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Astronomy event to feature ‘great conjunction’

Although they’re actually about 403 million miles apart, planets Jupiter and Saturn will meet in what astronomers call a “great conjunction” on Dec. 21.

From the vantage point here on the “third rock,” the two gas giants will appear only a 10th of a degree apart on the first day of winter.

To celebrate this “meeting,” First Miracle winery and StarGeezer Astronomy will host the winter solstice/great conjunction wine-tasting star-gazing party Friday evening at 5:30.

According to astronomer Mark Steven Williams, “The last time these two planets appeared this close together was 1623, just 13 years after Galileo observed Jupiter through his telescope and discovered Jove’s four Galilean moons.”

Following the wine tasting at 5:30, Williams’ “What’s Up” presentation will preview the evening’s star-gazing activities, highlight astronomy and space news with quizzes for prizes, including framed astronomy prints or a bottle of First Miracle wine.

Rumor has it milk chocolate stars will be available for snacking.

“After the presentation, wine tasting and treats, we’ll head outdoors to the telescope, view the conjunction, waxing crescent moon, Mars, the Andromeda galaxy and tour some winter constellations,” Williams said. “The telescope will be set up with a smartphone adapter which will allow us to image the moon and planets with your phone.”

Rain, snow, extreme cold or cloudy weather will cancel the event. A “go/no go” decision will be announced tomorrow (Thursday). Williams said he uses special observing/sky conditions forecasting.

Those who attend are encouraged to dress warmly and bring hand warmers.

If conditions warrant, this event may be moved to Saturday at 5:30 p.m.

Admission will be $15 per person, $10 for military and first responders (I.D. required) or $30 per family (four persons). Admission will include wine tasting.

The kitchen at First Miracle will be open.

Registration may be completed for $1 online at

First Miracle winery is located at 8518 S. Kays Chapel Road near Fredericksburg. The phone number is 865-660-2488.

For more science/astronomy information about upcoming celestial events, visit the Stargeezer Astronomy Facebook page.