We have seen a few great photos of the “Great Conjunction” between Jupiter and Saturn. There is even one photo with the International Space Station splitting the space right between the two planets.
But, this is a first. As you may recall, on December 21st, we have a once in 800 years event when Jupiter and Saturn appeared especially close in the night sky. Unlike any earthly photos that we have seen, NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) captured a stunner image from space.
The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera, or LROC, is a system of three cameras mounted on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). Their prime mission is to capture lunar surface images. It was launched in 2009, and it’s the same vehicle that brought us the new “Blue Marvel” back in 2016. This specific image was captured by its Narrow-Angle Camera (NAC), which has a focal length of about 700mm.
The photo above is actually slightly manipulated since Jupiter was about four times brighter than Saturn. In the photo above, Saturn was brightened to match the brightness of Jupiter. If you look closely at the right photo, you’ll see a small blotch just above Jupiter – that is Saturn’s actual brightness.
And this is how the planets and moons are aligned in relation to each other:
[Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera via space.com, image credits: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University]