The cosmos are sending a Christmas present to stargazers this year.
A great conjunction will take place December 21 – that’s when gas giants Saturn and Jupiter appear at their closest in the night sky. It’s an event which repeats every 19.6 years. The 2020 event is particularly special, because the great conjunction hasn’t taken place this close to Earth since July, 1623.
According to the BBC, the event will be visible with the naked eye, but binoculars and telescopes will give a clearer image. With the naked eye, the pair of planets might look like one bright object in the sky. They will appear low on the southern horizon and early in the evening, around 6 p.m.
If you have good eyesight, the planets will appear beside each other as two separate objects. Otherwise, they will meld together and appear as a bright star. Binoculars or a backyard telescope will help them appear as separate bodies. Jupiter is about 12 times brighter than Saturn which is just to Jupiter’s east. The planets will be just 1/10 of a degree apart and they won’t pass this close again until March 15, 2080.
As an added bonus, the meteor shower called the Ursids will be in full swing over the holiday season. From December 17-26, stargazers can expect to see 5-10 meteors and hour, with burst in excess of 25 per hour on occasion.