Astrophotographers and space enthusiasts worldwide have recently witnessed the convergence of Jupiter and Saturn in the night sky. The planets appeared closer together in the sky for the first time since the Middle Ages. One of the photographers managed to capture a fascinating shot.
Of course, such a rare sight as Jupiter and Saturn’s great conjunction has been captured by countless photographers. However, a few days ago, photographer Jason De Freitas snapped a particularly successful picture of the ISS moving between the two planets.
Recall that the great conjunction is the convergence of Jupiter and Saturn in the night sky. Great conjunctions occur on average every 19.86 years, when Jupiter, whose period of revolution around the Sun is 11.86 years, “catches up” in the sky with Saturn, whose period of revolution is 29.46 years. The last Great Conjunction occurred on December 21, 2020, when the two planets were separated in the sky by 6 arc minutes (~ 1⁄5 the lunar disk’s angular diameter). Before this, such close conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn occurred on July 16, 1623, but these planets were near the Sun and were unobservable on that day. As a rule, the planets during conjunction only pass each other at a certain angular distance since their orbits’ planes do not coincide. Only in sporadic cases do the planets appear on the same line of sight for the terrestrial observer; the last time such an event (covering Saturn by Jupiter) during the great conjunction occurred in 6856 BC.
While Jupiter and Saturn are relatively close to each other in the sky approximately every 20 years, the last time they were as close as during the great conjunction (and observed) was March 4, 1226, or 794 years ago.
While planning to photograph Jupiter and Saturn’s conjunction, De Freitas realized that he could also include the ISS in the frame.
“I was fortunate when I realized I could capture the path of the International Space Station through the Jupiter-Saturn junction,” says de Freitas.