Court Astronomer

A great conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn will appear visibly the closest in the early evening sky of today’s December 21. The last time this ‘double planet’ was observable was all the way back in March of 1226, an age when phenomena of this sort were the portent of doom. One person who may have noticed it was court astrologer William Pierrepont. It was a tense time in England, with young King Henry III worried that King Louis VIII of France would divert his crusade against the Albigensians to conquer Henry’s remaining lands on the continent. His fears were put to rest when William informed him that the alignment of the planets was such that Louis faced death or destruction on his crusade. Sure enough, he caught dysentery and died in November of that year.

The image for this year’s conjunction is courtesy of Chuck Baker, a former shipmate now at JPL.

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