You Will Want to See the “kiss” of Jupiter and Saturn

If the sky is clear enough when you live, you should look up early next week to witness something that I can only compare to a great cosmic romance. While the pandemic is raging and your city could be buried in a torrent of snow, heaven has promised to get rid of the hard work here on Earth with an absolutely jam-packed heavenly calendar this month .

The great “kiss” between Saturn and Jupiter is about to lead to magnificent gazing at the stars on December 21, unmatched since the Middle Ages. Experts also refer to this phenomenon as the “Christmas star” because we all clearly need a holiday miracle.

This is why you should bookmark an event on your calendar and how to see it unfold on a patch of sky next to you.

This is really called the great conjunction

Although colloquially referred to as a “kiss,” astronomers have long referred to this phenomenon as a compound. This happens when two planets intersect or come close enough to each other to appear in close proximity from a vantage point on Earth. Aside from celebrating the winter solstice – which NASA believes is pure coincidence – this year has a lot of historical significance.

According to the space agency, this will be the closest connection in 400 years:

It has been almost 400 years since the planets passed so close together in the sky, and almost 800 years since the alignment of Saturn and Jupiter happened at night, as it did in 2020, allowing almost everyone around the world to witness this “great connection.”

As Lifehacker previously reported, at the peak of the kiss, the two planets will be 0.1 degrees apart, which is roughly 1/5 the diameter of a full moon. NASA puts this image in perspective, noting that the planets “will appear so close that a pinky finger at arm’s length can easily cover both planets in the sky.” Don’t be fooled by its appearance in the sky, for the two planets will still be hundreds of millions of miles apart.

This is a gradual process that takes place over several days, but will eventually end on December 21st, possibly validating all your fantasies about the Christmas miracle. And it could be this: according to the space agency, this will be the closest convergence of Saturn and Jupiter since 1226.

How does a kiss, aka connection, aka “Christmas star” work?

It is actually a natural product of planetary orbits, and it happens every 20 years. As Henry Troop, an astronomer with the planetary science department at NASA headquarters in Washington, explains: “You can think of the solar system as a racetrack, with each planet as a runner in its own lane and Earth in the direction of travel. center of the stadium “.

Corpse explains that the conjunction can occur at any time of the year, but it all depends on the position of the planets:

The conjunction date is determined by the position of Jupiter, Saturn and the Earth on their path around the Sun, and the solstice date is determined by the tilt of the Earth’s axis. Solstice is the longest night of the year, so this rare coincidence will give people a great chance to go outside and see the solar system.

How to see it

Fortunately, the connection is so close this year that you don’t need a telescope or binoculars to see it. (You can still use them as they can’t really get in the way of your view.)

NASA provides a helpful guide to capturing stunning scenes:

Find a location with an unobstructed view of the sky, such as a field or park. Jupiter and Saturn are bright, so they can be seen even from most cities.

One hour after sunset, look at the southwestern sky. Jupiter will appear as a bright star and will be clearly visible. Saturn will be slightly weaker and will appear slightly higher and to the left of Jupiter until December 21, when Jupiter catches up with him and they swap places in the sky.

The planets can be seen with the naked eye, but if you have binoculars or a small telescope, you can see Jupiter’s four large moons orbiting the giant planet.

Even if it’s cold outside, you can withstand the cold conditions: it will be the closest conjunction of the two planets until 2080.

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