The Great Conjunction 2020

December 7, 2020   |   Reading time: ~2 mins

Great Conjunction 2020 logo and background

It should no great surprise that 2020 has been a difficult year in academia. The inability to travel has made maintaining collaborations problematic, and the inability to carry out the majority of teaching in-person, despite being the catalyst for much innovation in the higher education space, has made traditional lecturing all but impossible. An unfortunate vector of collateral damage in this whole ordeal has been our facility to bringing the wonders of the universe to children and adults alike through our usual outreach efforts. Consequently, as with higher education, circumventing the hurdles that a worldwide pandemic put in our way has been an important focus. Fortunately, come the end of December we have a chance of vindicating ourselves. Let me tell you a little about what we’ve been up to.

On the 21st December 2020 is potentially a once in a lifetime occurrence known as a Great Conjunction. This is when the two largest planets in the Solar System, Jupiter and Saturn, pass close to each other in the sky. This year’s conjunction is a particularly close one, the closest since 1623. So close, in fact, that they will both be visible through the same telescope eyepiece at the same time. To fill you in on all of the information you will need, I will hand you over to Professor Matthew Bate to tell you all about the event itself.

So, long story short, we are going to be collaborating with Exeter Science Centre on an evening around the Great Conjunction to live-stream the view through a telescope from the roof of the physics building. Around this event, we have also put together a number of videos about the history of great conjunctions, how Jupiter and Saturn affected the early Solar System, and even what the planets can tell us about exoplanet climatology. We wanted to make sure that we didn’t leave out children either, so postgraduate Federica Rescigno put together a fantastic video for school children. There are other things going on around the event as well, but they will be shared in due course.

To find out more about the event and, if you’re so inclined, sign up to our mailing list to keep up-to-date with where and when we’re going to be live streaming, head over to our website at http://jupitersaturn2020.org.

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