This is a once in a life time event that you will surely NOT want to miss!
From December 18-23, Jupiter and Saturn will have a close conjunction in the sky, peaking on the nights of December 20 and 21! Not only will they appear so close to one another, but they’ll be easily visible at the same time through a telescope!
A conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn is called a “Great Conjunction” as they are the two biggest planets, and the two most distant you can see with the naked eye. Despite their true distances from Earth, they are both big enough and close enough to appear as bright stars to the naked eye.
The two planets will put on a dazzling display, a cosmic holiday present if you will! Even though Jupiter and Saturn will appear super close together in the sky, Jupiter will be 473 million miles (762 million km) and Saturn will be just over a billion miles (1.6 billion km) away!
From December 12 through December 28, Jupiter and Saturn will be within a degree from each other, which is impressive enough. For two weeks, you’ll be able to cover both planets with the width of your pinky finger! You’ll also easily be able to catch the two planets through a telescope at the same time. From 12/12 to the 12/20, Jupiter will appear to approach Saturn, and after the 21st, Jupiter will appear to shift away. Due to their slower orbits causing slow shifts along the ecliptic, this gives viewers many chances to check out the sight in the southwestern sky shortly after dusk.
Mark Your Dates For the 20th and/or 21st!
Great Conjunctions happen every 20 years or so. But what makes this particular Great Conjunction so special is how CLOSE the two objects will appear. They will be 6 arc-minutes apart from each other (a tenth of a degree) on the night of December 20, 2020. That means to the naked eye, they will almost appear to merge into a “double planet.”
On both nights around Winter Solstice, (December 20-21), Jupiter and Saturn will not only be visible at the same time through a telescope, but you’ll be able to go as high as around 250x magnification! Imagine seeing a detailed view of the cloud bands and moons of Jupiter paired with the rings of Saturn!
The next time Jupiter and Saturn will appear this close won’t be until March 15, 2080!
This is definitely something you want to get your telescope on, or if you don’t have a telescope, get in touch with someone who does!
How do I See It?
As long as you have an unobstructed view of the southwestern horizon just after sunset, you will have front row seats to the show! The conjunction will be visible low above the southwestern horizon; Jupiter will be the brighter of the two planets, and will be the first object visible during evening twilight, with Saturn appearing above before winter solstice, and below afterwards.
You will also want to be clear of any haze above the horizon to enjoy the display at full potential.
There is good news and bad news.
The good news is the two planets will be less than a degree apart for about two weeks, so there are plenty of nights you can catch that sight and view through a telescope just in case the weather is bad some nights.
The bad news is the conjunction will not be visible in the sky for very long!
On the night of the closest conjunction (December 20,21), the two planets will set around 6:45 pm local time, so in the best case scenario, you will still have a limited period of dark sky before they disappear below the horizon. This is due to their positions in proximity to the Sun – about 30 degrees away. Therefore, your window of opportunity will be no longer than a couple hours before the two planets will set due to Earth’s rotation, so use your time wisely!
Believe it or not, the last time a Great Conjunction occurred in 2000, it was difficult to see and a lot of people missed out because the conjunction was even closer in proximity to the Sun (15 degrees closer)! Be glad we get the window we get!
Isn’t This The First Time in 800 Years this has happened? Isn’t this a Christmas Star?
Are You Doing Anything For This Event?
Orion Bear Astronomy will host a private viewing event, though you may reach me via social or phone and ask where I’ll be setting up if you’re interested. This will be held on both December 20 AND December 21!
DO NOT MISS OUT ON THIS CHANCE! Mark your calendars, get your telescopes ready, go outside and look up!
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