Great conjunction something special for sky-watchers

Katie Ramirez
December 21, 2020

It's not really a star at all - it's a convergence of Jupiter and Saturn - but due to their close proximity they will appear to the naked eye to be one, single bright star.

As they pass each other in the sky, the planets will be the closest they've been to each other in almost 400 years. Since Jupiter and Saturn are bright planets, they can also be sighted from cities.

The planets Jupiter and Saturn will be at the closest possible distance to each other on Monday (December 21, 2020), in what is being called the greatest celestial marvel in centuries.

Conjunctions occur fairly often as Earth and its planetary neighbours wheel around the sun at different rates, forming an ever-shifting pattern of moving lights around the night sky. The last time it happened was in 1623, 13 years after Galileo Galilei built his first telescope, when it was given the name 'The Great Conjunction'.

To see the conjunction, you will need to find a spot with an unobstructed western horizon.

"You really want to get into a position where you can see clearly down to the south-west, and look for this attractive appearance of these two huge planets".

NASA handout shows Moon (L), Saturn (upperR), Jupiter (lowerR), as they are seen after sunset.

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"This is so close that in en eyepiece of a telescope, you'll be able to see storms on Jupiter and the rings of Saturn at the same time, with perhaps five moons visible between the two planets". In reality, the two planets will be nowhere near each other. But the planets align roughly every 20 years. "Jupiter will look like a bright star and be easily visible", NASA explains.

Despite appearances, Jupiter and Saturn will actually be more than 450 million miles (730 million kilometres) apart.

Bengaluru's Jawaharlal Nehru Planetarium has said it will live stream the viewing of the great conjunction on YouTube and Facebook channel (https://www.taralaya.org/) if weather permits.

Griffin said anywhere with clear skies tonight and tomorrow night would make for perfect viewing, ideally looking towards the southwest. The planets are visible with the naked eye.

A statue stands in the foreground as Saturn, top, and Jupiter, below, are seen after sunset on December 18, 2020, in Kansas City, Mo. But most people were not well positioned to see it. But it is. This year, the two planets would be 0.1 degrees apart in the sky.

However, the weather may be against astronomers in the Netherlands this evening. NASA has some photography tips for all of the sky-gazers who are looking to capture great shots of Saturn and Jupiter tonight.

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