approach to within about half that distance!
That’s just 0.102 degrees.
This means, under high magnification in your telescope you’ll be able to see both planets — Saturn with its famous ring system and Jupiter with its cloud bands and Galilean satellites — simultaneously in the same field of view!
How great is that?
While the Perseid Meteor Shower happens in warm weather in the Northern hemisphere, the Geminid Meteor Shower does so for those in the Southern Hemisphere, and is just as big in any case. This year, unlike most years, the Geminid meteor shower happens to coincide with a new Moon, giving us a moonless sky (with a literal solar eclipse the same day, the lunar position is perfect for meteors). More about meteor showers for Naturalistic Pagans is at this post. If you can make it out Saturday, Sunday (best night – December 13th) or Monday night, just go to a dark area, lay down, and watch the sky for a while, especially between 11 pm and 3 am, looking generally up (telescopes and binoculars don’t help). I’m sure you’ll see meteors – we’ve seen many in past years, with many being so big that we could actually see them slow down before going out. In fact, one of the biggest meteors I’ve seen – bright enough to cast shadows! – was a Geminid. Also, due to the differences in the composition of the meteors, they sometimes have faintly different colors – a little like the strings of Solstice lights we put up! These different compositions are because the Geminid meteor shower is caused by debris from an asteroid (3200 Phaethon), not a comet.
Wow, all these within a couple weeks of the December Solstice! You’d think it was a special year or something! Though the solar eclipse won’t be visible for most of us (it’s only visible in a narrow band in South America), it will be streamed live here, so you can still see it. As posted after the Great Eclipse of 2017, a solar eclipse can be a very sacred time. Rituals can be held, and even though the light of the eclipse may not reach you, you can still use the time to charge items. I’ll be especially interested to see the shape of the corona, which is unique to each eclipse. In fact, those who follow eclipses can often recognize which eclipse a given photo is from due to the corona shape seen. For me, images of the 2017 eclipse are instantly recognizable, but most of the others aren’t well known to me.
Updated Online Yule Celebrations and Events!
Wow, with so many events, we all have many to choose from. It’s going to be a tough choice! I’m tempted to try to go to nearly every one! NOTE – Many of these require pre-registration well in advance.
Circle Sanctuary is having an online Yule event! Most of the details are here, some are still to come. https://www.circlesanctuary.org/index.php/events/yule-2020
WhenSaturday, Dec 19, 2020WhereONLINE via YouTube Live (map)Description
Come celebrate the season in a multicultural celebration of the Winter Solstice Holidays! All Circle events are held online until further notice, and when safe to do so we will resume in-person gatherings.
For more information and to register:
The Mystic Grove also has their event ready! It’s on December 21, 7 pm EST, and you can contribute a photo ahead of time. https://www.facebook.com/mysticgrovecfl
No word yet from Earthspirit. http://www.earthspirit.com/
The OBOD Winter Solstice event is up! It will be at 2 pm EST on December 19th. See image at right.
This UK group is having their event online, on December 18th. https://www.meetup.com/LondonWoodlandWitches/events/272631630/
No details here yet – but keep watching! https://www.northbayreclaiming.com/rituals.html
Druids of the light has just (as of 15 minutes ago!) announced their online Yule ritual for December 19, 4 pm CMT(?). Here are the details.
Winter Solstice Sunrise Livestream at Newgrange Passage Tomb! (link will be added when it’s available).
Here’s a chronological summary of the many options we have so far:
Wishing everyone a Blessed Winter Solstice!
Starstuff, Contemplating by Jon Cleland Host
We are assemblages of ancient atoms forged in stars – atoms organized by history to the point of consciousness, now able to contemplate this sacred Universe of which we are a tiny, but wondrous, part.
Dr. Jon Cleland Host is a scientist who earned his PhD in materials science at Northwestern University & has conducted research at Hemlock Semiconductor and Dow Corning since 1997. He holds eight patents and has authored over three dozen internal scientific papers and eleven papers for peer-reviewed scientific journals, including the journal Nature. He has taught classes on biology, math, chemistry, physics and general science at Delta College and Saginaw Valley State University. Jon grew up near Pontiac, and has been building a reality-based spirituality for over 30 years, first as a Catholic and now as a Unitarian Universalist, including collaborating with Michael Dowd and Connie Barlow to spread the awe and wonder of the Great Story of our Universe (see www.thegreatstory.org, and the blog at evolutionarytimes.org). Jon and his wife have four sons, whom they embrace within a Universe-centered, Pagan, family spirituality. He currently moderates the yahoo group Naturalistic Paganism.
Heather is a parent and a scientist raising her four children to explore the world through scientific understanding and with spiritual appreciation of the Universe. She has a Master of Science degree in Physics from Michigan State University, a Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Michigan, and a Bachelor of the Arts degree in English Literature, also from the University of Michigan. She teaches physics as an adjunct instructor at Delta College, runs the Math Mania program at a local elementary school, has worked at Dow Corning as an engineer and at NASA as an intern, and she has led science outreach workshops for K-12 students through joint programs between NASA and the University of Michigan. She is a naturalistic non-theist, whose faith has been shaped by her childhood within the Episcopal Church, her adult membership in the Unitarian Universalist church, and through Buddhist meditation. She has a passion for bringing science and spirituality to everyone in a fun way, both for her own family and for the wider community of the Earth. She is a co-author with Jon Cleland-Host of Elemental Birthdays: How to Bring Science into Every Party.