When Jupiter Aligns With Saturn

A Special Solstice

Jeff and I drive to Joshua Tree NP to watch the sunset and observe the “great conjunction” aka, the closest alignment of Jupiter and Saturn since July 16, 1623, a little more than a decade after Galileo first used a telescope to discover Jupiter’s 4 largest moons. Unfortunately, because of the planets’ position to the sun, this great conjunction was virtually impossible to see. So that takes us back to March 4, 1226, when Genghis Hahn was still roaming Asia, as the last time the planets were this close and as visible. (scientificamerican.com)

What makes this event even more special is the fact that is taking place on the Winter Solstice of 2020.

We enter the NP from the west entrance around 4:00 and are surprised that the rangers are just ushering all cars through. Jeff heads to Keys View overlooking the San Andreas Fault and Thousand Palms Oasis where we live right now. (We packed sushi, olives, cheese, a baguette, and nuts to eat when we arrive, but snacked on them on the drive up to the high desert.) Apparently lots of other people decided to choose this spot too.


We find a makeshift parking spot and ascend the walkway…


We hear a beautiful voice singing “Oh, Holy Night” and then “Ave Maria”…

So special and such a clear, angelic voice… Wow!


I start taking pictures of the setting sun…

And the Salton Sea…

And the moon…


A shared heavenly experience… And a shooting star! While Jeff was looking at Mars through his binoculars, I saw a shooting star approach the two planets, visible with the naked eye. A collective, “Ahhh” erupted…


That’s the Coachella Valley below and the lights are from Palm Springs. The road riding into the sunset is Interstate 10.

And here’s a view of Palm Desert and some of the other desert communities…


It gets darker…


And finally, it’s dark enough that I can capture the 2 planets with my iPhone… look closely…


The next rendezvous, according to scientificamerican.com, where Jupiter and Saturn are separated by just six arc minutes will arrive on March 15, 2080.