Jupiter, Saturn will appear to look like a double planet on December 21

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Jupiter and Saturn will appear to look like a double planet just after sunset on Dec. 21. The two planets will be in conjunction also known as the great conjunction. Some experts claim that most people have never seen conjunction like this and they won’t have an opportunity to see this again. This conjunction happens once every 20 years. This one is even rarer because the two planets will appear to be on top of one another because they will be 1 degree approximately 1/5th of the moon’s diameter away from one another.

The sight will be extraordinary as the two planets each usually visible with just the naked eye, will combine their light and look like a double planet something that hasn’t been seen since March 4, 1226, according to astronomer Patrick Hartigan from Rice University.

The last time the two planets appeared to be this close was in 1623 i.e 14 years after Galileo created his first telescope. After that people back then weren’t able to see it due to how close it was to the sun blocking the view. The last time people would have noticed this conjunction this close would have been in 1226 during the Middle Ages almost 800 years ago.

The two planets have been approaching one another in the Earth’s sky for a while now but over a week they will be separated by less than the diameter of a full moon with Dec. 21 being the closest approach.

In the US, Jupiter and Saturn will be at their closest alignment about 1:20 p.m. eastern Dec. 21 and it will be visible in the daytime sky with a really good pair of binoculars or a backyard telescope, if weather permitting to see. The two planets will still be visibly close together when it starts to get dark or shortly after sunset for Boston viewers before it pops below the horizon. The next time to get a chance to see Jupiter and Saturn this close together, but higher in the sky, would be March 15, 2080.

To catch a glimpse of the phenomenon for yourself make sure you have a clear view to the southwest about 45 minutes after sunset. The planets will appear low in the western sky for about an hour after sunset as viewed from the northern hemisphere and though they’ll be closest on December 21, so you can look each evening that week.

Although the aligned planets will be sinking toward the horizon making them more difficult to see because of light pollution. The phenomenon will still be bright enough to be viewed at twilight. All you need is an unobstructed view to the southwest and to look to the southwest from about 45 minutes after sunset where you are. To catch the spectacular phenomenon in the night sky at its best, stargazers might want to use a regular telescope. For a brighter view, an astronomer’s telescope or a university telescope feed would be even better.

Astronomers have long speculated that the Star of David written of in the Biblical book of Matthew, was an exceptionally rare triple conjunction between the planets Saturn, Jupiter, and Venus. One such astronomer was the brilliant Johannes Kepler, one of the greatest astronomers of all time.

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