Christmas Star: Jupiter, Saturn to align in rare event not seen in 800 years

Christmas is a few days away, but the skies will give you an early holiday treat Monday night.

For the first time in 800 years, people will be able to see the “Christmas Star” in the sky when Jupiter and Saturn appear to merge and form a double planet.

Jupiter and Saturn conjunctions themselves happen every 20 years, but not close like tonight’s will be, according to experts.

The last time the two planets came this close actually was 400 years ago in 1623. You have to go back further to find a closer conjunction that people could see. That was during the Middle Ages in 1226.

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CHRISTMAS STAR TONIGHT🌠 Tonight's the night you can see the Great Conjunction of Jupiter & Saturn in the early evening...

Posted by Brian Monahan, WSB on Monday, December 21, 2020

Chief Meteorologist Glenn Burns spoke with Tellus Science Museum astronomer David Dundee about what we can expect to see here in Georgia.

Dundee said sky gazers will be able to see the conjunction after the sun sets around 5:30 p.m. by looking toward the southwest.

“As it gets dark, around 6 o’clock, you’ll see above the tree line. And if you have a lot of high trees or buildings, you want to try to find a place where you have a pretty good view of the of the horizon. You’ll see Jupiter and Saturn, only a tenth of a degree apart,” he explained. ”

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The event is called the Great Conjunction, but it’s become known as the Christmas Star too.

“One of the most popular interpretations of the Star of Bethlehem were a series of conjunctions, three in the spring of 6 and 7 B.C. of Jupiter and Saturn passing each other,” Dundee told Burns. “And it was believed to be a signal of something coming. And at that time, the planet Mars joined the two planets making kind of a triangle in sky.

For tonight’s event, Meteorologist Brian Monahan said the clouds should clear in time to see it in north Georgia.

The conjunction will be visible to the naked eye, but Dundee said you should be able to see it clearer with a pair of binoculars or a small telescope with low power.

The next the “Christmas Star” will be visible is March 2080.

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