Christmas Star set to make first appearance in 800 years on Monday

Katie Ramirez
December 20, 2020

Astronomers call what can be seen in the evening sky on December 21st this year a great connection. Don't worry, city-dwellers - Jupiter and Saturn are so bright, NASA estimates you'll be able to view the conjecture from most cities.

On the night of December 21, the winter solstice, Jupiter and Saturn will appear so closely aligned in our sky that they will look like a double planet. The fact that this event is happening during the winter solstice is pure coincidence, according to NASA. So it is less than any other day of the year.

After that, the days slowly begin to get longer until the 2021 summer solstice - the first day of summer - on June 20, when the sun reaches its northernmost point in the sky and daylight will last 15 hours, 4 minutes and 54 seconds. This marks a real turning point, as the sun will gradually rise again in its orbit.

The winter solstice is the shortest day in the Northern Hemisphere but not the day with the latest sunrise and earliest sunset. In contrast, the region is nearly 16 hours dark.

"By the time skies are fully dark in Houston, for example, the conjunction will be just 9 degrees above the horizon", Hartigan said. It represents the position of two celestial stars in a line with the earth.

Because each planet in the solar system has its own orbital period-the time it takes to complete its rotation around the sun-the orbits of individual planets don't coincide with each other very often. When Jupiter and Saturn are on opposite sides of the solar system from one another, they are around 14 AUs apart.

"The maneuver ahead this year is special".

On that date the two huge planets will only be separated by one tenth of a degree. Such predicament occurs once every 20 years. Saturn will be slightly fainter and will appear slightly above and to the left of Jupiter.

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Is this the return of the Star of Bethlehem?

Reason: By 6 BC there was already a great connection that could be clearly seen.

Rare planetary alignments can create a "Christmas star" similar to the one that is said to have guided the Three Sages. But it can not be proven.

The 2020 "Christmas Star" will be a great conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn on December 21, when, from our view on Earth, the two planets will appear at their closest in centuries.

As Jupiter's and Saturn's 12- and 29-year orbits bring them together they will appear low in the western sky. According to calculations, something announced for 2080 will not happen until dawn, so it will be very bright for observation. "Viewing that would be manageable if the weather cooperates and you have an unobstructed view to the southwest".

Nasa, the United States space agency, said people should look for them low in the south-west in the hour after sunset when "the two giant planets will appear just a tenth of a degree apart - that's about the thickness of a coin held at arm's length".

The alignment of Jupiter and Saturn will occur on Monday, December 21, and will be visible from anywhere on Earth - though conditions will be best near the equator.

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