The Great Conjunction of Planets – Jupiter and Saturn – December 2020

The planet Saturn

The Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn

Jupiter and Saturn have been travelling across the sky together this month but right now they are really putting on a show. You can see them in the western sky, very low, each evening for an hour after sunset. A conjunction will occur every 20 years this century but this one is called a “great conjunction”.

On 21st December 2020, the two planets were approximately 1/10 of a degree apart. They will not appear this close in the sky again until the year 2080.

The last time that these two planets were visible across the earth was on 5th March in the year 1226, when they were even closer compared to what we will see this year.

If you have binoculars or a small telescope you will be able to see both Jupiter and Saturn along with Jupiter’s moons.

If you would like to see the moons of Jupiter, train your telescope on Jupiter that night, and if there are no clouds, three of the four famous Galilean satellites will be visible. The moons of Jupiter that will be visible are Callisto, Io and Europa.

On one side of Jupiter, you’ll see its volcanic moon, Io (closest to Jupiter’s disk) and second-largest moon, Callisto.  On the other side of Jupiter will be Ganymede, Jupiter’s largest moon. As for Europa, it will be in transit, crossing in front of Jupiter, so cannot be seen.

This could be a “once in a lifetime opportunity” to see the Great Conjunction of the planets Saturn and Jupiter. The planets will be visible until the end of January 2021.

In this photo, taken with a cell phone in Australia, the two planets can be clearly seen


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NASA Science Live video



Mars Exploration 2020 Launch

Mars

Mars Explorer 2020 Launch

A new Mars Rover named Perseverance will land on the surface of Mars in February 2221, after a seven-month flight through space. 

Attached to the underbelly of the space craft will be a small helicopter named Ingenuity.  Ingenuity will be able to overcome Mars gravity and fly over the surface of Mars like a drone and return visual images.  This will be the first test of powered flight on Mars.

The purpose of the mission will be to investigate key questions about the possible existence of life on Mars.   Perseverance will examine the past Martian environment and look for signs of ancient microbes amongst the intriguing rocks of a crater named Jezero.

The robotic machine will drill into the rocks and collect soil samples using new technology.  After examining the samples, it will set them aside so that a future mission will be able to bring them back to Earth. 

All Earthlings interested in Mars and Martians are invited by NASA to virtually watch the Launch of Perseverance – Click HERE to register. 

The Mars 2020 launch event will commence at 7:50am on Thu, 30 Jul 2020 US EDT. [Thu, Jul 30, 2020, 9:50 PM AEST in Australia]

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Welcome to “Artemis Day”

Artemis Rocket

“The Most Powerful Rocket Ever Built in Human History”… the rocket that will take humans to the Moon and beyond.

Jim Bridenstine

At NASA’s Michoud Assembly facility, located in New Orleans and known as “America’s Rocket Factory”, sits the largest rocket built since the Apollo Program.  The construction phase is now complete and on 9th December 2019, Jim Bridenstine, NASA Administrator, revealed the 212-foot rocket core stage.  This rocket will become the power source that will project the first Artemis mission into space. 

Artemis Project

The rocket will form part of the “Space Launch System” that will provide the power for Astronauts of the future to travel to destinations far into the solar system and explore other worlds close-up.

NASA is now working towards the exciting goal of landing the first woman on the Moon by 2024, just four years away.

Is Pluto still a planet?

Although Pluto was downgraded by astronomers from planet status in 2006, there is still much debate about the matter. 

Recently , NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine declared that, in his opinion, Pluto is still a planet.   Bridenstine was speaking at a FIRST Robotics event in Colorado.

“Just so you know, in my view, Pluto is a planet, and you can write that the NASA Administrator declared Pluto a planet once again” stated Bridenstine.

Pluto as photographed by New Horizons