December 21, 2020

2020 The winter solstice and the great conjunction

I slept through it. The first day of winter 2020 happened this morning at 5:02 AM, EST. I'm always happy to mark the winter solstice, the beginning of the astronomical winter, even though it's the shortest day of the year. From here on until June, the hours of daylight increase. 

I used to think of the solstices and equinoxes as a day-long event but somewhere along the line, I learned differently. Each occurs at a specific time and lasts but a moment. In the case of the winter solstice, it happens when, in my case, the northern hemisphere is tilted as far away from the sun as it gets. The sun's path appears as low in our sky as it gets. 

What sets this year apart, at least astronomically, is that on the night of December 21, 2020, there will also be a Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn. The solstice and the Great Conjunction haven't happened at the same time in 800 years. What has people excited is that this will have the appearance of being "the Christmas star." Petty cool, actually. 

And it's not that Jupiter and Saturn don't have regular conjunctions - they do about every twenty years. The last one was in May of 2000. It's just the timing of this one, on the winter solstice, that has people paying attention. After this, the next Great Conjunction will happen on March 15, 2080. We won't live to see it although perhaps since nothing ever truly "dies" on the Internet, this blog entry may be found and laughed at for its lack of depth. 

If I want to see the Great Conjunction, and I think I do, I'll have to drive down the mountain and get away from the trees. Even then, with our topography, I may have to hunt for a spot. I'll have to make it quick, though. It won't be visible in the southwestern sky for very long. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor

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