A Super-Rare Planetary Alignment, Not Seen in 800 Years, is about to Happen Very Soon

At Christmas, a cosmic phenomenon awaits us that has not been observed for nearly 800 years – Jupiter and Saturn will be extremely close to each other in our sky. Set up your telescope, hope for a clear night, and get ready.

This celestial synchronization began in the summer and in the period December 16-25 the distance between the two planets will be only 1/5 the diameter of the a full moon.

While the planets won’t physically be close to each other at all, of course, they’ll look like a single point of bright light to anyone looking up at the night sky.

“Alignments between these two planets are rather rare, occurring once every 20 years or so, but this conjunction is exceptionally rare because of how close the planets will appear to one another,” says astronomer Patrick Hartigan from Rice University.

“You’d have to go all the way back to just before dawn on March 4, 1226, to see a closer alignment between these objects visible in the night sky.”

How the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction will appear to telescope viewers. (Patrick Hartigan/CC BY 4.0)

To fully enjoy the scenery, you must be located near the equator. But if the sky is clear, the alignment will be visible from anywhere on Earth.

The two planets will appear in the sky every night for about an hour after sunset.

The last such phenomenon occurred in the early hours of March 4, 1226.

To fully enjoy the scenery, you must be located near the equator. But if the sky is clear, the alignment will be visible from anywhere on Earth.

The two planets will appear in the sky every night for about an hour after sunset.

“On the evening of December 21, when they are closest to each other, they will look like a double planet – they will be separated by only 1/5 the diameter of a full moon,” says Hartigan. “For most people observing the phenomenon with a telescope, each planet and several of their largest satellites will be visible within the same field of view.”

Although the previous alignment happened in the Middle Ages, the next will occur relatively soon – in March 2080, and then will not happen until the year of 2400

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