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How to watch Saturn and Jupiter's 'great conjunction' in Saskatchewan – CBC.ca

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The “Christmas Star” is visibly returning for the first time since the Middle Ages — and like the three wise men in the Nativity story, Saskatchewan skywatchers will be able to see the astronomical event this month.

What’s been popularly called the “Christmas Star” is known to astronomers as a “great conjunction,” and occurs when Jupiter and Saturn — our solar system’s biggest planets — align in such a way that they appear to merge in our night sky.

Dec. 21 will mark the first time in 800 years that the event will be visible to anyone worldwide. Even in Saskatchewan.

“The planets align every 20 years, but never this close” to each other, said Ron Waldron, president of the Saskatoon Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. 

This conjunction is the closest between the two planets since 1623, according to NASA — but that conjunction wasn’t visible from Earth at night.

Johannes Kepler, a 17th-century German astronomer, calculated these conjunctions back to the first decade BC, which is how the event became linked to the Christmas Star story. 

That’s where the idea that the Christmas Star was actually a great conjunction comes from, says Daryl Janzen, an astronomy professor at the University of Saskatchewan.

“This one is also occurring around Christmas time,” he said, and on the winter solstice.

Where to find the conjunction

The conjunction is actually happening now, but Saturn and Jupiter will appear to align on Dec. 21.

“Everybody should start watching on the 20th and then finish watching it around Christmas Eve. If you do that and get a clear night out of that, you’ll see them close together and moving together,” Waldron said.

Pick an unobstructed view and look to the horizon at around 5:30 p.m., or right after the sun sets. 

“It will be visible as long as you can see right down to the horizon in the southwest,” Janzen said.  “The further south you go in the province, the better it will be.”

Waldron says it’s not necessary to leave the city to see the event, but he recommends going to a park in your neighbourhood where there’s a clear view of where the sun sets. 

Can I see it with the naked eye? 

Yes, as long as the sky is clear.

“Jupiter is going to overtake Saturn from our point of view,” said Waldron.” But this time it is passing so close from our point of view it’s going to look like a single planet in the sky, or perhaps an elongated planet, as the two of them appear to merge in the sky.”

This image shows what Jupiter — with four of its moons — and Saturn will look like during the great conjunction on Dec. 21 as seen through a pair of binoculars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The 17th-century Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei discovered Jupiter’s four moons just before the 1623 conjunction.

“That little telescope he had was basically as good as any binoculars today,” said Pierre Schierle, president of the Regina Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.

“What you’ll want to look for, if you’re looking through binoculars on Saturday, is four little dots that will look like stars and will be a straight line. That will be the giveaway that those are the moons.”

Jupiter’s moon will be clearer if you use a telescope, as will Saturn’s rings.

Just about any telescope will do the trick, says Waldron.

“They’re very striking planets in a telescope, because Jupiter sports huge bands of clouds in a telescope and Saturn has that gorgeous ring system that takes everybody’s breath away,” he said.

“So to get the two in one is amazing.”

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B.C. researchers find evidence of ancient predatory sand worms that were two metres long – National Post

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The trace fossils showed feather-like structures around the upper parts of the burrows, which the researchers believe would have been caused by the worms dragging their struggling prey under the ocean floor to eat them.

The lower, horizontal part of the burrow. Photo by Yu-Yen Pan /Simon Frazer University

The study’s lead author, earth sciences student Yu-Yen Pan, said the giant burrows are much larger than other trace fossils of ocean worms found in the past.

“Compared to other trace fossils which are usually only a few tens of centimetres long, this one was huge; two-metres long and two to three centimetres in diameter,” she said in a press release. “The distinctive, feather-like structures around the upper burrow were also unique and no previously studied trace fossil has shown similar features.”

The researchers say that these worms likely would have fed similarly to the bobbit worm, often called the “sand striker.”

Bobbit worms wait in their burrow for unsuspecting prey, then explode upwards, grabbing the prey in their mouths and pulling them back down into the sediment.

Field excursion at Yehliu, Taiwan. Photo by Masakazu Nara /Simon Frazer University

The researchers also found evidence that led them to believe the worms secreted mucus after each feeding that rebuilt and reinforced their burrows, allowing them to lie in wait for their next victim without being seen.

Pan and an international team that studies the ancient sea floor has named the homes of these worms Pennichnus formosae.

According to the study, previous research on Eunicid polychaetes, the family that these ancient worms and bobbit worms belong to, was limited because they only stuck a small portion of their bodies out from the ocean floor.

These trace fossils have allowed researchers to better understand the activity and habits of the ancient species.

Predatory ocean worms have existed for over 400 million years, and while these ancient burrows are long when compared to others that had previously been studied, giant marine worms are not just creatures of the ancient past.

Bobbit worms can grow up to three metres long themselves, and lay in their burrows just beneath the ocean floor today.

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B.C. researchers find evidence of ancient predatory sand worms that were two metres long – Saskatoon StarPhoenix

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Article content continued

The trace fossils showed feather-like structures around the upper parts of the burrows, which the researchers believe would have been caused by the worms dragging their struggling prey under the ocean floor to eat them.

The lower, horizontal part of the burrow. Photo by Yu-Yen Pan /Simon Frazer University

The study’s lead author, earth sciences student Yu-Yen Pan, said the giant burrows are much larger than other trace fossils of ocean worms found in the past.

“Compared to other trace fossils which are usually only a few tens of centimetres long, this one was huge; two-metres long and two to three centimetres in diameter,” she said in a press release. “The distinctive, feather-like structures around the upper burrow were also unique and no previously studied trace fossil has shown similar features.”

The researchers say that these worms likely would have fed similarly to the bobbit worm, often called the “sand striker.”

Bobbit worms wait in their burrow for unsuspecting prey, then explode upwards, grabbing the prey in their mouths and pulling them back down into the sediment.

Field excursion at Yehliu, Taiwan. Photo by Masakazu Nara /Simon Frazer University

The researchers also found evidence that led them to believe the worms secreted mucus after each feeding that rebuilt and reinforced their burrows, allowing them to lie in wait for their next victim without being seen.

Pan and an international team that studies the ancient sea floor has named the homes of these worms Pennichnus formosae.

According to the study, previous research on Eunicid polychaetes, the family that these ancient worms and bobbit worms belong to, was limited because they only stuck a small portion of their bodies out from the ocean floor.

These trace fossils have allowed researchers to better understand the activity and habits of the ancient species.

Predatory ocean worms have existed for over 400 million years, and while these ancient burrows are long when compared to others that had previously been studied, giant marine worms are not just creatures of the ancient past.

Bobbit worms can grow up to three metres long themselves, and lay in their burrows just beneath the ocean floor today.

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ESC Algonquin students auctioning of quilts for a worthy cause – BayToday.ca

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A group of grade 11 Algonquin high school students has started a unique fundraising auction that will take place online Friday through the ESC Algonquin’s Facebook page. 

Emilie Perron, and her classmates have helped created custom-made quilts that will be auctioned off to support five charities including Wounded Warriors, One Kids Place, The Nipissing Transition House, #NoahStrong and the Crisis Centre.  

“A lot of people, including our teachers, staff, and the whole school board are proud of us,” Emilie told BayToday.  

“Many people in the community feel the same way. We just hope we can reach more of the community and get more people to be aware of this project that we are doing.”  

As part of their grade 11 English course, this authentic and engaging project known as “Barons Quilts for Causes” was presented to students in September in order to raise their awareness of the importance of good citizenship.

The community-oriented project was designed to develop core skills such as collaboration, communication, and creative thinking as well as inspire kindness, hope, compassion, and service.

In addition, with the expertise, equipment and efforts of Mrs. Kelly Schroeder from The Cottage Quilter, students successfully fabricated five beautiful quilts for this fundraiser.

Perron says the students were even more engaged since the project gave the students a chance to express themselves through the quilts.  

“We could pick group members that reflect well with our personal beliefs,” said Perron.  

“Each group then picked a quilt pattern and chose an organization they all stood by. We have been working hard since the beginning of September to ensure a good quality project that will bring success. Our goal as a group is to be able to raise the most amount of money possible to maximize the impact of this project. In order for us to be successful in raising money for the organizations, we will need an ample amount of publicity.”

Dr. Emily Weiskopf-Ball, the project leader and English teacher at the school, has been impressed by the student’s enthusiasm for the project. 

“I congratulate the students for having such an open mind and being so willing to undertake such a great challenge as well as the other partners who accepted to work with us,” said Dr Weiskopf-Ball.

Bids must be made directly to ÉSC Algonquin’s Facebook page before 4 p.m. on Friday, January 22, 2021.

Here is the link to our website HERE or to the Algonquin Facebook page. 

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