The Great Winter Solstice Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn

The great conjunction 2020 is the closest approach of Jupiter and Saturn in nearly 800 years. The evening of the Winter Solstice found them 6' 20" apart in our sky. Physically they are over 450 million miles apart.

I traveled 2 hours east of Austin to Mudville, Texas to escape the clouds streaming in for the southwest. Between 6 and 6:30 the sky was mostly clear to the west, but conditions deteriorated after that.

Taken with Questar 1280/89 mm telescope with 2x Dakin Barlow and Sony a6300 camera. A HDR multi-exposure stack taken 2020-12-21 6:01-6:33 CST near Mudville, Texas. Jupiter (best 16 of 150 frames ISO 200 for 1/8 sec), Saturn (best 16 of 50 frames ISO 800 for 15 sec), Moons (5 frames ISO 1600 for 4 sec) Sky background (8 frames ISO 500 for 2 sec).

Planetary images were staked with Autostakkert! 3 and deconvolved in Lynkeos. Moon and registration exposures were stacked in Nebulosity. HDR compositing, exposure adjustment, and final crop were done in Photoshop.

The NWS Interactive Sky Coverage Map told my that I would double my chances of clear skies by heading east towards Bryan. I picked a spot off of Texas 21 near Mudville, just east of the Brazos River in a turnout by a large field. Clear skies were in the right direction and a spectacular tree across the road sealed the deal. I took this wide-field iPhone shot of the tree and the conjunction while waiting for the sky to darken a bit more.

Fourty-Five minutes was plenty of time to enjoy the event and get good data. I took this shot of the Questar and the conjunction after transparency began to deteriorate with arriving clouds. The head lights of an approaching car supplied the dramatic lighting.

Content created: 2020-12-22

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