Science

Jupiter and Saturn Great Conjunction Viewing…

Jupiter and Saturn Great Conjunction Viewing…”

Even though the actual distance between Jupiter and Saturn isn't changing, their juxtaposition in the night sky has Jupiter in effect catching up to Saturn, meaning the light visible from the two planets will be getting closer and closer until they reach their closest point on December 21st.

Just such an event is happening now.

Jupiter and Saturn will remain visible for the next fortnight, but grow further apart.

They'll be so close they will look like a single bright star, the Perth Observatory explains.

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The rare planetary convergence coincides with Australia's summer solstice, which happens once a year in December when then sun's track across our sky reaches its highest point.

It's called the Great Conjunction, when the paths of the Milky Way's largest planets line up. Well, we looked at 20,000 years worth of conjunctions (it's what we do for fun) and found 58 close (less than 10' apart) conjunctions of Jupiter and Saturn over 200 centuries, with only 11 in the 2000 year span from 1000 AD to 3000 AD... but only 5 that are closer than the conjunction in 2020.

So is this a recreation of the real Christmas star? Not exactly. A similar conjunction between Jupiter and Venus is among astronomers' theories.

"This is extremely exciting because it is the closest the two planets have appeared since 1623".

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If you've been on social media much lately you've probably scrolled past a few stories highlighting a "Christmas Star" that will be visible this month.

Don't want to miss this historic conjunction?

Just a few days before Christmas, Jupiter and Saturn will appear so close together that they will look nearly like a single star in the evening sky in an event known as a "Great Conjunction".

On December 18 the planets will set by 6.28pm GMT.

These "trines" or triads of great conjunctions held great sway over Kepler's thinking, leading him to suggest that the Star of Bethlehem was related to a close pairing of Jupiter and Saturn in 7 B.C.in Pisces the Fishes, a sign long associated with Judaism.

You'll be better off hoping for a clear sky on Monday evening to see if you can catch a glimpse!

No telescope necessary (but it's worth it if you have one). The planets are bright enough to be seen with the naked eye, so dark skies and special equipment are not required.

If you've got a small backyard telescope, this is the time to set it up, because next week, you'll witness something you may never witness again. "So, couple with the timing and the position in the solar system, it's going to be very impressive and this particular type of display has not been seen since Galileo was viewing Jupiter and Saturn in the first telescopes over 400 years ago".



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