St Marks Lighthouse
Some say that the Christmas Star followed by the Wise Men was actually the Conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter. This year on the Solstice, December 21, a Great Conjunction occurred again - meaning the two planets were closer to each other in the (observable) night sky than any time during the past 791 years! But what intrigued me as much was that one was supposed to be able to see moons of Jupiter and the rings of Saturn through BINOCULARS (or in my case, a telephoto lens on my camera). No telescope needed!
Lighthouse Pond Ducks Aplenty
So Crystal and I rigged up our binoculars on a tripod (to keep them very still) and headed down to St Marks National Wildlife Refuge a few days ahead to test it out. We had a delightful evening show - the ducks and wading birds in the late-day light, the sunset, the crescent moon, and finally the almost-Conjunction - as we ate our picnic dinner along the shore. When the final curtain dropped (clouds moved in), we headed home, full of awe, wonder, and anticipation of the preeminent performance on the Solstice.
On the Solstice, we returned for the Grand Finale, with another more ambitious picnic and a couple friends. We were careful with social distancing (and well away from the parking area), but also marveled at the >100+ others who showed up to watch the Great Conjunction. The evening's performances that night were every bit as brilliant as the dress rehearsal. (While intently focused on nature photo ops, I neglected to take a single shot of the people scene, even of our own picnic gathering. "In the zone"... my excuse... sorry)
The Wide Angle Sunset
The Telephoto Sunset
Quarter Moon in 3D
The Great Conjunction
Lo and behold, THERE in our lenses, we could indeed see four of Jupiter’s moons and the rings encircling Saturn... they were tiny, but visible. A thrill to see. Somewhat underwhelming as little photos on a computer screen, especially compared to the experience in the BIG SKY theater. I highly recommend getting out there somewhere where you can see the sun set, dusk settle, and the moon and stars appear. You'll be glad you did.
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