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Christmas Star, Jupiter, Saturn Conjunction, Winter Solstice

Jupiter and Saturn get close and personal in the Night Sky this month

Christmas Star – Jupiter and Saturn are getting closer to each other in the night sky otherwise known as a conjunction. On December 21st 2020 – Winter Solstice, the two gas giants come very close together forming what many are calling the Christmas Star. They will appear closer than they have for the last 800 years!

Jupiter and Saturn aren’t actually meeting together in Space. They will still be millions and millions of miles apart in the solar system as they always are. It will just appear that they are coming together from our perspective here on Earth.

If they were to get as close as they will appear to be in their orbits, it would probably be cataclysmic. Resulting in death and destruction being flung across the Solar System eventually bringing an end to us!

That’s not going to happen this month, so forget I mentioned it. Merry Christmas.

Jupiter, Saturn, Conjunction, Christmas Star, Winter Solstice
The Great Conjunction or Christmas Star of 2020. The image doesn’t do it justice. – Credit @Virtualastro/ Stellarium

How to see the Christmas Star

You may need to check your sky a few nights in advance to see whether or not you will be able to see the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn. The reason being, it will be very low in the sky just after sunset in the west. In addition to this, both planets will set shortly after.

Sunset will be just before 4:00pm GMT and the conjunction of the two planets will set around 6:00 pm so there is a very short viewing window. I would recommend looking from around 4:30pm GMT. You may find it increasingly difficult to see the Christmas Star after 5:30pm GMT depending on your location. I have based these times for Oxford UK so they may differ depending on your location.

You may need to get to a hill or tall building to make sure you have a clear view of the western horizon.

I would like to add that the sky will not be filled with light and you won’t hear angels singing. The two planets will come together and will almost look like a single object. However, this won’t increase their brightness that much. Expect the brightness to be similar to half of the brightness of an ISS pass.

Jupiter, Saturn, Conjunction, Christmas Star, Winter Solstice
Typical view through a small telescope of Jupiter center with 4 Galilean moons and ringed planet Saturn top right. With its moon Titan to the right of it

Why is this Happening Now? Why are Jupiter and Saturn appearing as the Christmas star?

This is totally normal and is to do with the way the orbits of Jupiter, Saturn and the Earth have fallen in 2020.

There is no magic, myth or mystery to it, but I expect the Astrologers are having a field day! I must add though that astrology and astronomy are two very similar but different things.

Astronomy is the study of the night sky and planets to be brief and is based on observation of the natural world using science. Astrology is the study of the night sky to see if you will be lucky in love or can improve your job prospects among other wished for things. In other words, complete hokum! Each to their own though, live and let live and all.

If you are looking out for the Great Conjunction of 2020 on winter solstice or as others are calling it “The Christmas Star” and you are a bit superstitious, that’s fine. Make a wish 🙂

Merry Christmas

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