Christmas Star 2020: How to see Jupiter, Saturn in Chicago

The two largest planets in our solar system are getting closer together since the Middle Ages, and it’s happening just in time for Christmas – hence the nickname “Christmas Star”.

Although it is not an actual star, the two planets will surely make a bright splash in the night sky.

On the night of December 21, the winter solstice, Jupiter and Saturn would appear so closely in our sky that they would appear like a dual planet. This intimate approach is called conjugation. The fact that this event is occurring during the winter solstice is a pure coincidence, according to NASA.

Astronomer Patrick Hartigan, a professor of physics and astronomy at Rice, said, “The alignment between these two planets occurs once every 20 years, but it is exceptionally rare because of how close the planets will appear to each other.” In a statement at the University of Houston.

“You have to go back just before dawn on March 4, 1226, so that there can be a close alignment between these objects visible in the night sky.”

If you are a stargazer, you have noted that Jupiter and Saturn have been getting closer to each other since summer. And they are currently visible in our night sky, ever closer to each other.

Between December 16 and 25, they will become even more cozier. During this time, watch the pair of Jupiter-Saturn in the western sky for about an hour after sunset every evening.

“You can imagine a solar system with a planet that has Earth in its street and a runner in the center of the stadium,” said astronomer Henry Throop of the Planetary Science Division at NASA headquarters in Washington. .

“From our vantage point, we will be able to see Jupiter on the inside lane, approach Saturn for the entire month and eventually overtake it on December 21.”

how to see?

In Chicago, you will want to see the lower southwest sky just after sunset on the evening of December 21. It will only appear for a brief time, for about an hour. The forecast for Monday evening is mostly for clear skies, so the Christmas star should be easy to spot.

“On the evening of the closest approach at Dame (Amber) 21 they will look like a dual planet, separated by only 1/5 the diameter of the full moon,” Hartigan said. “For most telescope viewers, each planet and many of their largest moons will appear in the field of view that same evening.”

While these two planets may appear close, they are still millions of miles apart, according to NASA.

Clear skies are expected, as concentrations will be visible around the world, which is the best approach for people near the equator.

“The further north an audience is, the less time they have to catch a glimpse of the conjunction before the planets sink below the horizon,” Hartigan said.

The planets will be seen bright enough to be seen in the twilight, which for many American viewers may be the best time to observe the conjunction.

“Until the sky is completely dark in Houston, for example, the combination will be just 9 degrees above the horizon,” Hartigan said. “If the weather cooperates and you have an unbounded approach to the southwest, it will be manageable to see.”

If you are in New York or London, or along those latitudes, try to see the combination just after sunset. Waiting an hour after the sun sets will only keep the planets close to the horizon, causing them more trouble.

The best position to see this astronomical event will have a clear southwest horizon and no fewer clouds in the distance, Hartigan said. Telescopes or binoculars can help you separate planets. He said that with a telescope one can see the rings of Saturn and the brightest moon of both the planets.

Jupiter will appear brightest and easily visible. Saturn will be slightly faster and will appear slightly above and slightly above Jupiter. On 21 December, Jupiter will overtake Saturn and they will exchange places in our sky.

Walter Freeman said, “On December 21, the sun will go at about 4:30. After that, it’s a race. The sky has to be dark enough to see Jupiter and Saturn. Syracuse University’s College of Arts and Sciences in New York State Assistant Teacher in Physics Department in Sciences.

“Jupiter and Saturn will probably stand out from the twilight glow starting around 5:00 or 5:15. With a telescope, a telescope, or a telephoto lens of 500 (millimeters) focal length or more, you’ll also be able to see. Will be able. The four largest moons of Jupiter. There is no better way to celebrate the longest night of the year than to see the stars. So if you are planning a starry night on the solstice, before it sets. Start by praising the biggest planets. “

Live events around the conjunctiva

If you miss this conjunction and want to see the planets with the same proximity, higher in the sky, it won’t happen until March 15, 2080 – and then not until after 2400.

According to Hartigan, between 0 and 3000 CE, or the Common Era, only seven conjugates would be apart from or close to this – and two of them were also close to the sun without binoculars. So, yes, this is an incredibly rare occurrence.

If the weather conditions in your area do not agree to see this astronomical event, many livestreams will be available.

The Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, will host an event starting at 7 pm ET, which will show live scenes through its telescope. The observatory will be on the observatory’s YouTube page.

The Virtual Telescope Project in Rome will also share live ideas on its website.

And if you’re interested in learning more about the “Great Conjunction”, NASA Science LIVE will share an episode about the event on NASA TV and its website on December 17 at 3 pm ET.

WLS-TV contributed to this report


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