Retired teacher and amateur astronomer invites everyone to try and view the sky on Monday, Dec. 21 just after sunset when Juniper and Saturn will align. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

Retired teacher and amateur astronomer invites everyone to try and view the sky on Monday, Dec. 21 just after sunset when Juniper and Saturn will align. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

Jupiter and Saturn to align closest since Medieval times

The ‘great conjunction’ will take place Monday, Dec. 21 just after sunset

Should the sky be clear on the Monday, Dec. 21, solstice you may be able to view a spectacular sight when Jupiter and Saturn align the closest they have since Medieval time.

“Some people call it the ‘great conjunction’ because it’s the two biggest planets getting close together in the sky,” said Lynn Capling, a retired teacher and amateur astronomer in Williams Lake.

“It happens every 20 years but this particular conjunction is going to be .1 of a degree and with the naked eye it may almost look like one elongated star, but with binoculars you will see the two planets.”

Capling noted it will not be easy to see the conjunction because it will occur just after sunset.

It will be blocked by the hillsides and trees so it will be better to go south from Williams Lake on Highway 97 or west on Highway 20 where there is a better view of the sky in the southwest, she explained.

Read more: Earth’s wonders documented in Our Beautiful Resilient Planet

If people have been watching Jupiter and Saturn they will have noticed they are getting closer together through the fall, she added.

Using a small telescope, viewers will also be able to see Jupiter, its moons, and Saturn.

Any time from now until around Dec. 29 is worth looking up if there is a clear sky, she said.

Capling’s love of astronomy started as a child growing up in Chilliwack when she and her siblings would sleep outside to watch the sky go past — spying meteors and the odd satellite.

As a high school science teacher for almost 20 years in Williams Lake, she became more interested in astronomy and purchased some telescopes so she could show the students the stars and planets.

A favourite event for her students was a sleep-out on the roof of the Lake City Secondary Williams Lake campus she organized.

On Dec. 21 she hopes to venture out toward Highway 20 herself to view the conjunction in an area where there are not too many man-made lights.

“I may go out in the afternoon if it is clear to get a sense of how far I will need to go to see the planets,” she said.

Lynn lost her husband and astronomy partner, Stephen Capling, earlier this year.

The couple were together for 43 years and enjoyed exploring the skies as a favourite activity.

Read more: Star struck astronomers

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