Jupiter And Saturn Will Visually Merge For The First Time In 800 Years
Boy oh boy, talk about a rare occasion. If planets and sky-watching is your thing, we’ve got great news.
In a highly rare occurrence, planets Jupiter and Saturn will give the illusion of fusing together on December 21, 2020. To stress on how rare this actually is, the last time this phenomenon occurred was in the middle ages, nearly 800 years ago on March 4, 1226.
Astronomer Patrick Hartigan from Rice University explained, “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. 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.”
Astronomers have been closely noting how the two gigantic gas planets have been getting closer to each other this year. But in December, the two will be closer than ever. Hartigan further explained how the distance between the planets will be less than the diameter of a full moon, which is considered to be extremely close.
“On the evening of closest approach on December 21 they will look like a double planet, separated by only 1/5th the diameter of the full moon. For most telescope viewers, each planet and several of their largest moons will be visible in the same field of view that evening,” he added.
In case you though this is happening way out in the universe and we won’t get to see it, you’re wrong. Earthlings can catch a glimpse of this rare celestial event through a telescope. Although the event would be clearest from regions around the Earth’s equator, the merging of Jupiter and Saturn will also be visible from anywhere around the world.
“By the time skies are fully dark in Houston, for example, the conjunction will be just 9 degrees above the horizon. Viewing that would be manageable if the weather cooperates and you have an unobstructed view to the southwest,” said Hartigan.