Rare ‘Christmas Star’ to be visible from Earth for the first time in 800 years. Jupiter and Saturn will appear to merge and create a single bright point in the cosmos on December 21, which happens to be the winter solstice, the longest night of the year
A “Christmas star” will be visible in the night sky for the first time in 800 years this month.
Jupiter and Saturn will appear to merge and create a single bright point in the cosmos which can be seen from Earth on December 21.
The gas giants will be just 0.1 degree apart in our home planet’s sky, allowing telescopes to pick up on both in the same field of view.
The last time the solar system’s two largest planets had such a close encounter was back in 1623, but astronomers believe it was likely not visible at the time due to the position of the sun.
In fact it was centuries earlier in 1226 that the “Great Conjunction” was last able to be seen with the naked eye.
The conjunction between the two planets happens every 20 years, but atmospheric conditions and the position of other heavenly bodies often interfere with our ability to watch it.
Jupiter and Saturn were too close to the sky to be easily observed from Earth last time it happened, which was back in 2000.
The Great Conjunction of 2020 will coincidentally take place on the winter solstice, the longest night of the year in the northern hemisphere.
Stargazers are praying for clear skies as they train their eyes and telescopes on the southwestern sky at sunset.
NASA said Jupiter and Saturn have “gradually moved closer to each other” in the last few months and will be just a “fifth of a full moon apart” at their closest point.
“Keep in mind that while the two gas giants may appear close, in reality they are hundreds of millions of miles apart,” NASA said.
“This will be quite a striking sight, but you will need to look fast as both planets will set shortly after sunset.
“Look above the western horizon after sunset for these bright, close planets – a clear view will help!”
Weather permitting, the huge planets will appear to inch closer to one another from December 17, when they’ll be joined by a crescent moon.