Everything you need to know about the conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn

Everything you need to know about the conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn

A completely exceptional astronomical event, not visible to the naked eye for 800 years. Here is the long-awaited conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn

(photo: Nasa / Bill Dunford) Here we are. The long wait for the most anticipated astronomical event of the year is finally about to end. In fact, shortly, the two giants of the solar system Jupiter and Saturn will meet in what is called the Great conjunction. A rare and truly exceptional event: in fact, such a close conjunction has not been seen for 400 years, since the time of Galileo and Kepler, and will also be the first to be observed with the naked eye for 800 years, that is, from about 1200. Monday 21 December, therefore, will be an unmissable event where Jupiter and Saturn will be admired very close in our skies, reaching less than a tenth of a degree of distance (about a fifth of the apparent diameter of the full Moon). A proximity that could make them seem like a single star, and it is precisely for this reason that it has been renamed as the Christmas star 2020. Here, therefore, is everything you need to know to not miss an exceptional show and enjoy it to the fullest.

On December 21, the conjunction between Jupiter & Saturn will be the closest since 1623 because the two planetary giants will pass only 1 / 10th of a degree from each other. This illustration by Sebastian Voltmer shows their approach in November and December https://t.co/BRYRUnDTfn pic.twitter.com/u4JgmjFurh

- Massimo (@ Rainmaker1973b) December 15, 2020

In astronomical jargon, a conjunction indicates the event that sees two celestial bodies aligned with respect to the point from which they are observed on Earth. In the case of two giants, such as Jupiter and Saturn, the phenomenon is nicknamed the Great conjunction, which usually occurs about every 20 years. In this case, however, this year's event is truly rare: in fact, although the two planets will reach a distance of about 724 million kilometers, the inclination of their orbits will make us seem to be so close that they are a single planet. Recall that such a close conjunction that did not occur since July 16, 1623, although unfortunately the interference with the Sun had made Saturn not observable with the naked eye. In fact, therefore, even longer has passed since the Great conjunction was seen with the naked eye, exactly 800 years ago, on the night of 1226.

(image: Nasa) On the evening of 21 December, given in which also falls on the winter solstice, get ready. Because it will be a unique occasion, given that another such close conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn will only occur in 2417. As told by the Italian Amateur Astronomers Union (Uai), it will be enough to look towards the West, immediately after sunset, approximately between 17:00 and 19:00. The two giants, in fact, will be very low on the horizon, in the constellation of Capricorn, and it will be necessary to hurry up before they set too. No special tools will be needed, but telescopes and binoculars are obviously welcome. With the latter, in fact, it will be possible to easily distinguish Jupiter, brighter, and Saturn. With telescopes, however, it might even be possible to observe the moons of Jupiter and the rings of Saturn. If the weather was not on our side, numerous live streams were organized in order not to miss the event: among these, for example, that of the Lowell Observatory in Arizona and the Virtual Telescope site of Gianluca Masi.

https : //twitter.com/NASA/status/1337562821517848578

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