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Christmas Star To Be Visible Over Australian Skies For First Time In 800 Years Tonight

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Christmas Star To Be Visible Over Australian Skies For First Time In 800 Years Tonight

There will be a tiny shimmer of light (literally) to wrap up the dumpster fire of a year that has been 2020.

Jupiter and Saturn will align tonight (21 December) for the closest Great Conjunction in 800 years - which will create a phenomena some have dubbed a 'Christmas Star'.

Astronomers have explained that Great Conjunctions appear every 20 years, but the planetary alignment we're going to witness tonight hasn't been as close since 1623. But this one is extra special as it's the first conjunction to be visible to the naked eye since 1226.

You'll have to wait until 2080 for the next one - so it's best not to miss it.

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It will be over our heads in Australia from around 11pm AEDT, weather permitting, and it won't last long.

Credit: PA
Credit: PA

Perth Observatory said on its website: "To see the conjunction no matter where you are in the world, you will need to go out in the early evening and if you're in the Southern Hemisphere, you will need to look low in the West and Jupiter will be on the left and Saturn will be on the right at about the 4 o'clock position from Jupiter.

"A few days before the conjunction, on the 17th of December, the crescent moon will scrape past the two planets providing us with another conjunction for astrophotographers and stargazers to see."

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The event is sometimes called the 'Christmas Star' or 'Star of Bethlehem' as some believe the star that guided the 'three wise men' to Jesus could have been an extremely rare triple conjunction of Jupiter, Saturn and Venus.

When the planets align, they create a bright light, which gives them the appearance of a huge star.

Patrick Hartigan, astronomer at Rice University, said it was a special event.

He 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 be to one another.

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"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.

"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.

"The further north a viewer is, the less time they'll have to catch a glimpse of the conjunction before the planets sink below the horizon."

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Hope it's bright in the skies tonight, wherever you are.

Topics: Australia

Stewart Perrie
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