The ‘Christmas Star’: NASA offers tips on watching once-in-lifetime conjunction of Jupiter, Saturn
Jupiter and Saturn, the two largest planets in the Solar System, will be stationed in nearly the same spot in the night sky on Monday, creating a bright spectacle.
The positions of the two planets align once every 20 years, according to NASA. While conjunctions happen several times during the course of a typical lifetime, a conjunction of this magnitude is quite rare. The last time the two planets were this close to each other in the night sky was 400 years ago, but no one was able to see it as that conjunction occurred during the day.
The last time a conjunction of his magnitude happened at night was 800 years ago.
The best time to view the conjunction will be roughly one hour after sunset in the southwest sky. Jupiter will appear to be brighter than Saturn as its closer and larger.
The timing of the conjunction adds to the spectacle. Monday also marks the winter solstice.
Being four days before Christmas, some are dubbing the event as “The Christmas Star,” although the conjunction is of planets and not stars. Scientists have long speculated whether the Star of Bethlehem was the 7 BC conjunction of the two planets.
While the two planets will have the appearance of being very close to each other, in reality, they will be hundreds of millions of miles apart.