In rare celestial 'Great Conjunction' Saturn and Jupiter in planetary intimacy

In rare celestial 'Great Conjunction' Saturn and Jupiter in planetary intimacy

During the event, the two largest planets in our solar system, Jupiter and Saturn, will appear very close to each other, as if they were intertwined to form a twin planet.

Jupiter - the brighter and larger of the pair - has been gradually nearing Saturn in the sky for weeks as the two planets proceed around the sun, each in its own lane of an enormous celestial racetrack, said Henry Throop, an astronomer at National Aeronautics and Space Administration headquarters in Washington.

Saturn and Jupiter will come in conjunction due to their same right ascension or celestial longitude, or in other words - the "Great Conjunction".

The heightened brightness of the two planets as they nearly merge in the sky has invited the inevitable speculation about whether they formed the "Christmas star" that the New Testament describes as having guided the three wise men to the baby Jesus. So they're not really that close together.

"We'll have to hasten to see Jupiter and Saturn, because they will disappear two-and-a-half hours after sunset, though Mars will be visible until midnight", Stavros Avgoloupis, a professor of observational astronomy at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, told AMNA. This year, like in 1226 AD, the phenomenon is not near the Sun, so people could actually witness the Christmas star.

The rare spectacle resulted from a near convergence of the orbits of Jupiter and Saturn that happened to coincide with Monday's winter solstice, the shortest day of the year.

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Unfortunately, the historic view turned out to be somewhat obscured by weather conditions and clouds across some parts of South Africa.

If you missed it Monday night or the sky wasn't clear, fear not: The two planets only appear to move apart very slowly, and will still appear unusually close together in the coming days.

The optimal conjunction occurred at 18:22 GMT.

Jupiter will appear brightest and be easily visible. Coronaios says that even with the naked eye, the view was "stunning".

For most people, using nothing more powerful than a pair of binoculars, the Great Conjunction looked much the same - two dots on the sky - whether from NY.

Astronomers around the world set up viewing events and to capture the moment, in places as far apart as New Delhi.


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