December 11, 2020 – 6:00 AM
In December of this year, sky-lovers will enjoy the night as a celestial event not witnessed since Genghis Khan ruled Asia later this month.
On December 21, coinciding with the winter solstice, Jupiter and Saturn will appear closer in Earth’s night sky than they have been since 1226 AD.
The planets have been this close since then – in 1623 – but at the time of this conjunction, they were too close to the Sun to be seen.
Although conjugations are common in astronomy, this connection is special due to the proximity with which the two gas giants paired.
According to Astronomy.com, the two largest planets in our solar system will appear to be nearly merging in the night sky, slowly converging into each other every day between now and December 21.
Astronomers call it the Great Conjunction of 2020. On December 21, Saturn and Jupiter will be sitting about one degree apart, or about a fifth of the width of the moon. They will be very close and will appear as one planet
Both planets can be seen in the southwest sky just after sunset, 20 degrees above the horizon.
As an added bonus, you don’t have to stay up midnight to witness the pairing, which is best seen soon after sunset.
The next big pairing is expected to happen in 2080.
The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada created a GIF of two planets approaching each other during the month of December, and it can be viewed on the Facebook page of the Royal Astronomical Society.
There is no astronomical meaning for this month’s great connection, although it is believed that a similar astronomical event that may have occurred around the time of Jesus’ birth might be an interpretation of a “Christmas star.”
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