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INTERVIEW: Hamptons Observatory Senior Educator And NASA Solar System Ambassador William Francis Taylor On "The Great Jupiter-Saturn Conjunction"

T.J. Clemente

Hamptons Observatory, a 501(c)(3) NYS nonprofit that relies on public support, has served the South Fork since 2005. (Photo: www.facebook.com)

For a fascinating discussion about astronomy, space travel and space exploration, Hamptons.com had a wonderful discussion with Hamptons Observatory (HO) Senior Educator and NASA Solar System Ambassador, William Francis Taylor. On Thursday, December 3, from 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., all can hear from Taylor during a virtual talk, "The Great Jupiter-Saturn Conjunction." This discussion, co-sponsored by South Fork Natural History Museum, will be about an event that only occurs every two decades. However, according to Taylor, "This year's conjunction is exceptional. It will be the closest the two planets have come together in nearly 400 years!"

He explained, "Every 20 years, the giant planets Jupiter and Saturn meet each other in the night sky as they both cycle their way slowly through the zodiac. This year, however, the pair will meet in the closest conjunction in approximately 400 years, merging almost into a single point in the evening sky of the winter solstice. You won't want to miss this sight, nor the other splendid opportunities for winter stargazing, from Orion's brilliant nebula to the Geminid meteor shower."

Taylor said, "The two planets will appear very, very close in the sky to each other. When this happened 400 years ago, it wasn't even visible to most people. It is the closest anyone will be able to see the two planets so close in 800 years. If you are watching the night skies right now, you can see Saturn and Jupiter very close to each other in the evening. The moon will be nearby, too. As the days go by, the two planets are going to get closer and closer. Eventually, they are going to be so close to each other that you can see them both at the same time through a telescope, in the same eye-piece - an experience that is very rare. I am not sure what it will look like because I have never seen anything like this before, but it should be very special."

"Early next year, we are planning to present a five-week Introduction to Astronomy course that I will be teaching myself," he added. Those interested in attending should contact the Observatory - and if there are any specific topics you would like covered, feel free to make suggestions.

Last month, Hamptons Observatory along with East Hampton Library presented "The History of the Hubble Space Telescope" - led by Professor Fred Walter. Those that missed the riveting presentation can view it at www.youtube.com.

Hamptons Observatory, a 501(c)(3) NYS nonprofit that relies on public support, has served the South Fork since 2005. Its mission: to foster interest in science, particularly astronomy, through educational programs. Lectures, star parties, portable planetarium shows and other events are held throughout the South Fork, often in collaboration with other nonprofit organizations. HO has established the first astronomical observatory on the South Fork (on the campus of the Ross School in East Hampton), complete with Long Island's largest research-grade telescope; these facilities will soon be accessible over the Internet to students, teachers, researchers and the general public. Hamptons Observatory offers all of its programs free-of-charge to encourage participation regardless of economic status.

For more information, visit www.facebook.com or email HamptonsObservatory@gmail.com.

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