On New Year’s Eve, heaven will present humanity with a planetary spectacle – Jupiter and Saturn will approach each other in the night sky almost closely. Surprisingly, the last time the planets converged so close as much as 800 years ago. The gas giants began to noticeably approach each other this summer, and in the period from December 16 to 25, they will converge so much that they will be separated by only 1/5 of the diameter of the full moon.
Of course, the planets will not physically be close to each other, but for an observer from Earth, they will look like a single bright point. By themselves, the conjunctions of Jupiter with Saturn are not so rare and happen about once every 19 years. The same case is exceptional: the last time such an approach was observed by medieval astronomers was before dawn on March 4, 1226.
The best visibility and duration of the celestial action will be near the equator, but with a clear sky, the parade of planets should be visible from almost anywhere on Earth. The space tandem will appear in the western sky every evening an hour after sunset. The strongest convergence will happen on December 21st. And for the owners of the telescope, the picture will be decorated with several of the largest moons of Jupiter and Saturn. Unfortunately, the farther north the gazer stands, the less time there will be for observation before the planets descend below the horizon.
The next similar conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn will occur quite soon by astronomical standards – in March 2080. However, after that the planets will disperse in the night sky for 320 years – up to 2400 of the year.