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double planet

Rare “Double Planet” Event to Light Up the Sky This Month


Many international and American National Standards help to bring the dazzling sight into view

The galaxy has a bright treat in store for Earth dwellers as 2020 draws to a close: Jupiter and Saturn will come closer together than they have in the past 800 years, forming a spectacular “double planet” on the winter solstice.

Although the alignment actually took place a few weeks ago, from Earth's perspective, the planets will move closer and closer together in the next few weeks until they are only 0.1 degrees apart on December 21. This will make Jupiter and Saturn visible together in a telescope – even an amateur telescope with the right eyepiece – as they form a stunningly bright “double planet.” This phenomenon hasn’t happened since 1623, and won’t occur again until 2080.

Many international and American National Standards help to bring this dazzling sight into view. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) develops standards that support both amateur and professional telescopes through its Technical Committee (TC) 172, Optics and photonics, subcommittee (SC) 4, Telescopic systems. The Optics and Electro-Optics Standards Council (OEOSC), a member and accredited standards developer of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), serves as the ANSI-accredited U.S. Technical Advisory Group (TAG) administrator to TC 172. Standards developed by this TC/SC include:

  • ISO 14134:2006, Optics and optical instruments - Specifications for astronomical telescopes
  • ISO 9336-3:2020, Optics and photonics - Optical transfer function - Application - Part 3: Telescopes

Standards also support new discoveries in outer space. As spacecrafts are launched to explore the universe, the attributes and quality of materials used in these vehicles is hugely important in promoting a successful mission. One standard that contributes to these missions is ANSI/NEMA WC 27500-2015, Aerospace And Industrial Electrical Cable, which contains requirements for finished aerospace and industrial electrical cables. The standard was developed by the High Performance Wire and Cable section of the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) as a nongovernmental standard replacement for MIL-DTL-27500 electrical cable, which is widely used in aerospace and other industries. ANSI member SAE has also developed many standards that guide materials used in space exploration, such as SAE ARP 6287-2018, Environmental Degradation of Composite Materials, one of several Aerospace Recommended Practices (ARP) published by SAE.

Space exploration has always sparked the imagination of millions, and the emerging commercial space industry may soon make private space travel for recreational purposes a reality. To raise awareness of relevant policies and standardization activity related to this topic, ANSI is holding a virtual meeting on standardization and the commercial space industry on Monday, December 7. It is open to all; registration is required. The meeting will feature government, industry, non-governmental, academic, and other perspectives on policy instruments, industry standards, and best practices, as well as moderated, interactive discussion.

“ANSI looks forward to convening this meeting of public- and private-sector stakeholders to discuss significant standardization and policy issues that must be addressed to help enable the continued growth of the commercial space industry sector,” said ANSI president and CEO S. Joe Bhatia.

Read more about the upcoming “double planet” phenomenon on and Popular Mechanics.


Jana Zabinski

Senior Director, Communications & Public Relations


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Beth Goodbaum

Journalist/Communications Specialist


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