Get ready to watch a super-rare planetary alignment that hasn’t happened for 800 years

The alignment will be between Jupiter and Saturn

Star gazers have an early Christmas treat as they will be able to witness Jupiter and Saturn closer to each other in Earth’s night sky – something that hasn’t happened for nearly 800 years. Let’s hope the night sky will be clear.

The two planets have been inching closer since summer, and in the time between December 16-25, they are going to be separated by just 1/5th the diameter of the moon.

Past and future alignments

Patrick Hartigan/CC BY 4.0

Don’t get it wrong, the planets won’t be physically close to each other, but they will be looking like a single point of bright light if you look up into the night sky. Patrick Hartigan from Rice University says that planetary alignments are pretty rare since they happen once every 20 years, but the alignment between these two are exceptionally rare because of how close they will appear to each other.

However, if you need to see it in all its glory, you will have to be present somewhere near the equator, but if there are clear skies, you will be able to see it well from any place on Earth. On the dates mentioned above, you will be able to see the two planets on the sky for around an hour after sunset every evening. Astronomers advice to point your telescope towards the western sky to see it. Hartigan says that the closest approach will be on December 21, and with the telescope, you will be able to see some of their largest moons as well.

The last time such an alignment took place was in 1226, and the next one will be relatively soon, in March 2080. Afterwards, Jupiter and Saturn won’t be getting this close until 2400.



(Cover: Getty)