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The Great Conjunction - Richard Darn

The Christmas Star

Friday 18 December, 2020, by Comms Team

Jupiter and Saturn have been close to each other in the sky all year, but on Monday 21st December they surpass themselves.

They will both come within one tenth of a degree separation and easily fit into the field of view of a telescope and binoculars.

Technically this is called a Great Conjunction and the last time the two giants of the solar system appeared so close was 1623! 

The timing of this conjunction has prompted discussion as to whether this was the light seen in the sky 2,000 years ago… which become known as the Star of Bethlehem!

The dynamic duo will be low down in the west so it is best glimpsed soon after the sun sets and the sky starts to get dark.

Be quick as both will be heading below the horizon soon after. 

Visually it might be difficult to separate the two!  For the record, this conjunction is a line of sight effect. Saturn is much more distant from the sun than Jupiter.   

But it is still a rare treat and the next time we’ll be able to see a repeat performance is not until March 15, 2080!

Richard Darn – Astronomer

Visit our Dark Sky pages to find out more about our recent designation as an official Dark Sky Reserve and more stargazing tips and good lighting guidance.

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Comms Team

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