This month has been something of an afterparty for the great conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn at the end of last year.
The two giant planets are still fairly close together, and easy to find. On 2 August Saturn was at opposition, which means it was directly opposite the Sun in the sky, and shining at its brightest. Jupiter‘s turn at opposition comes tonight (the night of 19-20 August).
Astronomy magazine has published an article I wrote about the pump of curiosity.
For fun, we can ask two questions. First, are the kind of solar eclipses we experience on Earth rare within the universe? Second, have solar eclipses had any impact on the development of nature? In a forthcoming paper in Proceedings of the International Astronomical Union No. 367, I suggest the answer to both questions is maybe. And that raises a third question: What are the implications?
Between the years 1600 and 2599, there are 2108 eclipse seasons. Of these, 126 seasons contain a pair of full eclipses: one total or annular solar eclipse, plus one total lunar eclipse. At timeanddate.com, we looked at the worldwide duration of each eclipse in these pairs. This is the length of time between the first and last moments the eclipse is visible from somewhere in the world, including partial and penumbral phases.
Recently, a teacher at ISCED, Eugênio Calei, contacted me about obtaining a telescope. I spoke to Zoe Chee at Astronomers Without Borders (AWB), a remarkable organisation that “builds and cultivates community through astronomy”.
After asking some excellent questions to learn more about ISCED’s needs, Zoe came up with a donated Orion SpaceProbe 130ST telescope that has never been used:
Even though the wiring of the human brain evolved in an exceptional way, if novelty had remained below a certain threshold, early humans may not have received a sufficient trigger to begin forming the concept of reasons.
Our team of programmers, astronomers, and enthusiasts at timeanddate.com wanted to visualize the roughly 400-year rhythm of super-close conjunctions between Jupiter and Saturn. For fun, we created an algorithm to run through a mathematical model of Jupiter’s and Saturn’s movements over a 16,000-year period.
Image credits: Steffen Thorsen & Graham Jones, Sky & Telescope