The term once-in-a-lifetime experience might be overused at times, causing it to lose some of its importance. My most recent experience, however, lived up to all the hype and then some.
For several months, we’ve been talking about watching the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn on December 21st, the winter solstice and longest night of the year. Since my son was a young boy, we’ve had a 6-inch reflector telescope that we’d take out into the driveway, searching for planets and deep space objects. We’ve observed the Orion Nebula, the Pleiades, the Moon, and Jupiter/Saturn on separate occasions.
But never have we looked through that telescope to witness Jupiter and Saturn in the same field of view. To see the rings on Saturn alongside Jupiter and its four moons almost looked like something out of a science fiction novel. But our eyes were not deceiving us. It evoked a sense of grandeur and magnificence. The sight was simply spectacular.
And to think that both the day before and after the conjunction occurred, the skies were cloudy and the planets were hidden behind a cloak of cumulus clouds? It made that sight on December 21st something even more special than it already was.
Dubbed “The Christmas Star”, it is thought by many astronomers that the brilliant “Star of Bethlehem” was actually the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn 2020 years ago. Even though the two planets were over 450 million miles away from each other, they looked as though they were sharing the exact same space in the night sky.
And as we looked out from our driveway, across the street and into the dark sky to witness this once-in-a-lifetime conjunction, it gave me chills to see those two planets, the modern day “Star of Bethlehem”, perfectly aligned over the Christmas manger in our neighbors’ front yard. Perspective is such a wonderful thing, don’t you think?
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