By: Jen Russon
The first day of winter is slated to be an extraordinary event as the planets Jupiter and Saturn align more closely than they have in almost 800 years, producing the visual effect of a Christmas star.
Astronomers like Marjory Stoneman Douglas teacher Kyle Jeter have their telescopes primed, ready, and facing southwest on Monday, December 21.
“It’s a unique event. It’ll be very pretty when these planets converge and appear to the naked eye as one bright star,” said Jeter.
He emphasized the main guideline for viewing is to look toward the southwest after sunset.
“I may go to the end of Lox Road just to ensure a clear view,” said Jeter.
Lox Road is an access road into Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge and runs through Parkland and Coconut Creek.
Jeter is reminding his astronomy students the event occurs on the winter solstice, the moment when the sun reaches the Tropic of Capricorn, and we have our shortest day and longest night of the year.
“You have about an hour to get a good look, beginning at around 6 p.m., when it’s dark enough, and the sun isn’t so low in the sky, things like trees obscure your view,” he said.
Jeter said he believes the most basic telescopes should provide clear views of Saturn’s rings and atmospheric bands, as well as features on Jupiter that generally aren’t visible.
Jeter said backyards are just fine for viewing, and he hopes to welcome his friends, Sean Simpson and Eric Gardner. The three men all teach at Marjory Stoneman Douglas and like to collaborate on astrophotography.
For those interested in the concept of the ecliptic during the planets’ conjunction, Jeter has produced a five-minute video about the December 21 celestial event.
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- Jen Russon is a freelance writer and English Language Arts teacher. She has published two novels to Amazon Kindle and lives in Coral Springs with her family.
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