New Delhi: Stargazers are in for a treat tonight as the planets, Jupiter and Saturn are set to form a ‘double planet’. Know as the ‘Great Conjunction 2020’, this rare planetary alignment hasn’t occurred in nearly 800 years! Today Jupiter and Saturn will come so close to each other that they will appear to overlap with each other. The celestial phenomenon can be witnessed from all over the world,
Know more about the ‘Great Conjunction’
- As both Jupiter and Saturn complete their revolutions around the sun they have a rendezvous every 20 years. A planetary conjunction is an illusion in which two objects appear to be very close together. It is a just line-of-sight phenomenon and it does not actually occur in real.
- Jupiter overtakes Saturn but this time they’ll be separated by only 1/5th the diameter of a full moon. According to Astronomer Patrick Hartigan of US-based Rice University said in an official release regarding the planetary conjunction, “Alignments between these two planets are rather rare, occurring once every 20 years or so, but this conjunction is exceptionally rare because of how close the planets will appear to one another.”
- Jupiter will look like a bright star and be easily visible. Saturn will be slightly fainter and will appear slightly above and to the left of Jupiter
- The planets will be so close that they will be just 0.1 degrees apart.
- The planets have not been this close to each other since medieval times. “You’d have to go all the way back to just before dawn on March 4, 1226, to see a closer alignment between these objects visible in the night sky,” says Hartigan
- The rare phenomenon can be witnessed from everywhere across the world without the usage of gadgets. According to NASA, Jupiter and Saturn are bright, so they can be seen from most cities.
- If one uses a telescope then you can also see Jupiter’s four large moons. It will be visible nearly an hour after sunset in the southwestern sky.
- The conjunction has also been nicknamed “Christmas Star” or “Star of Bethlehem” referring to the Christian nativity story. According to it, a bright star had guided three wise men to the place where Jesus was born.
- The conjunction is also special as it occurs on Winter Solstice which is the longest night of the year.
- Google has dedicated its doodle to the conjunction today. It shows cartoon Jupiter and Saturn meeting for a quick high five. The doodle also celebrates the winter solstice.