This year’s Christmas will offer us an unreal cosmic experience. Set up your telescope because something incredible is about to happen!
On Christmas week, between 16th and 25th December, Jupiter and Saturn will get closer to each other in Earth’s night sky than they have been for nearly 800 years. As Science Alert reveals, this celestial synchronization has been in the works since summer as Jupiter and Saturn have been moving closer together. The space between the two planets will appear to be only 1/5th the diameter of a full moon.
Astronomer Patrick Hartigan from Rice University explains:
“Alignments between these two planets are rather rare, occurring once every 20 years or so, but this conjunction is exceptionally rare because of how close the planets will appear to one another. You’d have to go all the way back to just before dawn on March 4, 1226, to see a closer alignment between these objects visible in the night sky.”
The unique alignment will be visible from anywhere on Earth, as long as the skies are clear.
However, the striking sight will be best seen from near the Equator.
Jupiter and Saturn will show up in the night sky for about an hour after sunset each evening. Hartigan advises:
“On the evening of closest approach on Dec 21 they will look like a double planet, separated by only 1/5th the diameter of the full moon. For most telescope viewers, each planet and several of their largest moons will be visible in the same field of view that evening. The further north a viewer is, the less time they’ll have to catch a glimpse of the conjunction before the planets sink below the horizon.”
The fifth and the sixth planets of the Solar System will be bright enough in the sky to be visible in the twilight. You may need to use a special app, for instance, Stellarium, to guide you on where exactly you should be looking from your location.
Make sure you don’t miss this spectacular celestial event because the next time such a synchronization will occur will be in 2080. While this may sound fairly soon, the following one won’t happen until the year 2400.