How to See the Great Conjunction (a.k.a., The Christmas Star)

How to See the Great Conjunction (a.k.a., The Christmas Star)

If you don’t want to miss the astronomical event then you have to bundle up for something called great conjunction. This is also known as the Christmas star. As long as the skies are clear in Kansas City there is no problem in viewing the areas around the metro. 

In case if you have missed this then you have to wait for 60 years to catch the great conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn as they are going to appear close on 21 Dec. that our winter solstice.

What is Great Conjunction or a Christmas Star?

The vantage point of earth, Jupiter and Saturn are inching towards the sky. As they are 40 million miles away from each other. But as we see them through our eyes they look so close and seems like they are getting more closer. 

How close are they? They will be just 0.1 degrees apart from each other. That’s about ⅕ a full moon’s diameter. 

Astronomers call this conjunction when the planets and other objects meet our sky’s dome. Jupiter and Saturn are the largest planets in our solar system and their meeting is the great conjunction. 

The great conjunction will take place on 21st December 2020. Some people may call it a Christmas Star due to its proximity to Christmas. But let me tell you it has nothing to do with Christmas and also it’s not a star and that won’t prevent the nickname. 

You can know about the astronomical event and also about how they watch on your own including the virtual skywatching sessions. 

It’s not that rare for Saturn and Jupiter to experience conjunction. It happens every twenty years. 

It takes 30 earth years for Saturn to go around the sun and on the other hand, it takes 12 earth years to do the same. So in every 20 years, Jupiter catches up with Saturn when viewed from the Earth. If you are good at maths then you can figure out why they meet up every 20 years but here with the triangle on the cheap taking about the word of the astronomers. 

Although great conjunctions are not that rare the one that’s about to happen is the closest of the two planets will be since 1923. So we can consider this an exceptional conjunction. 

Conjunction happened in 2000 when Jupiter and Saturn were near the sun in our sky that made it hard to observe and they’ll be lower on the horizon. It is pretty easy to see as long as the sky is clear.

Jupiter is brighter than any star and Saturn isn’t quite as bright as Jupiter but it is bright as a star. Well, I guess you can’t tell whether you are looking for a planet or a star? Planets shine steadily and they don’t twinkle like stars. 

You won’t need any high equipment like any binoculars or a telescope that will help you in this case. You won’t need to go to any specific location to see this. You can enjoy this while staying at a location with some less pollution.

December 21, 2020, is the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere and this means that the sun is in the southernmost position in the sky and will travel from the lowest and the shortest path across the sky. So this will be the shortest day of the year in terms of the hours of sunlight.

Sunset will be at 5:15 p.m. on December 21st.

Nasa’s Tips:

How to See the Great Conjunction (a.k.a., The Christmas Star)
  • You need to have a clear view of the southwest.
  • Jupiter and Saturn will shine brighter than any other star and they can be seen from large cities.
  • They will be visible in the early evening.
  • If you will see it from the sunset then you can watch it for an hour or two and also see how they change.
  • The crescent moon will pass near the planets for a few days before the conjunction and making it an interesting photo.

Virtual Skywatching Events

Morehead Planetarium

Science Center and Raleigh Astronomy and Morehead Planetarium are joining together to host a virtual skywatching session on Monday, December 21st, 2020 at 6 p.m. via zoom.

See the Saturn and Jupiter conjunction closely!

Morehead Planetarium is teaming up with Raleigh Astronomy Club that offers virtual skywatching for Dec 21, 2020. The conjunction to Jupiter and Saturn- the closest apparent pairing of the two planets since 1623, and the closest readily observable since 1226.

RAC members and JPL/Nasa Solar System ambassadors Mike Keefe and Doug Lively will share live views of the telescope.

We’ll discover why the planetary pile-up is happening and what makes this so special is how Jupiter and Saturn are giving each other and us lots of space. We can also have a look at Moon and Mars and you can also ask questions. You can also join us in several amazing and observing things about solar neighbors and it’s appropriate for all ages.

Kopernik Observatory and Science Center

The live hosting of the conjunction can be seen from The Kopernik Observatory & Science Center in Vestal, New York from 5 PM on the youtube channel of the science center on 21 December 2020.

More to know about this event from Kopernik Observatory:

You can watch all the latest news about this event on Kopernik Youtube Channel.

Early in the evening, December 21, You will notice Saturn and Jupiter so close to each other, maintaining a distance of 0.1 degrees only. You can easily watch this under the telescope. Jeremy Cartie a live stream Astronomer, resident of Kopernik will be offering all the information live on the channel.

This event will now happen next in March 2080, when these two planets will again be close to each other. Hope so the weather remains clear and we get the best shot of this conjunction and telecast it live on our channel. Stay tuned to the channel by 6:15 pm for all updates.

Similar Upcoming Astronomical Events

Ursides Meteor Shower: Expected dates December 21st and 22nd, 2021. 10 meteors will be visible at once in an hour.

Cold Moon: December 30th. The last full moon of the year is called the Cold Moon, or Long Nights Moon or the Moon Before Yule.

Earth’s Perihelion: January 2nd. When the earth is the nearest to the sun in its orbit,that time of the year is called Earth’s Perihelion.

Quadrantids Meteors: Expected on January 3rd late at night, and in the morning hours of January 4th.

For more such updates stay connected to Deasilex

Featured Image Credits- Forbes

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