Jupiter and Saturn will be the closest they have been in four centuries; what to look for with the ‘great conjunction’

Jupiter and Saturn will be the closest they have been in four centuries; what to look for with the ‘great conjunction’
Jupiter and Saturn close to one another (Source: WMC)

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A rare astronomical event is happening on December 21st, which is also the winter solstice. Jupiter and Saturn will appear closer together than they have been in 400 years. It’s known as the great conjunction.

The gas giants will look like one brilliant star as Jupiter’s and Saturn’s 12 and 29-year orbits bring them together. The last great conjunction was in May 2000, but its position in the sky made it difficult to see. The great conjunction of 1623 was also hard to spot because, according to the Perth Observatory, it appeared close enough to the sun that it would have been “lost in the sun’s glare”.

According to Patrick Hartigan, an astronomer from Rice University in Texas, “You’d have to go all the way back to just before dawn on 4 March 1226 to see a closer alignment between these objects visible in the night sky.”

HOW TO SEE IT?

Great Conjunction
Great Conjunction (Source: NASA JPL/Cal-Tech)

The “Christmas Star” will be visible from anywhere on Earth, but conditions will be best near the equator. NASA says people should look for the conjunction low in the south-west sky an hour after sunset when the two giant planets will appear just a tenth of a degree apart – that’s about the thickness of a dime held at arm’s length. Look for a thin crescent moon and two bright objects right next to it.

The weather is looking clear on Monday, December 21st but check back for updates as it gets closer.

Spencer Denton

WMC Action News 5 Meteorologist

First Alert Storm Tracking Team

Twitter: @dentonwx

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