Wednesday, April 24, 2024
60.0°F

You might see the Christmas star

| December 17, 2020 1:00 AM

Star-gazers will be able to catch a once-in-a-lifetime sight with the “Christmas star” or “Great Conjunction of 2020” as early as next Wednesday or Thursday next week when Jupiter and Saturn appear at their closest at a tenth of a degree apart.

University of Idaho physics professor Jason Barnes said the main event will be on Monday, which also marks the Winter Solstice, bringing the shortest amount of daylight and the longest night.

“It should be particularly striking on Dec. 21 if it’s a clear night, but it may be visible for up to a week after that,” Barnes said in a press release. “It will be relatively low on the southwestern horizon a half an hour to an hour after sunset. You don’t need to be away from the city lights or binoculars to see this event.”

The last time there was such a conjunction of this magnitude was about 400 years ago, Barnes said.

“Galileo had just turned the telescope toward the sky,” Barnes said.

Jupiter-Saturn conjunctions occur every 20 years, but this will be first time in centuries the planets will be this close. The brighter object will be Jupiter; the dimmer one Saturn. The planets will appear to briefly emerge during the event, but in reality they will still be hundreds of millions miles apart, according to NASA.

The event has been dubbed the "Christmas star" because some astronomers have theorized the “Star of Bethlehem” could have been a rare conjunction involving both Jupiter and Saturn.