Turn of season sees a rare planetary alignment | RecordCourier.com

Turn of season sees a rare planetary alignment

Jupiter and Saturn above the Carson Range.
Scott McAfee/Special to The R-C

In a remarkable celestial event, the planets Jupiter and Saturn formed a “great conjunction” the night of the winter solstice, Dec. 21. Just after sundown on the first day of winter, the two planets appeared close together in the sky and created a bright light some called the “Christmas Star.”

NASA.gov explains that while “planets regularly appear to pass each other in the solar system,” this orbital proximity of Jupiter and Saturn hasn’t happened since 1623, and it’s been nearly 800 years since this alignment occurred in the evening hours, making it visible to sky watchers.

Jupiter and Saturn are the two largest planets in our solar system. Composed mostly of hydrogen and helium, they are known as the “gas giants.” For size comparison, Jupiter’s diameter is 11 times larger than the diameter of Earth; Saturn’s diameter 9.1 times larger than Earth’s.

Although the planets appeared close from an earthbound sky gazer’s perspective, they were actually about 450 million miles apart in space.

Since the conjunction’s peak on Monday night, Jupiter and Saturn continue to move apart as they travel along their orbital paths. Though you can still catch a glimpse of them along the low southwest horizon after dark, the next great pairing of these gas giants won’t take place until 2080.

Douglas Disposal offers thanks and extra services

A record-breaking total of more than 18,400 pounds of goods were collected during Douglas Disposal’s recent food drive. All items were delivered to the Carson Valley Community Food Closet.

The company expressed gratitude for all those who donated to the effort and for their employees who helped make the food drive possible. A statement posted to their website reads, “The generous hearts of the Carson Valley are part of what makes this such a special place to live. Many thanks go out to everyone for their generous contributions. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all.”

As an end-of-year thank you, Douglas Disposal offers all Carson Valley and Alpine County residential customers a double per-can service on their regular collection day the week of Dec. 28-Jan. 1. Christmas tree recycling will be offered Jan. 4-8 on each customer’s regular collection day. Please remove all decorations and nails. Non-flocked trees in lengths less than 6 feet are accepted; trees longer than 6 feet may be cut to size.

For questions, call, 775-782-5713.

Amy Roby can be reached at ranchosroundup@hotmail.com.