Fact check: Images of Saturn, Jupiter are real, taken from Massachusetts telescope
The claim: Image shows conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter
A viral image made available to Facebook is said to show the convergence of Jupiter and Saturn, with the two planets standing closer together than they have been for centuries.
"The best photo I've seen of the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn from an observatory in Chile," said a Facebook post on December 23 with over 700 shares. Enclosed with the text is an alleged photo of the phenomenon, which @gm_astrophotography credits.
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USA TODAY has asked the Facebook user and the @gm_astrophotography account on Instagram for a comment.
Fact Check: The viral photo of the star is an illustration and was not captured by the Hubble Telescope
Special effect added to the picture
The account @gm_astrophotography originally shared the picture on December 21st and provided an explanation behind it.
"This is what the conjunction looks like through my little 72 mm refractor telescope," wrote the report along with a number of images from the conjunction. "Notice the brightly colored deflection tips that come off the planets. They are unique in the fact that the deflection tips can be different depending on the shape and size of the planet!"
Diffraction peaks in astrophotography are "artifacts" that show up in images of brighter stars, where rays of light pass through an obstacle on the camera lens and are bent, causing the light to spread to capture a better picture of the sky, according to Photographing Space. In other words, in an image of a star or planet, it is the straight rays of light that point in four directions from the object.
Humans take off against the sky at dusk as they observe the alignment of Saturn and Jupiter on Monday, December 21, 2020 in Edgerton, Kan.
The Instagram user explained that the conjunctive image of Saturn and Jupiter, each with prominent peaks, was captured using tape and rubber bands stretched across the front of the refractor in a symmetrical pattern of a simple cross to add a little more to the image. ""
The account owner added in the comments that the photo was taken in Massachusetts - not an observatory in Chile as claimed by the Facebook user.
What was the conjunction?
The last time Jupiter and Saturn came this close was in 1623. The conjunction peaked on December 21st. However, the planets appeared closer than the diameter of a full moon by December 25, the US reported TODAY.
The two planets had already moved closer together by 2020, and although the gas giants appear close together, they are still millions of miles apart in space reality, according to the Night Sky Network.
"Alignments between these two planets are rare, occurring about every 20 years. This conjunction is exceptionally rare because the planets are close together," said Rice University astronomer Patrick Hartigan, USA TODAY earlier this month.
Fact check: NASA's warning of six days of darkness is a joke
Our rating: correct
The image that claims to show the connection between Jupiter and Saturn is real and is believed to be TRUE based on our research. The picture shows the conjunction on its peak night; A photo technique with a symmetrical pattern gives the picture a special effect. The photo was taken from Massachusetts. Claims that the picture was taken at an observatory in Chile are partially false.
Our fact-checking sources:
@gm_astrophotography, Dec 21, Instagram post
USA TODAY, December 23, 7 stunning photos show Jupiter and Saturn as 'double planets' in Great Conjunction
USA TODAY, December 3rd, worlds align this winter solstice: Jupiter and Saturn will look like a "double planet" on Monday
Night Sky Network, December 21st, Jupiter and Saturn Conjuction
Photographing space, how to create diffraction peaks on stars with a refractor [Legit]
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This article originally appeared in the US TODAY: Fact Check: Pictures of Saturn, Jupiter with special effects are real
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