icon bookmark-bicon bookmarkicon cameraicon checkicon chevron downicon chevron lefticon chevron righticon chevron upicon closeicon v-compressicon downloadicon editicon v-expandicon fbicon fileicon filtericon flag ruicon full chevron downicon full chevron lefticon full chevron righticon full chevron upicon gpicon insicon mailicon moveicon-musicicon mutedicon nomutedicon okicon v-pauseicon v-playicon searchicon shareicon sign inicon sign upicon stepbackicon stepforicon swipe downicon tagicon tagsicon tgicon trashicon twicon vkicon yticon wticon fm

Jupiter and Saturn to appear as ‘double planet’ in night sky this Christmas

Jupiter and Saturn to appear as ‘double planet’ in night sky this Christmas
Jupiter and Saturn will come closer to each other in the Earth's night sky than they have for almost a millennium between December 16 and 25 in an extremely rare astronomical extravaganza.

The pair will be separated by one fifth the diameter of a full moon as viewed from the Earth, in an extraordinary astronomical proximity event which has not occurred for 800 years.

The planets will appear as a singular point of brilliant light or a “double planet” to anyone lucky enough to have clear skies at the time of their yuletide rendezvous

“Alignments between these two planets are rather rare, occurring once every 20 years or so, but this conjunction is exceptionally rare because of how close the planets will appear to one another,” says astronomer Patrick Hartigan from Rice University.

Also on rt.com No dark side of the moon: Jupiter’s Europa glows in the dark, providing clues as to what lies beneath icy surface

For context, their previous closest celestial encounter on record (as we see them anyway) was on March 4, 1226.

As always, the best viewing conditions will be near the equator but, with clear enough skies, it should be visible from anywhere on Earth about an hour after sunset each evening. 

Stargazers should point their telescopes toward the western sky, especially during the closest approach on December 21, when the pair will appear as a “double planet.”

“For most telescope viewers, each planet and several of their largest moons will be visible in the same field of view that evening,” Hartigan adds.

The viewing window will be shorter for those in the northern hemisphere, however, so stargazers are encouraged to make preparations well in advance and head out early to avoid missing the mesmerizing meeting.

Their next astronomical alignment is expected in March 2080 and then again in 2400.

Also on rt.com Fresh photos of Jupiter near its closest approach to Earth reveal NEW STORM on Solar System's largest planet

Think your friends would be interested? Share this story!

Podcasts