Something Remarkable out of the Unremarkable

From left to right: Saturn, Ganymede, Io, Jupiter, Callisto, Europa.  Click for full-sized image.

December 22nd, 2020, 5:10 p.m. local time

We begin today with a weather recap.

So this past night provided an opportunity to see the two gas giants side-by-side.  I used my small Mak-Cass 254mm telescope, which I had not used, I think, at all this year except possibly for one solar viewing.

This was a somewhat rushed setup, knowing I wouldn’t have a lot of time, and not knowing if I could get both Jupiter and Saturn in the same telescopic view.  The telescope’s final position was pointed well under 15 degrees.  I used the telescope’s stock 23mm eyepiece, with no magnification.  I was delighted to see both planets, along with all four of the Galilean moons, visible in the same field.

Anticipating a good sighting, I had already attached my iPhone to my eyepiece mount.  The best result is above showing the full eyepiece view.  Here are the objects zoomed in:

Click for full-sized image.

…and here is Saturn zoomed in even more, with some minor image corrections in PaintShop Pro:

For a quick iPhone image at the telescope, this view of Saturn turned out incredibly well.

Sunday’s view of the conjunction wasn’t terribly interesting, but this last one was different.  Seeing both planets side-by-side on this cold and clear evening, and together through the telescope, definitely ranks up with the other notable astronomical observations in 2020.

Unremarkable Great Conjunction

Click for full-sized image.

December 20th, 2020, 5:00 p.m. local time

Assuming no more cosmological events of note for 2020, I found the “great conjunction” of Jupiter and Saturn to be not all that great.

I have been anticipating this time for over a year, thinking about it last September when I first took this image of Jupiter and Saturn coming together.  In hindsight, I am not sure exactly what I expected from a planetary alignment that is both predictable and happening purely by chance right now.

Weather may have played a role in my disappointment, as there was a slight overcast and haze.  I had difficulty focusing my digital camera on tripod, even when targeting the nearby crescent Moon, due to the hazy dusk conditions.  And I knew from past experiences that the view from my telescopes would have been too blurry to be worth the effort in near-freezing conditions (since the planets were so low in the sky).

But I did capture the two planets unremarkably, as you can see in the corresponding image.  You probably will have to expand the image to see faint Saturn.

Perhaps in the year when I saw a comet, took my best Mars image, and captured a meteor, this conjunction was destined to be anti-climatic.

Yet if I can take one figurative observation from last night, it is this: after seeing the two planets together, it’s not hard to imagine how such an alignment, embellished by background stars or other phenomena, could have been interpreted as a divine sign by the ancients.

The Most Hits

Quiet times, at least on some fronts.  I haven’t taken my telescopes or related equipment out at all over these last several months.  But the pending conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter may spur me to action, cold weather permitting.

So this may be a time of opportunity to discuss earlier shelved commentaries.  One I have been meaning to address for a while is the usage of pinterest.  I have experimented in leveraging other social media outlets for this blog before, mostly twitter, but I found its value limited.

My latest experiment was with pinterest, a site that seems more geared to sharing fashions and recipes.  Still, its format appeared suited to photography, so I decided to leverage it whenever I posted my astronomy images.

I never expected much traffic, and still do not, on pinterest.  Some of the images have a few hundred “impressions,” most less.  But one surprisingly has had thousands of impressions:

Click to see pinterest site.

This was a Moon composite I shared a year ago.  It’s nice, but I don’t understand why this one image, or all of my posted images, has received such a disproportionate number of impressions.  I guess I neither appreciate nor grasp marketing in this realm, to know what is going to catch the eye of the random pinterest viewer.

Part of the answer is that astrophotography is an extreme niche.  If you would like to share your own experiences with astronomical social media, I would be interested in hearing them.