A bright finish to this unfortunate dark year is in store as we approach Christmas Day. Some are calling it the Christmas Star. Jupiter and Saturn, the two largest and brightest gas planets in our solar system will line-up visually on the winter solstice – December 21st. They can be seen by the naked eye, but a trip to a nearby hilltop with fewer city lights will enhance the experience. They will look like a double planet. This is a great opportunity to do something fun without fear of COVID and a learning lesson for everyone.
You do not need a telscope, but a set of binoculars is a good alternative. Visually, the event beings December 16th and will last until the 26th, but the absolute perfect day is Winter Solstice on the 21st. Check out this graphic from Earth Sky.
The two giant planets cross visual paths from earth once every 20 years, this time is the closest they have been in many centuries – about 0.1 degrees apart or about 1/5th of a full moon diameter. The 2020 great conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn will be the closest since 1623 and the closest observable since 1226!
The two planets have been inching visually closer for months. Even today, you can see them just after sunset in the early evening for about two hours before they drop below the horizon.
We have had a series of open sky evenings in early December. Unfortunately, our dry weather pattern of late is changing to more typical cloudier and wet December this week. Yet, the skies will not always be cloudy and there should be opportunities to view these two giant planets together through the rest of the month.
Monitor the new everettpost.com weather page for your local North Sound forecast including hourly forecasts to learn when there may be a chance to view this once in a lifetime event. They come close every 20 years, but not like this.
For pictures of this unique event posted each night, visit https://earthsky.org/todays-image/jupiter-saturn-photos-drawing-closer-conjunction-dec21-2020