By Harley Nefe
Looking up at the southwestern sky at night the past few days, many people have been seeing the rare astronomical event of the great conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, more commonly known as the Christmas Star this time of the year.
Local photographer Todd Bush is also one of the people who has had some luck in seeing the event through breaks in the clouds and has been capturing pictures of it to share with others.
“It was a really fun event to be part of, and I was so glad that the people of planet Earth seemed to be sharing in the enthusiasm for it,” Bush said.
Bush went to Grandfather Mountain just after sunset Monday night and was at the Cliffside Parking Lot with Grandfather Mountain Board Members, where the opportunity to see the event was filled with uncertainty due to the skies being partly cloudy.
“There was some pretty color from the sunset, but after being clear all day and watching the clouds roll in, it was almost serendipitous that the only area of the sky that had any hope of seeing it was in the right direction, yet clouds were coming and going,” Bush said.
Bush and the others had apps opened looking to see where the planets could be seen through the patchy clouds and suddenly, the scene appeared.
“Everyone went to the edge of the rock wall to look at it with oohs and aahs, and then seconds later clouds would come,” Bush said.
The planets would occasionally come in and out of view again granting small opportunities for Bush to document the experience.
Clouds weren’t the only things interfering with the moment. Car-rocking gusts of wind had Bush afraid his tripods were going to blow over.
“Folks started to leave because of the clouds coming and going, and the conditions were brutal,” Bush said. “It was so windy and cold that it was hard to stand up out there, let alone stay out there.”
As the night went on and everybody left, Bush stayed out for a little while and captured some more pictures.
When looking at photos he took the past few days at Grandfather Mountain, Bush said viewers can compare and really see how the planets changed and them coming closer together.
“Their appearance and in which part of the sky they appeared in changed as you were standing there watching them,” Bush said. “It makes you aware of the rotation of the planet and the mechanics of our solar system.”
The night of Monday, Dec. 21, was when the planets could have been seen as the closest together; however, stargazers can still see the conjunction in the sky through Dec. 25.
Photos by Todd Bush