SocraticGadfly: Solstice star, not Christmas star, at Great Conjunction

December 21, 2020

Solstice star, not Christmas star, at Great Conjunction

Jupiter and Saturn tonight have their closest conjunction in 400 years and their closest nighttime, visible one in about 800 years.

And, fitting for methodologically naturalist science, it's on the winter solstice.

And, I appear to have indeed gotten it, as ragged as it is, on camera, handheld.

That would be Jupiter at left, and I believe Io above and Europa below.

And, per my blog post of several years ago, as far as modern explanation of the development of our Solar System, Laplace is the reason for the season. That's French astronomer Pierre-Simon Laplace, who articulated the "nebular hypothesis" more than 200 years ago.

For  latest modern modelings on how the nebular Solar System developed, see this great Nautilus piece. Among other things, it explained why Jupiter and Saturn likely moved out, rather than in closer to the Sun, as they gained mass.

Per two paragraphs above? As a secular humanist, I can appreciate the wonder and joy of astronomy without having to put either Christian or New Age veneers over it. I can also appreciate the wonder of reaching across 800 years of history. But also, unlike some of Laplace's older peers (Diderot, d'Holbach even more) I don't have to act like a Gnu Atheist, either.

After I did editing of pix and an initial wrap on the blog post (I already had the Nautilus and my old blog post in place yesterday) I started thinking about "miracles" of human ingenuity.

First, of course, is the cultural evolution in astronomical understanding that led Copernicus to re-invent the heliocentric theory and for it to gain acceptance. Then came the big step of Kepler's gathering of empirical evidence to establish elliptical orbits. Then, Galileo with Venerean phases giving empirical support for heliocentrism. And so forth.

On the personal side? The camera and lens I used to shoot that photo? Arguably better than ones I would have paid 10 times as much for 15 years ago.

And, per the verse from Proverbs? Not always, but often, with all our new knowing, has come new understanding as well.

I will have some further thoughts in a post on my philosophy blog.

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