Saturn and Jupiter, the two largest planets in our solar system, are about to align in a way that we haven’t seen since the Middle Ages. On December 21, the beginning of the winter solstice, the two planets will align in such a way that they’ll look like a double planet to anyone anywhere on Earth.
Between December 16 and December 25, the two gas giants will appear to be separated by less than a full moon. The closest visible approach will occur on December 21, and will only look to be separated by just a fifth of the diameter of the full moon. This will be the best time for stargazers to get out their telescopes and see the spectacular view, though it’ll also be plenty 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 because of how close the planets will appear to one another,” said Patrick Hartigan, Rice University astronomer. “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.”
In 1614, astronomer Johannes Kepler suggested that a similar conjunction between Saturn and Jupiter is what was referred to as the “Star of Bethlehem” in the Nativity story. Others suggested that the “three wise men” could possibly have been a triple conjunction with the two planets in addition to Venus. Either way, we’re not likely two see the two planets near each other until 2080, so mark your calendars.
via Fox 5 NY