For the First Time in 800 Years, a “Christmas Star” Will Illuminate the Skies This Month.
By Meghan Overdeep December 03, 2020
The Solar System’s two largest planets are on course to “collide” in an exceedingly rare event not seen since the Middle Ages. On December 21, Jupiter and Saturn will come so close together that they will look like a “double planet,” a conjunction that will appear to us on Earth like one super-bright point of light. “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 be to one another,” Patrick Hartigan, astronomer at Rice University, told Forbes. “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.” This incredible phenomenon has been known historically as the “Christmas Star” or “Star of Bethlehem.” In fact, it’s theorized by many that the fabled star in the story of the Three Wise Men could have been a rare triple conjunction of Jupiter, Saturn, and Venus. Hoping to catch a peek of the “great conjunction” yourself? According to Forbes, the event will be observable anywhere where skies are clear for about an hour after sunset on December 21, the Winter Solstice. Be sure to mark your calendars, a conjunction this close won’t happen again until March 15, 2080!