This winter solstice brings us a one-in-lifetime chance to witness a rare astronomical phenomenon called ‘Christmas star’ or, more scientifically, ‘Great conjunction’.
Why Is the Great Conjunction So Rare?
It seems that 2020 has more surprises to give, and not all of them are unfortunate. After Halloween’s blue moon, there comes another celestial event that is even rarer and much more impressive. Moreover, this unique occurrence also falls on the winter solstice.
On 21st December 2020, Jupiter and Saturn will come incredibly close to each other in the evening sky, and this beautiful celestial spectacle hasn’t been visible on Earth for almost 800 years! It is estimated that the last time when it was possible to see this conjunction in the night sky was on March 4, 1226.
In fact, the two planets of our solar system come that close to each other once in 400 years, but the conjunction isn’t always observable at night. As such, estimates show that it also occurred in 1623, during Galileo Galilei’s lifetime, but the conjunction appeared too close to the sun, so most likely, it was nearly impossible to spot.
This time, everyone will be able to see it with the naked eye!
The conjunction also coincides with the winter solstice, which adds a mystical shade to this unique celestial event. Yet, according to scientists, it’s a mere coincidence and we should not seek any hidden astrological meaning in this extremely rare happening.
Will Jupiter and Saturn Look Like a Single ‘Christmas Star’?
It is assumed that the two planets may appear as a single object for some people around the globe – it all depends on your location and weather conditions, as well as your eyesight after all. Since nothing similar has ever happened in our lifetime, it’s impossible to know for sure what it will look like.
At the same time, many astronomers believe that Jupiter and Saturn won’t be close enough to form one ‘Christmas star’.
Interestingly, there are some theories claiming that the biblical Star of Bethlehem could have been nothing but another Great Conjunction. Christians all over the world believe that a bright star in the night sky led Three Wise Men to the place where Jesus was born.
How to Watch the Great Conjunction?
The beautiful phenomenon has already been visible since December 16 in most parts of the world, but on the night of the winter solstice, the distance between Jupiter and Saturn will be the slightest for observers from Earth.
Of course, the planets won’t actually come closer to each other – the distance between them is approximately 456 million miles. But they will just appear so in Earth’s night sky.
If the weather conditions in your region are good enough for watching the spectacular ‘Christmas star’, NASA recommends looking at the southwestern sky one hour after sunset.
It would be great if you could find some kind of open space or a spot with an unobstructed view. At the same time, since Jupiter and Saturn appear like bright stars, the phenomenon will be easily visible even in the cities.
Jupiter is larger and closer to Earth, so it appears brighter than Saturn, but both planets can be observed with the naked eye.
Even though this conjunction happens for the first time after 800 years, the next one is estimated to take place as early as 2080. After that though, another chance to witness Jupiter and Saturn that close to each other will come in 2400.
Watch the video below to learn more about the Great Conjunction and how it works:
Will you watch the ‘Christmas star‘? Do you put any metaphysical meaning into this unique astronomical phenomenon? Please share your opinion with us in the comment box.
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