Rare ‘Christmas Star’ to Light Up Night Sky for First Time in 800 Years
At least something ‘cool’ is happening at the end of 2020.
Every day that 2020 drags onward, some other remarkable, rare, or strange occurrence seems to pop up.
We’re in the homestretch of this bizarre year, with a few weeks left before we get to say goodbye to 2020. There is no doubt that this will be an enthusiastic affair for many, especially those in America who’ve not only been dealing with the COVID-19 crisis, but also had bouts with murder hornets, race riots, and a presidential election filled with more drama than the season finale of a soap opera.
But not every unlikely event in 2020 has been horrid, and there is a pleasant an ultra-rare celestial event coming our way in just a matter of days.
The two largest planets in the solar system, Jupiter and Saturn, have fascinated astronomers for hundreds of years. But the two gas giants will do something next month not seen since the Middle Ages — they will look like a double planet.
The rare occurrence will happen after sunset on Dec. 21, 2020, the start of the winter solstice.
“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 Rice University astronomer Patrick Hartigan in a statement. “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.”
The most profound moment will come just days before Christmas.
“On the evening of closest approach on Dec. 21 they will look like a double planet, separated by only fifth the diameter of the full moon,” Hartigan explained. “For most telescope viewers, each planet and several of their largest moons will be visible in the same field of view that evening.”
This alignment won’t occur again until at least the year 2080, and the year 2400 after that.
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