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'Christmas Star' to be visible for the first time in 800 years

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  • Tip Bones

On the winter solstice, December 21st, 2020, the "Christmas Star" will be visible for the first time in eight centuries.  Jupiter and Saturn will appear close together on the darkest night of the year, creating what will appear to be one bright star in the sky due to their proximity, this event is called a "great conjunction" and happens every 20 years but not to the degree that it will be seen in 2020. 

The last time these two planets were so close together was in 1623 but due to stargazing conditions, evidence suggests that it was not seen at the time. 1226 was the last year that the pairing was close enough to be observed by the naked eye. from December 15th through the 10th, stargazers will easily be able to see the two planets moving in conjunction. You need to look towards the waxing crescent moon 45 minutes after sunset in the western sky to see it, according to NASA's night Sky Network. "Keep in mind that while the two gas giants may appear close, in reality they are hundreds of millions of miles apart... This will still be quite a striking sight, but you will need to look fast as both planets will set shortly after sunset." NASA writes.

There is a challenge posed for viewers who live further north, the more north a person is the harder the planets are to see on the solstice. For example, in New York City, Jupiter and Saturn will be very close to the horizon which will possibly be blocked from view due to the sunset or geography. Pat Hartigan, an astrophysicist at Rice University, wrote in an email; "I have been watching them daily... Find a spot with a good horizon where you'd be able to see the sunset, and in the same general area of the sky you'll see Jupiter once it starts to get dark, and then a bit later, Saturn on the left now, getting closer to Jupiter every day."