A rare solar spectacular display is happening during the month of December. Saturn and Jupiter, our two gas giants in the solar system, are edging closer and closer together and are set to “conjoin” together on the Winter Solstice. That occurs on December 21st.
Dubbed by astronomers and sky enthusiasts everywhere, “The Great Conjunction of 2020” will be visible everywhere. It will appear that Saturn and Jupiter will almost become one singular star in the west and southwest sky. Each night, the two planets come closer and closer together. They’ll be just 0.06° apart on December 21st, almost indistinguishable to the naked eye.
While it appears that Jupiter and Saturn will be very close, in reality they are over 400 million miles apart. However, from the vantage point of the earth’s surface, 0.06° is as close as they’ve been in the night sky in a long time.
While conjunctions of planets like Saturn and Jupiter aren’t all that rare, what makes this one so special is that these two planets haven’t been so close and so visible since March 4th, 1226. Saturn and Jupiter were this close in 1623, but weren’t visible to the naked eye thanks to the sun’s positioning at the time.
Take some time in the coming days and mark your calendars for the big event. Look to the west and southwest approximately 45 minute after sunset, or around 5:15p every night. Each night, you’ll notice that Saturn and Jupiter get closer and closer together. On December 21st, the two will cross paths and begin to separate as they pass by each other heading through the rest of the month.