RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The two largest planets in the solar system are about to make one of the closest passes to each other in hundreds of years and you could see it in December night sky.
Jupiter and Saturn will converge in the west-southwest night sky on Dec. 21, closer than they’ve been to each other since 1623. The two giant planets have not been observed this close since 1226!
A conjunction happens when planets appear very close to each other in the sky because they line up with earth in their planetary orbits.
In order to see the two planets getting closer to one another throughout the month of December, simply look toward the west-southwestern sky about one hour after sunset. On the night of the winter solstice, Dec. 21, Jupiter and Saturn will be extremely close to the western horizon and might even look like one large star.
In actuality, Jupiter and Saturn will still be hundreds of million miles apart. By using high-powered binoculars or a telescope, you will be able to see both planets.
The two planets, which are bright enough on their own, will appear slightly brighter and as one star as they get closer on Dec. 21. That also happens to be the winter solstice — the longest night of the year and the official start of winter in the northern hemisphere. At this point, the two planets will be 0.1° apart. That is about the thickness of a dime held at arm’s length!
Jupiter and Saturn come into conjunction about once every 20 years. Since this conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn happens so seldom it’s referred to as a “great conjunction.”
This year’s “grand” great conjunction will be the greatest for the next 60 years. Jupiter and Saturn will not appear this close until 2080!
The conjunction of these two planets may seem like one star in the nighttime sky, but it will not be excessively bright like some Internet theories have said.
This conjunction has also been called the “Christmas Star” because it is so near the Christian holiday and relates to the biblical tale of the star of Bethlehem.
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