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NASA Explains the Jupiter and Saturn Conjunction

Saturn, top, and Jupiter, below, are seen after sunset from Shenandoah National Park, Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020, in Luray, Virginia. The two planets are drawing closer to each other in the sky as they head towards a “great conjunction” on December 21, where the two giant planets will appear a tenth of a degree apart. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

“Have you noticed two bright objects in the sky getting closer together with each passing night,” begins the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in its newsletter. According to the agency, it is Jupiter and Saturn doing a planetary dance that will result in the Great Conjunction on Monday, December 21. On that day, Jupiter and Saturn will appear from Earth to be right next to each other in the sky – the closest they’ve been in nearly 400 years.

It has been popularly called the ‘Christmas Star’.

“You can imagine the solar system to be a racetrack, with each of the planets as a runner in their own lane and the Earth toward the center of the stadium. From our vantage point, we’ll be able to be to see Jupiter on the inside lane, approaching Saturn all month and finally overtaking it on December 21,” states Henry Throop, astronomer in the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

“Conjunctions like this could happen on any day of the year, depending on where the planets are in their orbits. The date of the conjunction is determined by the positions of Jupiter, Saturn, and the Earth in their paths around the Sun, while the date of the solstice is determined by the tilt of Earth’s axis. The 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,” he adds. Read more: The ‘Great’ Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, an article by NASA.

Here, NASA also shares tips on how to see Saturn and Jupiter’s great conjunction:

 

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