A CHRISTMAS STAR
For the first time in hundreds of years, a unique alignment of two planets – creating a special “Christmas Star” for all to see.
What To Know:
- Mark your calendar: Monday, Dec. 21st.
- The two largest planets in our solar system will appear “exceedingly” close together in the Earth’s night sky.
- Jupiter & Saturn – though remaining 450+ million miles apart – might even appear as an elongated star.
- Astronomers call it the “great conjunction” – it will be *most* visible for an hour after sunset.
“You can imagine the solar system to be a racetrack, with each of the planets as a runner in their own lane and the Earth toward the center of the stadium. From our vantage point, we’ll be able to be to see Jupiter on the inside lane, approaching Saturn all month and finally overtaking it on Dec. 21.”
Astronomer Henry Throop, Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
Why It Matters:
2020 is truly historic: it’s been 800 years since a comparable great conjunction occurred at night, and the planets haven’t appeared to be THIS close (just a tenth of a degree apart) in 400 years.
No telescope needed: Although occurring every 20 years, this alignment is rarely visible from Earth; the next time we’ll be able to witness a similar event will be March 2080.
Timing is everything! Is this similar to how the biblical “Star of Bethlehem” may have looked on Christmas night when Jesus was born? Astronomers can’t be sure, but believe a similar conjunction occurred around 6 or 7 BC. Regardless, whatever your faith, location, or point of view – we can all witness this “star” together.
by Jenna Lee,