Jupiter and Saturn will reunite after 800 years on the shortest day of the year to form a rare 'Christmas star'

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Jupiter and Saturn will reunite after 800 years on the shortest day of the year to form a rare 'Christmas star'
Jupiter and Saturn as set to align in the 'greatest of all great conjunctions' on December 21NASA
  • Jupiter and Saturn are set to reunite tonight, on the night of the winter solstice, for the first time in 800 years.
  • On December 21, two of the largest planets in our solar system will come close enough to make it look like they are only a coin’s width apart from Earth. In reality, Jupiter and Saturn will be 400 million miles apart.
  • The alignment will create a radiant point of light in the night sky. It is being dubbed as the ‘Christmas Star’ or the ‘Star of Bethlehem’ due to the proximity of the celestial event to Christmas. In India, the conjunction is likely to be visible between 6:30 pm and 7:30 pm.
Two of the biggest planets in our solar system, Jupiter and Saturn, will be reunited for the first time in 800 years on the longest night of the year — or the shortest day — in 2020.

The winter solstice, set to occur on December 21, will see these two planets align for the first time since the middle ages. The last time such a December conjunction took place was back in 1226.

Jupiter and Saturn will reunite after 800 years on the shortest day of the year to form a rare 'Christmas star'
The expected position of Jupiter and Saturn over the horizon in North America on December 21NASA

The two planets will inch closer to each other until they’re only a tenth of a degree apart in the night sky, which is roughly the same thickness as a coin, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration ( NASA). They will be visible nearly an hour after sunset in the southwestern sky.
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In India, the conjunction is likely to be visible between 6:30 pm and 7:30 pm.

The greatest of all great conjunctions
To be fair, Jupiter and Saturn align every 20 years or so. The event is dubbed the ‘great conjunction’. However, this year is the first time they’ll be lining up in the month of December and it’s the closest the planets have been since 1623.

According to NASA, it's the ‘greatest’ of all great conjunctions between Jupiter and Saturn. Astronomers and sky gazers will be able to see the two giant planets and their moons within the same field of view by just using a telescope or a pair of binoculars.
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Jupiter and Saturn will reunite after 800 years on the shortest day of the year to form a rare 'Christmas star'
Jupiter, Saturn and their moons with be closer than they ever have been in 800 years on 21 December 2020NASA

Even though Jupiter and Saturn will be 400 million miles apart, they’ll create a radiant point of light in the night sky from Earth’s point of view.

This phenomenon is being called the ‘Christmas Star’ or the ‘Star of Bethlehem’ due to the proximity of the event to Christmas.

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Amy C Oliver, the spokesperson for the Center of Astrophysics at Harvard and the Smithsonian, told the New York Times that the next time Jupiter and Saturn would be this close will be in 2080 — 60 years down the line.

So while the wait will be shorter this time around, for most adults, this is still a once in a lifetime opportunity.

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