- An incredibly rare astronomical event is expected on the evening of December 21, when Saturn and Jupiter will get very close in the sky.
- The two planets will be so close from our point of view that they will appear as if they were a single point of light in the sky, known to some as the “Christmas Star”.
- The last time the two planets aligned in this way was in the year 1226, so it’s truly a once-in-a-lifetime event.
2020 didn’t give us many reasons to be happy with just about anything. A global pandemic, general social and political unrest and many suffering people have led humanity to recover on multiple fronts. In a little positive news, it looks like a particularly rare celestial event will give all of us a reason to look up at the sky on December 21, giving us a short break from, well, everything else.
That night, two of the largest planets in our solar system, Jupiter and Saturn, will be close and close. In fact, they will be so incredibly close that they will appear as a “double planet,” according to Rice University astronomer Patrick Hartigan. This is something that hasn’t happened for hundreds of years and will truly be a sight to behold.
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Due to the nature of the way planets orbit the Sun, the proximity of two planets to each other varies greatly over many years. In the case of Earth and Mars, our two worlds are close enough to launch missions from our planet to the Red Planet approximately every two years. For Jupiter and Saturn, the two planets “align” from our point of view only about every 20 years.
“Alignments between these two planets are quite rare, occurring once every 20 years or so, but this conjunction is exceptionally rare due to how close the planets will appear to each other,” Hartigan said in one. declaration. “You should go back until dawn on March 4, 1226, to see a closer alignment between these objects visible in the night sky.”
It will take a long time before that happens again, and if you are even casually interested in astronomy, it is worth doing everything possible to catch a glimpse of the “Christmas Star” during its brief appearance. Sure, you’ll get a better shot if you’ve got nice binoculars or even a small telescope, and time will have to cooperate, but if you’re lucky on your side it’ll definitely be worth seeing.
“On the evening of the closest approach, December 21, they will look like a double planet, separated by only 1/5 the diameter of the full moon,” Hartigan explains. “For most telescope viewers, each planet and many of their larger moons will be visible in the same field of view that evening.”