March 2, 2024

Jupiter, Saturn will appear as a double planet on December 21 in a rare celestial event

It’s coming out in December and it’s literally a never-ending show.

Logo: Images of Jupiter, left, and Saturn, right, taken by the Hubble telescope in 2019.

© NASA, ESA, A. Simon (Goddard Space Flight Center), MH Wong (University of California, Berkeley) …
Images of Jupiter, left, and Saturn, right, captured by the Hubble telescope in 2019.

Amy Oliver, a spokeswoman for the Harvard Smithsonian Center, said that Jupiter and Saturn will appear as a double planet just after sunset on December 21, when the two planets will be in mating, also known as the “Great Coupling.” Astrophysics.


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“Most adults have never seen a conjunction like this and will never have a chance to see this again,” Oliver said in a phone interview on Wednesday.

Although this pairing occurs about once every 20 years, this pairing is much rarer: The two planets will appear to be above each other because they will be 0.1 degrees – nearly a fifth of the moon’s diameter – away from each other, Oliver said.

Oliver said that the last time the two planets appeared this close was in 1623, or 14 years after Galileo created his first telescope. However, people at that time could not see it due to its proximity to the sun, which blocked vision.

“Only astronomers would really know, but they didn’t have social media to tell people, ‘Hey!’ She said: Look at this!

The last time people noticed this conjunction of this approach was in 1226, during the Middle Ages, nearly 800 years ago.

She said this also occurs at the December solstice, making it even more rare.

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Oliver said that the two planets have been close to each other in Earth’s sky for a while. For more than a week, they will be separated by less than a full moon, with December 21 being the closest approach.

If you search now, you can really see it in action.

It’s like the teens dancing in high school: They get closer together, ”Oliver said. “It’s been a year of watching this, they’re getting close, and now they’re going to have a slow dance up close.”

Oliver said that Jupiter and Saturn will be in their closest alignment at about 1:20 pm on December 21, and they will be visible in the daytime sky with a “really good binoculars or telescope in the backyard,” weather permitting.

Oliver said the two planets would remain visibly close to each other when darkness begins, or shortly after sunset, for Boston viewers, before exploding below the horizon.

Oliver said the next time to get a chance to see Jupiter and Saturn close together, but higher in the sky, would be March 15, 2080.

In other words, don’t miss it.

“2020 has been a great year for astronomy, and a lot of really cool things have happened in the night – and in the day – the sky,” said Oliver. “In part, we’re so focused on everything that wasn’t great in 2020 that we forget to take in those moments that are so much bigger than we give them credit for.”

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