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Jupiter And Saturn Will Align To Create The First 'Christmas Star' In Nearly 800 Years

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Jupiter And Saturn Will Align To Create The First 'Christmas Star' In Nearly 800 Years

Stargazers are in for quite the treat four days just before Christmas.

On December 21, Jupiter and Saturn are set to line up and create what is known as the 'Christmas Star' or 'Star of Bethlehem', an occurrence that hasn't been seen in 800 years.

In fact, the two planets haven't appeared this close together from Earth's vantage point since the Middle Ages.

"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," Patrick Hartigan, an astronomer at Rice University, told Forbes.

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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," Hartigan said.

"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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Andrew Jacob, curator at Sydney Observatory, told ABC that the planets will be so close together that you will be able to see them in one eyepiece of a telescope.

"You would be lucky to see this once in a lifetime," he said.

Astrophotographer Anthony Wesley also told the publication that he has been observing the two planets from his property in Rubyvale, central Queensland.

"I think they'll actually look at their best just from the naked-eye perspective in the first week of December," Wesley said.

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"They are a little bit higher in the sky and if people are in towns with streetlights you've got just a little bit more chance to see them before they get too low."

According to Forbes, a star-sighting of this proportion won't occur again until 2080.

Featured Image Credit: Pixabay

Topics: Christmas, space

Jessica Lynch
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