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Jupiter And Saturn Are About To Have Their Closest Alignment In 800 Years

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Jupiter And Saturn Are About To Have Their Closest Alignment In 800 Years

Stargazers, get ready for an incredibly rare occurrence, because the planets of Jupiter and Saturn are about to appear closer together in the night sky than they have since the Middle Ages, according to astronomical experts.

As the sun sets early in the day for the winter solstice - that's 21 December for non-pagans - those gazing to the heavens will spot Jupiter and Saturn sitting in the sky closer together than anyone living today has ever seen them.

Pretty cool, right?

It's the first time that this particular alignment has happened for 800 years, to be more precise. It'll happen again quicker than that, but you would be better placed to catch it this time around.

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Rice University astronomer Patrick Hartigan released a statement about this fascinating celestial event.

Credit: PA
Credit: PA

Hartigan 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.

"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."

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Imagine that. Standing outside your hovel in 1226, gazing up to the sky, presumably with absolutely no idea what you're looking at and - presumably - no way to actually observe it.

The planets have been slowly sidling up to one another since the summer now, and they'll start to approach the peak between 16 December and Christmas Day, likely on that aforementioned winter solstice.

By that stage, they'll be separated by no more than the width of a full moon in the sky as we see it.

Credit: PA
Credit: PA
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Hartigan continued: "On the evening of closest approach on 21 Dec 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."

This intriguing encounter between planets should be visible to most on earth, weather permitting, but will be best spotted near to the equator, and about an hour after sunset as the planets appear in the sky to the west.

Like we've mentioned, you'd be best served catching it this time, because it'll be the last time until 2080 that you can see this.

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After that, it's going to be 2400, so now's the time if you want to be sure to catch this rare astronomical event.

Featured Image Credit: PA

Topics: Science, World News, Interesting, space

Tom Wood
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