A lot of things have transpired this year. Some good, but many not so good. But as the year draws to a close something spectacular, if not magical is going to happen on the longest night of 2020.
So be ready to watch the night sky light up as the two of the largest planets in our solar system: Jupiter and Saturn unite after 800 years!
As I am neither a seasoned stargazer nor an amateur astronomer – I had a lot of questions about this rare and magnificent celestial phenomenon. So, divided into different questions, I’ve simplified everything you need to know about the Jupiter and Saturn ‘Great Conjunction’ of 2020.
What is the Jupiter and Saturn Conjunction?
It is a phenomenon where Jupiter and Saturn will appear closer and brighter than ever before since the Middle Ages. They will only be separated by 1 degree or 1/5 of the full moon diameter, which in human eyes appears like the width of a coin.
What will you see?
During the Great Conjunction, not only will you get to see both Jupiter and Saturn, but also Saturn’s rings, the Giant Moon Titan and Jupiter’s four Galilean moons: Ganyamede, Io, Callisto and Europa.
When will the Jupiter and Saturn Conjunction happen?
These two planets will converge on the night of the Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. That is, on Dec 21st, forty-five minutes to an hour after sunset.
However, as these planets are etching closer and closer to Earth every day, you can see them even now to some extent. It’s great if you want to start practicing and watching out for them even from tonight itself.
How to See the Jupiter and Saturn Conjunction?
While this conjunction is visible from anywhere on earth, best visibility is from places that are on higher latitudes as night falls faster there. For example, in Europe night falls by 5 p.m. in winter months, giving viewers a longer duration to watch the conjunction. However, it is also easily visible from places that lie closer to the equator.
An hour to forty-five minutes after sunset, start looking for the planets in the low south-west region of the sky. All you need is a good vantage point (maybe the terrace of your building) with a clear horizon. This means no buildings or trees should be in the way.
You have to look for a thin crescent moon and two bright objects next to it. Jupiter being the largest planet will be easily identifiable, and right next to it, will appear Saturn.
For those with good eyesight will easily be able able to distinguish between the two; for others, they will appear like just one bright star. If you want a clearer vision of this planetary phenomenon, then a simple pair of binoculars should be enough. If you want to take photos of the planets with their moons, you’ll require a 200 mm zoom lens, otherwise a small telescope with 50x eyepiece should do the trick.
Why is the Jupiter and Saturn Conjunction so important?
The last time this happened was in 1623. And although it was a good fourteen years after Galileo’s invention of the telescope, it wasn’t clearly visible because it took place too close to the sun and the visibility of the planets were lost in the Sun’s glare.
Before that it occurred all the way back on March 4th, 1226, before dawn – a good 800 years ago.
Due to any reason if you are unable to watch it, but REALLY wish to, then listed below are few places that will be streaming live on Dec 21st, you can watch it here:
Myths & Theories Attached to the Jupiter and Saturn Conjunction of 2020
A lot of people are comparing this celestial phenomenon to the Star of Bethlehem – because as history goes, it was the Star of Bethlehem that led the three wise men to the birth place of Jesus. As several conjunctions occurred at the beginning of the Christian Era, it is suspected that the Star of Bethlehem was also a Great Conjunction itself. The conjunction could have been between Jupiter and Venus back then – but it is the timing – being so close to Christmas, back then and now – that makes it makes it seem too mysterious to be a coincidence.
In terms of astrology – a lot of astrologers believe that this conjunction or alignment will set the tone for finance, science and arts for the next couple of decades. On a more personal scale – based on your zodiac or your birth chart – it can also impact your career, love life or anything else that defines your existence.
Hopefully, for the better.
Maybe, this celestial miracle could be the actual physical and metaphorical light at the end of a very dark year.
Anyway, that is all the information I could put together from a combination of sources: namely Dad, a couple of his astronomy buddies and – of course – the internet about the Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn.