Saturn and Jupiter Will Align on December 21 as 'Christmas Star'

Saturn and Jupiter in the night sky, with a spring milky wayVytautas Kielaitis /

Saturn and Jupiter, the two largest planets in our solar system, are about to line up in a way we haven’t seen since the Middle Ages. On December 21, the start of the winter solstice, the two planets will align to look like a dual planet to anyone anywhere on Earth.

Between December 16 and 25, the two gas giants will appear to be separated by less than a full moon. The closest visible approach will take place on December 21 and will appear to be only a fifth of the diameter of the full moon apart. It will be the best time to astronomers bring out their telescopes and take in the spectacular view, although it will also be widely visible to the naked eye.

“Alignments between these two planets are rather rare, occurring once every 20 years or so, but this conjunction is exceptionally rare due to the proximity of the planets to each other,” said Patrick Hartigan, Rice University Astronomer. “One would have to go back to the dawn of March 4, 1226 to see a closer alignment between these objects visible in the night sky.”

In 1614, the astronomer Johannes Kepler suggested that a similar conjunction between Saturn and Jupiter is what was called “the star of Bethlehem” in the Nativity story. Other suggested that the “three wise men” could have been a triple conjunction with the two planets in addition to Venus. Either way, we’re unlikely to see the two planets close to each other before 2080, so mark your calendars.

via Fox 5 NY

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