I’ve had a lot of folks ask me when to look for the conjuncture of Jupiter and Saturn, also referred to as the “Christmas Star”. Just look westward after sunset. In fact, just as with the past several months, Jupiter is often shining before the glow of the setting sun is even gone.
We’ve seen Jupiter and Saturn moving closer and closer together over the past several months. This evening, Jupiter will overtake Saturn and the two will become one “star”. It will be so weird to no longer be able to see Saturn!
This conjuncture occurs about every 20 years but this is the closest they’ve ever…um…conjunctured (is that a word? lol) in nearly 400 years. Actually, it’s been 800 years since they did this close of a dance at night for the world to see.
The fact that this is happening on winter solstice is just a strange coincidence. Odd, right? It’s been such a normal year…………
While these two big gas giants appear to be close to each other this evening, they are still millions of miles apart. Our perception from Earth can’t change that.
So, head out this evening and check it all out. And if you miss Saturn more than you can stand, just sit tight. He’ll be back and visible in a couple of nights.
Again, look southwest after sunset. Let your eyes adjust to the dark to get the full effect. There’s no specific time to see it but you better catch them before they set at around 6:45. The earlier you view them the higher they will be in the sky (and easier to see).
Finally, this past Sunday’s “Sunday Story” was about this event. If you missed that story I’ve included it below. I write a story each week for both the Fentress Courier and the Livingston Enterprise newspapers and then I share with you all here in the blog on Sundays. This was published in the papers the week of December 14th.
Happy conjuncture watching! Or should I say “Happy Christmas Star watching”? ha OH! Don’t forget the Moon! I see it out there already and it’s going to be beautiful, as usual. In fact, any clear night is a beautiful night for stargazing!
The Christmas Star
Humans have looked to the heavens for signs and wonders since man first breathed life on this Earth. Some things never change.
Meteorologists are often asked about astronomical things. I suppose it’s because it’s easier to find a meteorologist than it is to find an astronomer. Thankfully, many of us have taken astronomy courses and often have a profound interest in the subject.
Lately, people have been sharing stories on social media about a big Christmas Star that is supposed to appear the night of the 21st. While there will be a brighter “star” in the sky, I’m afraid many will be disappointed if they think they’ll see something like the star being shared in dramatic social media posts.
So, what is this Christmas star about?
Over the past several months, Jupiter and Saturn have been putting on quite the show in the evening sky. Slowly but surely, they have been moving closer and closer to each other. Jupiter is by far the brightest, with a dimmer Saturn trailing close behind in the evening sky. Just look to the southwest sky after sunset and you can’t miss the pair.
By the 21st, the two will meet. We call this a conjuncture. The two planets get close enough to each other to look like a single star in the sky about every 20 years. However, it’s been nearly 400 years since they have gotten as close as they will this month!
So, there will certainly be a brighter “star” in the sky for our Christmas holidays, but it will look much like Jupiter does now, with perhaps a bit of a brighter glow added.
Perhaps the union of Jupiter and Saturn this Christmas season is a sign more than a wonder. Life is always better when we come together and celebrate the most special season of all!