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The Great Conjunction happens Monday night; Here’s how to see it

Also known as the “Christmas Star” or “Star of Bethlehem”
Published: Dec. 21, 2020 at 10:15 AM CST
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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - A Great Conjunction happens in the night sky on December 21, on the northern hemisphere’s winter solstice. Saturn and Jupiter- our solar system’s two largest planets- come together every 20 years or so due to their orbits around the sun, but tonight marks the closest they’ve been since 1623. A conjunction is when two objects appear close to each other in the sky.

Saturn and Jupiter have been viewable in the night sky for months, but tonight they will be only 0.1 degrees apart, and will appear almost as one bright star in the sky. For this reason, some are referring to the conjunction as the “Christmas star” or “Star of Bethlehem”.

For comparison, the moon’s size appears as about a half degree. Backyard viewers will be able to see them with the naked eye, but binoculars or a telescope will come in handy. Those with telescopes will be able to view Saturn’s rings.

Saturn and Jupiter will only be 0.1 degrees apart in the night sky on December 21.
Saturn and Jupiter will only be 0.1 degrees apart in the night sky on December 21.(KALB)

To see the Great Conjunction you’ll need an unobstructed view of the southwest horizon. After the sun sets shortly after 5 PM, look to the southwest sky. The conjunction will be viewable until around 7:30 PM, then the planets will set. Mars and the first quarter moon will also be visible at the same time. High clouds will be pushing in from the southwest this evening, so it’s possible the view could be partially obstructed. The best chances of getting a clearer view will be early in the evening.

Conjunctions with a separation of 0.2 degrees or less are expected to happen only six times over a one thousand year period: 1623, 1683, 2020, 2080, 2417, and 2477.

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