The winter solstice brings many things. Celebrations, holidays, the longest night of the year, rebirth, and much more.
On December 21, 2020, it also brought the “The Christmas Star,” what people called the great conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn. The two planets were separated by just six arc minutes, equal to about one-fifth the apparent width of the moon.
A rare celestial event
In our night sky, the two planets haven’t appeared this close and visible to most of the population since March 5, 1226. Sure, they came close in 1623, but just for a short while in northern South America, central Africa and Indonesia. If you missed the conjunction, you can live vicariously through my photos or polish up your camera in 2080.
I stood outside with several other groups of people in Vasquez Rocks, CA. Some were in folding chairs, admiring with silence and reverence.
About the photos
I showed up at Vasquez Rocks after a long drive over the mountains to avoid traffic, driving there with my wife, who wanted to see this historic event. I had my camera set up for only about 20 minutes, perched up about 20 feet above the desert floor.
Although I did bring light painting equipment, I decided that I wanted to keep the iconic Vasquez Rocks in shadow to bring more attention to the Jupiter-Saturn pairing. I shot all photos between 5:43 and 5:54 p.m.
The above photo was shot at a focal length of 95mm. With this, more than the others, you can see the two distinct planets quite easily.
Above, a couple is walking around the rocks where years ago, Captain Kirk made his stand against a lizard creature called the Gorn in “Star Trek.”