Gas giants about to do something that hasn't been seen in 800 years

 proxy.yoo.workers.dev  11/29/2020 07:00:00   Daniel Smith

An extremely rare chance to see a stunning planetary alignment will present itself to stargazers this Christmas.

The two gas giants of Jupiter and Saturn - the largest two planets in our solar system - will appear closer together in the night sky than they have in almost 800 years.

The planets can be seen at their closest just after sunset on December 21, reports the Mirror.

Patrick Hartigan, an astronomer at Rice University, said: 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.

Youd 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.

The two planets have been approaching each other in Earths sky since the summer, and will be separated by less than the diameter of a full moon from December 16-25.

Prof Hartigan explained: On the evening of closest approach on Dec 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.

While the best viewing conditions will be near the equator, eagle-eyed Brits should also be able to see the rare alignment.

The further north a viewer is, the less time theyll have to catch a glimpse of the conjunction before the planets sink below the horizon, Prof Hartigan said.

If you miss the rare event, you'll have a long wait until the next close alignment.

Jupiter and Saturn will next appear this close and high on March 15, 2089. After that, the pair wont be this close until 2400.

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