Today, Jupiter and Saturn will appear to meet in the sky, the result of an alignment in their orbits as viewed from Earth.
This event is being called the Great Conjunction, and the reason it’s getting so much attention is because the two planets will appear to be closer together than they’ve been in hundreds of years. There was a conjunction when Galileo was alive in 1623, but it was virtually impossible to view because of the sun. The most recent conjunction that was visible and similar to today’s occurred in 1226, almost 800 years ago.
Tonight’s Great Conjunction will be visible without a telescope; all that’s necessary is a clear view of the horizon. The event will occur shortly after sunset.
When it’s over, the planets will continue their journeys, as they’ve done for billions of years and will do for billions more. Here on Earth, our human existence can’t compare. We can, however, look forward to the next Great Conjunction, which will be visible in 2080.
Barring a scientific miracle, I won’t be there. But perhaps my sons will, and perhaps their children will, as well. A simple moment in time, in celestial terms – but an amazing human connection through time and space.