Dec 21, 2020

The ‘Great Conjunction’ today

The ‘Great Conjunction’ of our solar system’s two largest planets, Jupiter and Saturn, will take place today (21).

Although Jupiter and Saturn regularly pass each other, as often as once every 20 years, what makes this year’s conjunction special is that it is for the first time in nearly 400 years that the two planets will be this close to one another.

Astronomers say there won’t be another great conjunction this close until 2080.

‘You can look at the western skies these days after the Sunset and you will see the two  planets are gradually coming closer to each other and the closet approach will occur on  21st December 2020 when the two planets will be separated by just about one-tenth of a degree or 6.1 arc minutes,' says Professor Chandana Jayaratne, the Director of Astronomy and Space Science Unit, University of Colombo.

On December 21st the two planets will set down at 8.14 p.m. Therefore, to watch this spectacular event, it is better to select a place where you can see the western skies clearly without much trees or buildings. About 30 minutes after the sunset, say from 6.30 p.m. – 7.30 p.m. period, look at the western skies closer to the horizon and towards somewhat northwest direction, you would see the two planets, perhaps as a double star or an elongated ball of light. Naked eye observation is possible or you may use a binocular, he has added.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) has said the closest alignment will appear just a tenth of a degree apart and last for a few days, and skywatchers on earth will be able to see the conjunction with the naked eye.

The event is also occurring, purely out of coincidence, on the day of the winter solstice and will be visible an hour after sunset in the south-western sky. The conjunction is popularly known as the ‘Christmas Star’, which, according to the Bible, was the star that guided the three wise men to baby Jesus.