At present most readers are familiar with the Great Conjunction of December 20, 2020. It was a rare astronomical treat, not to be repeated for many years. Only twice before have Jupiter and Saturn appeared visually closer together in the past 900 years, but only once have Earth residents been able to see such a close planetary meeting in a dark night sky. That occurred in AD 1226! A third exceedingly close “Great Conjunction” occurred on December 21, 2020. In our last post we stressed the scientific value of ordinary planetary studies rather than their prophetic or astrological significance.
Astrology occasionally enjoys renewed popularity. Some sources state young people relish astrology as a tool for introspection or an aide for personal mystic significance.” In my astronomy instruction units students were amused by personal horoscopes printed in some publications. Our mention of horoscopes may have provided class members some entertainment, but the study of astrology is not a scientific discipline to help illustrate real causes and effects. Astrology is a pseudoscience. We endeavored to explain to students the popular meaning of “signs of the zodiac.” Here is a link to our post on “The Bible Zodiac:”
In AD 1226, medieval residents may have seen the rare, exceedingly close planetary conjunction and ascribed astrological significance to the event. Many of that day believed events in the sky influenced human experience. Astrology was a significant scholarly pursuit. A few hundred years later astronomy began its ascension as a scientific discipline. We may connect it with the important Scientific Revolution.
Conjunctions of the gas giant planets Jupiter and Saturn occur approximately every 20 years. Jupiter is closer to Earth and travels faster than Saturn. It visually overtakes Saturn every two decades. There are other conjunctions between and among other planets and celestial bodies, but conjunctions between Jupiter and Saturn are called “Great Conjunctions.” They occur less often than other conjunctions. The extremely close meeting of these two planets in December 2020 was especially noteworthy. The Wikipedia article entitled “Great Conjunction” is an invaluable source for detailed information on the infrequent celestial meetings of these two important planets. The informational table of close conjunctions of these planets since AD 1200 has multiple columns and rows of information to boggle the mind. One is startled by the statistical analysis—multiple precision details of the gas giant planetary conjunctions.
Late in the 20th century the two giant planets were drawing closer to each other. In the last two decades they repeated their ancient cycle of drawing apart, then approaching each other once again. Following the 2020 conjunction the two planets are once more slowly drawing apart. We are currently only a few weeks past the exceptional Great Conjunction of 12/21/20. Jupiter will lap Saturn once more on 11/4/2040. The planet’s speed in orbit is 29,236 miles/hour compared with Saturn’s 21,675 miles/hour. Jupiter completes one revolution in 11.9 Earth years compared with Saturn’s 29.5 Earth years. These facts appeal to statistically minded observers, reinforcing our belief that the physical world is orderly, coherent, and systematic in accord with the divine characteristics of the Creator of All Things. God has enabled humanity to discover the orderliness of creation. Mathematical statistics strengthen our concepts of cosmic order and coherence.
The Book of Isaiah and other scripture passages have many references to the heavens and the wonders in the skies. Isaiah 40:26a is written in the context of the creative power of God, not only in the heavens, but also on the planetary surface. We are overcome with a sense of worship as we inspect passages extolling the orderliness of the creation and the characteristics of the Creator.
“Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these?…..”