I have been a stargazer since childhood, fascinated by the stories of the constellations and the patterns they create in the sky (and the legends of how they got there), the Milky Way and more distance galaxies, by the various meteor showers and comets that blaze across the night sky, and by the planets — wandering stars to ancient astronomers — that at times could be seen by the naked eye, or enhanced by a telescope.
Of course, living in an urban environment, as many of us now do, much of the night sky is now hard to see. The city lights block out so much, and only the brightest objects can be seen. More than ever, I appreciate the various sky apps on my phone which show me everything that is up there . . . and crave a true dark sky viewing!
One event that is captivating many at present is the “great conjunction” of Jupiter and Saturn in the night sky, which peaks on December 21st, the Winter Solstice! How special is that???
It is speculated that this same so-called “Christmas miracle” is indeed the origins of the “Star of Bethlehem” or “Christmas Star” as allegedly seen, and followed, by the Magi to the birth of Christ.
The last time these planets appeared so close was apparently in 1226. Other experts report it as 1623. Either way, it was a long long time ago!
This image tracks Saturn and Jupiter as they approach the Great Conjunction on Solstice.
Does this event have any particular meaning?
Well, that depends on your views of astrology vs. astronomy!
For some, this is simply an opportunity to view a rare event in our night skies.
Astrology.com suggests this event heralds new ground, and represents “the intensity of old forms dying as well as the fertility of new growth beginning to take shape.” The event happens in the constellation of Aquarius, and some astrologers are suggesting this is a marker for the dawning of the Age of Aquarius. They are not in agreement, however. Some say it arrived mid-2020, others that it is arriving at Solstice, and yet others suggest a 2040 arrival.
But we do know this. Each “age” is roughly 2100 years, so if it is the Age of Aquarius, we will be feeling the influence for a long time!
Consider this when looking at — and releasing — your Old Stories.
How to view
The best views of this will be on a clear sky, immediately following sunset and up to about an hour after sunset. Look to the southwest. You can see this conjunction now, and it will be extremely close for the last week of December.
And if you are fortunate enough to have access to a telescope, or can visit a public planetarium with one, you may be able to see the moons of Jupiter and Saturn!
The next conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn almost this close will be in 2080. Some of you will be around then, but I doubt I will . . . so I will be watching intently throughout December!
However, these conjunctions do take place every 20 years or so, although nowhere near as spectacular. In fact, TimeAndDate reports,
“After 2020, the next great conjunctions will occur on November 2, 2040 and April 7, 2060. On both these occasions, the minimum separation of Jupiter and Saturn will be 1.1 degrees—which means they will be eleven times farther apart than on December 21, 2020.”
For more information on the Great Conjunction, check out these links:
- Astrology.com article
- EarthSky astronomy website
- PopSugar article
- Sky At Night magazine/website
- Space.com website
- TimeAndDate website
Do you plan on looking for the Great Conjunction? I invite you to share your thoughts and comments on this event.
Notes on the Header Image
I created the collage image in Canva using screen shots from my SkyGuide app, using a view of 21-December at 5:00 PM Pacific Standard Time.
The Jupiter-Saturn conjunction is so close that my SkyGuide app labelled it as one planet only (Jupiter, the brighter of the two)! I added a label to show that the object was both Jupiter and Saturn. The only way to see the two separate planets was to zoom in on the app screen (pic to the right).