It’s probably safe to say that 2020 will be a year that will never be forgotten, so why not add an additional, unique astronomical event to the year before it ends?
About an hour after sunset this evening — December 21st — Jupiter and Saturn will appear at their closest, or about one-tenth of a degree apart, which is known as “The Great Conjunction”. Some have argued that a Great Conjunction occurring in the sky when the baby Jesus was born was the Biblical “Star of Bethlehem” that guided the Three Wise Men to Him. This occurrence — The Great Conjunction — makes the planets look like a big, super-bright planet we can appreciate. It’s a breathtaking sight and whether or not if it’s the Star of Bethlehem, it’s the perfect holiday present — from space to us!
This year’s Great Conjunction is exceptional because it will bring these planets as close as they have gotten since the year 1623. This means Jupiter and Saturn haven’t kissed in the sky like this in 800 years, so it’s definitely a special event that’s worth watching. Great Conjunctions have always garnered attention, ever since the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, where it was a topic many astronomers discussed and thought about. This incredible astronomic event is even mentioned by the likes of Shakespeare and Dante in their works.
So, on this day of the winter solstice — Monday, December 21st, 2020 — you will definitely want to have access to the southwestern sky right after sunset. The Great Conjunction will occur around an hour after sunset, so we recommend you find a good spot where you can enjoy the sunset and stick around to see a bright point of light show up, which may not be unlike The Three Wise Men saw centuries ago.