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For the first time in almost 800 years, Saturn and Jupiter will be aligning in December 2020. Star-gazers have been waiting for this rare moment to happen since this summer. These planets will continue to move closer to each other until they are one-fifth the diameter of a full moon. This is expected to happen between December 16 through 25.
Although the planets will not be actually close to one another they will appear to be one — to anyone gazing upon them. When the alignment of these planets happens they will appear to be one single bright light.
Rice University astronomer Patrick Hartigan stated, “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.”
He further stated that the last time this happened was around March 4, 1226. In order to fully see these planets align one must be somewhere near the equator. Of course, this does not mean it will not be visible anywhere on Earth. All one needs is to have clear skies.
Saturn and Jupiter will show up in the night skies for roughly an hour after sunset each night. The planets will be at their “closest approach on Dec 21 they will look like a double planet,” Hartigan explained. He also noted that those viewing the phenomenon in the northern hemisphere will have a limited time to do so.
There are websites, like Stellarium, able to assist those living in the U.S. in pinpointing the exact time to view the alignment. This should help people figure out the best vantage point to witness this phenomenon.
The next time Saturn and Jupiter will align will be in March 2080. They will not be as close to Earth’s sky until the year 2400. Scientists will be following the Solar System to acquire exact dates on when this phenomenon will happen once again.
Written by Sheena Robertson
Science Alert: We’re About to Witness a Super-Rare Planetary Alignment Not Seen in 800 Years by David Neil
Featured and Top Image by Mike Lewinski Courtesy of Wikimedia – Creative Commons License
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