RSCP readies facility to view the Great Conjunction


Jupiter and Saturn to be closest to each other in a rare phenomenon on Dec. 21

The scientific community across the globe is excited about the Great Conjunction that is to take place on December 21.

Amid the furore of local body elections, Kozhikode too is gearing up for the rare astronomical phenomenon. The Regional Science Centre and Planetarium (RSCP) here will organise an observation session from 6.30 p.m. onwards for the event that takes place around 11.30 p.m.

It is at this time that the giant planets — Jupiter and Saturn — will be almost in the same line of sight, appearing very close to each other. Astronomically speaking, they will have an angular separation of 0.1 degree or six minutes and six seconds in angular measure.

The phenomena involving two solar system objects like Sun, Moon, and planets appearing close to the ‘ecliptic’ or ‘the apparent path of Sun in the sky’, while from Earth they appear to have a very small angular separation, is termed as a ‘conjugation’. From this year, it will involve two giant planets brightly visible in the night sky, and it is termed as a the Great Conjunction.

Though the phenomenon takes place every 19 years, the separation between the two planets varies from one conjunction to the other, depending on the orbital positions. It was almost 400 years ago that a conjugation of this magnitude took place last. Jupiter and Saturn had an angular separation of around five minutes 10 seconds on July 16, 1623.

Crosstaff is a method used by astronomy enthusiasts to measure the angular separation between the objects involved in conjugation. A contest supported by the Astronomical Society of India involving many like-minded institutions and planetariums titled ‘Samanta Chandrasekhar Challenge’ involves recording and reporting the angular separation values on a daily basis. Hence, the RSCP is also organising a workshop on ‘Development of Crosstaff and using related measurement techniques’ on December 15 at 10:30 a.m. Those interested shall register using the link: shorturl.at/sEGR8.

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