A Historical Conjunction Between Jupiter And Saturn Sets On December 21st


On Monday, the 21st of December, Earthlings will observe ones in a 20 year event known as the conjunction which will be between the last two naked eye planets, Jupiter and Saturn, of which they will appear much closer as if they are merging. But in reality, the distance between these two celestial objects  still stands at 4.32 AU or 646.3 million km. The matter is that they just got aligned in the sky from our perspective.


Meaning of Conjunction

So many meanings can be read from the sentence “Alignment of Planets”. To make it clearer, beginning with the fact that all the planets in the solar system revolve round the sun, through a common disc-like plane known as the ecliptic. For that reason, these planets align and appear to be merging, and we call that “The conjunction”. This conjunction can happen in a variety of ways: a conjunction in which a celestial object completely obscures the other is called “Occultation”. We witnessed this between our Moon and Mars at the beginning of the last quarter of 2020 in which the former completely blocked the latter in the night sky. In fact, this is some worth like an eclipse. But we specially use the word “Eclipse” to denote the alignment among any of the Moon, the Earth and the Sun.


Mars – Moon Occultation. Image credit: Slooh


On the other hand, if any celestial object partially obscures the other, we call it “Transit”. But in general, conjunction does not necessarily require alignment. There could be a conjunction between a planet and a background star or a galaxy. Simply put, conjunction is an event that involves the meeting of celestial bodies relative to our vantage point.


How much Of Them Can We See?

Both Jupiter and Saturn currently located at Capricornus constellation normally have apparent magnitudes of -2.2 and 0.46 respectively, that implies that Jupiter is 12 times brighter than Saturn in the logarithm scale. So since the beginning of December both planets have been seemingly racing alongside, but on 21st they will come much closer just merely separated by a distance smaller than the size of a full Moon. In terms of angular resolution, they will be separated at 0.1 arcminute. An angular resolution is a term used in Astrophysics to quantify the ability of an instrument or a living thing to distinguish two separate light sources, be it the two headlamps of an incoming vehicle or two stars in the sky. At this value of 0.1 arcminute, all humans with normal sight will be able to see this conjunction which will be towards the southwest at every sunset. It is also safe to use binoculars or telescopes to have a better sight of them, most especially, their moons and rings.


Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech


Why there is Jupiter and Saturn Conjunction

As earlier said, it is worthy to note that this event between Jupiter and Saturn always occurs ones every 20 years. This is because the two target planets move pretty slow. They are very far away from the sun, and from the laws of orbital mechanics, the farther away an object is relative to the point mass, the slower its speed,  so they orbit slowly.

In addition to that, because it takes Jupiter and Saturn approximately 12 and 30 years respectively, to make a revolution, from simple mathematical analysis, the two should align at one time in their rendezvous.


Image of Jupiter and Saturn captured using the Slooh’s telescopes on December 18 Image credit: Slooh


A brief History of Jupiter and Saturn Conjunction

The conjunction of December 21st is a special one because: it will be visible in the evenings just shortly after sunset and will be pretty close to each other. But unlike it, which dominated the conjunctions of other times which includes the conjunction of 1623 BC, that is, 400 years ago (during Galileo times), had their appearances mostly in the day time where the sun’s rays made them almost impossible to be observed. One other kind of conjunction that have the same similarities with this December 21st  as mentioned earlier is the conjunction of 1226 BC, that is, 800 years ago which was widely observed, according NASA’s Astronomer, Dr Henry.


All about other designated names of the Conjunction

Since we all learned about the coming of this conjunction, many fancy names tagged to it have been going viral, some calling it, “Christmas star, “Bethlehem Star”, “The great conjunction” etc. The latter has conflicting meanings given to it, on some websites, it was explained that “Great” was used to indicate that the conjunction is between the two most massive planets in our solar system, while other sources said it is because it happens ones every 20 years. Either one of the two still sounds great though.

On the other hand, why the name “Christmas star” or “Bethlehem star”? Also according to Dr. Henry, for ages, people have been looking up and studying the stars and the planets. They do have this tendency of incorporating the knowledge which they gained in astronomy into their respective religions, cultures and beliefs. So this star of Bethlehem, we believe, was due to the events of the night sky which involved the three wise men, during when Christ was born, around 7 BC. It could be that what they observed was this kind of conjunction or it could even be a comet. But since there was no record of any professional observation, we cannot say what really went on.

For more information on how to take photographs or viewing it live, check Slooh star party.

Wishing you a clear sky

Great South America Total Solar Eclipse on Dec 14th


In this year 2020, Earth has witnessed eclipses a number of times, including both lunar and solar, about six (6) of them. The forthcoming would be the sixth and the last for this year, a total solar eclipse.

We witness solar eclipses or eclipse of the Sun not only because the New Moon gets positioned and aligned in-between Earth and the Sun. But because of the simple reason that the Sun’s diameter is approximately 400 times larger than the Moon. And Sun-Earth distance is also approximately 400 times the Earth-Moon distance. So from simple geometry, relative to the Earth, the Moon and the Sun appear to be the same size.

Now, whether it will be a total solar eclipse or annular solar eclipse will depend on the elliptical orbit of the Moon round the Earth. Apogee is the point of the orbit at which the moon is furthest away from Earth which is the one we see during annular solar eclipses. While Perigee is the case at which the moon is closest to Earth and at which point we observe a total solar eclipse, like the one which we are about to observe on December 14.

During total solar eclipses, as the Moon continues to transit, its shadow creates a path called the Path of Totality on the surface of the Earth. Regions around this path will observe Partial solar eclipse. And for any given point on the Earth which has witnessed a total solar eclipse, will see another round of it in the next 400 years.

This upcoming total solar eclipse dubbed the Great South America Total eclipse will make first appearance as a partial solar eclipse at the Southern Pacific Ocean by 1:34 p.m UTC and about one hour later, that is,  at 2:32 pm UTC, the Moon’s umbra will fully emerge. Both will then proceed due East, touching some parts of South American Continent like: Chile and Argentina.  And will come to a halt over the Southern Atlantic Ocean, of the coast of Southwest Africa at 6:53 p.m UTC.

Image Credit: https://c.tadst.com/gfx/eclipses2/20201214/anim2d-960.mp4


The event can be viewed on several astronomy channels worldwide.

You can follow NASA guidelines on observing solar eclipses.

Wishing you all a favorable weather conditions.

Recap of important activities in the last half of 2019: ASGARD near space experiments

The Astronomers Without Borders (AWB) Nigeria with the support of the Nigerian Army, from the 10th -14th June, 2019 embarked on a trip to Brussels, Belgium with a team from the NAOWA College, Abuja for a first of its kind Space Experiment organized by the ASGARD IX program.

The experiment, which involved flying some selected Nigerian Vegetable seeds to the edge of Space through a Stratospheric Balloon in an attempt to determine the effects of the near space conditions on the seeds.

The NAOWA College team, which comprised the School Principal, a Science teacher and 5 Science students together with the Project facilitators from AWB, participated in a number of other educational activities aside the Stratospheric Balloon Experiment during their stay in Brussels, Belgium.

The AWB-Asgard Team

The team had a guided tour of MIRA Observatory, where they received a lecture from Phillipe Mollet, a MIRA Observatory Astronomer. The students also participated in a number of hands-on activities. The Observatory tour afforded the students the opportunity to see and use different kinds of Telescopes and other astronomical equipment.

The team also visited the Belgium National Museum, where they had a guided tour of the different sections of the museum, the museum visit was particularly educative as it afforded the students the opportunity of understanding the history behind some of the science-based discoveries.

The team was at the Belgium Royal Observatory, where the NAOWA College students had the opportunity of meeting with the first Belgian Astronaut, Dirk Frimout. The students made a presentation of their experiment to the astronaut and his team. There were also lectures by Astronaut Dirk Frimout and Prof. Katrien Kolenberg, a lecturer and foremost Astrophysicist from the Antwerpen University, Belgium.

The school experiment was flown to the edge of Space on a Stratospheric Balloon by the Royal Metrological Institute at their Uccle launch site.  This was the highpoint of the visit as the excited students and the team watched with amazement as balloon disappeared into the clouds bearing the school experiment.

The team also had the opportunity of visiting the Brussels Planetarium, where they received a lecture on Astronomy Education by a staff of the Planetarium. They were also taken on a guided tour of the Planetarium.

The NAOWA College students during this visit, had the opportunity of visiting the Sint-Pieterscollege, Brussels on a guided tour of the school and a visit to the science laboratories, where the students had the opportunity of having a hands-on Space experiment in the Physics laboratory with the award-winning Physics teacher and ASGARD Project Manager, Erik de Schrijver.

The experiment was returned home to be completed on the NAOWA College school farm. The AWB team will also carry out a post flight seminar that would enable the students to plant, observe and analyze the results of the effect of near space weather on the selected Nigerian food crop seeds flown to the edge of Space.

The NAOWA College team is expected to return to Brussels, April 2020 to present the results of their experiment and share their experience with other students from around the world at the next year’s ASGARD programme.

Each participating member of the team was awarded a certificate of participation jointly by the Astronomers Without Borders (AWB) Nigeria, MIRA Public Observatory, Brussels, Sterren Schitteren Voor Iedereen (SSVI), Brussels.

The Astronomers Without Borders (AWB) Nigeria, on behalf of the Team Nigeria, would like to express their profound gratitude to the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) and the President, Nigeria Army Officers’ Wives Association (NAOWA) for making the dream of these bright Nigerian students come to pass and for affording them the opportunity of being worthy Ambassadors of our dear country.




2019 Girls Astronomy Camp Nassarawa

In the month of June, AWBNigeria organized a girls’ astronomy camp in Lumen Christi Basic Science School in Nassarawa state. The participants were selected from girls schools around Nassarawa state.

AWBNigeria continues to push STEM encouragement for girls and that drive was no different in this camp. The National Coordinator of AWBNigeria, Mrs. Olayinka Fagbemiro, gave an introductory speech to the participants highlighting AWB’s activities and the benefits of STEM Education. Engr. Yewande Adeyeye followed up with a presentation on the roles that women play in STEM and Space science.

The participants were then engaged with a flurry of science activities like building a model of the solar system, coupling galileoscopes, building satellite models, learning how to use rotors and motors and others.

There was also a science quiz competition that engaged 2 participants from each school. The winners received prices and other participants received certificates.

Unveiling the 5 Telescopes donated by Astronomers Without Borders at Air force Girls Comprehensive School

In the evening of May 16, 2018, the AWBNigeria team went to Air force Girls Comprehensive School, Airport road to unveil the 5 Telescopes donated to the team by Astronomers Without Borders. All the students of the school were in attendance and they were excited for the opportunity to take a look at the stars. This school participated in the recently concluded Girls Astronomers Camp at Obasanjo Space Center. One of their students, Kabir Ummulkhair Hassan, won the Astronomers Quiz prize.

The students were very organized as they waited for nightfall to take a look at the stars. As they waited, the National Coordinator of AWBNigeria, Mrs. Olayinka Fagbemiro and other AWBNigeria Team members delivered Pep Talk about AWB, Astronomy, and our activities.

On our horizon was Venus, Jupiter, Sirius and Acturus. We battled with Cloud cover as it is currently Rainy season in Nigeria. Nevertheless, the students had the opportunity to take a look at the stars.

We at AWBNigeria are very grateful to Astronomers Without Borders and all the donors for making this possible. We remain committed to spreading Astronomy throughout Nigeria and demystifying the subject of Astronomy and Space Science. Thanks and God bless!


Space Up Nigeria Event

Coming up April 28th, 2018 at University of Lagos, Lagos, Nigeria, SpaceUp Nigeria is a one-day space unconference about the space sector, where participants decide the topics, schedule, and structure of the event. Everyone who attends SpaceUp is encouraged to give a talk, moderate a panel, or start a discussion. Sessions are proposed and scheduled on the day they’re given, which means the usual hallway conversations turn into full-fledged topics.

At SpaceUp, you will meet fellow space enthusiasts and hear from expert panelists

As in any SpaceUp event, you are also encouraged to give a presentation! We welcome the views and opinions from all participants. It’s not as scary as it might sound. Sessions at SpaceUp are conversations, just like every conversation you’ve had (or wanted to have) at any other conference. The only difference is that the sessions are planned on the spot, which means we’re sure to be talking about topics we find interesting.

Sign up here

INAF interviews the National Coordinator AWB Nigeria

The National Institute for Astrophysics, Italy interviewed our ebullient National Coordinator, Mrs. Olayinka Fagbemiro. The interview centered on the level of awareness of Astronomy in Nigeria with particular reference to Rural communities and the myths peddled on the subject matter. In the interview, she also spoke about the activities of Astronomers Without Borders Nigeria and what we aim to achieve. You can bring STEM Education to young girls in Nigeria. Astronomers Without Borders seeks your support for our BIG (Big Impact Giving) micro-crowdfunding campaign to raise $577 to provide 5 Telescopes for an Astronomy camp specifically for girls. https://www.classy.org/campaign/astronomy-girls-camp-nigeria/c176551

Unveiling the Telescope donated by Vixen Co., Ltd Japan

The team was delighted to unveil and test the Telescope donated to AWB Nigeria by Vixen Co., Ltd Japan on Wednesday April 4, 2018. Vixen Co., Ltd has manufactured the most respected line of Telescopes and mounts in Japan since 1949, where it is the number one selling brand. Vixen’s philosophy is to bring happiness to the users of Vixen’s products and they definitely brought happiness to the AWB team and all the students that will have the opportunity to use the Telescope in the near future.

The team was fixated on the user manual and fixed the Telescope in no time. The Telescope will be a great asset for the team and also a driver for the goals of the team. The Team is committed to helping others develop a passion for Astronomy and Space Science and this Telescope will be an invaluable tool for our outreaches and programs.

We want to use this post to thank Vixen Co., Ltd for this gift. We thank them for their commitment to helping others develop a passion for the wonders of the night Sky and the joys of Terrestrial observation. This gift has the potential to have a domino effect of their drive, goals and commitment for Astronomy in Nigeria. Thank you Vixen Co., Ltd.

Space Education: Banky’s Private School

Pupils of Banky’s Private School Apo visited the campus of National Space Research & Development Agency (NASRDA) on Wednesday 28 March, 2018. Engr. Bashir Yusuf and Engr. Adams Maikarfi were in charge of the lecture sessions. The pupils had the opportunity to understand the basics of Space Science and Astronomy. They received lectures on the planets of the solar system, Gravity, Weightlessness and conditions in Space, The International Space Station, Satellites and so many more.

Banky’s Private school pupils
Engr. Bashir with the pupils
Engr. Bashir with the pupils
Banky’s Private school pupils