Christmas Star 2020: How to see the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction in Chicago

Christmas Star 2020: How to see the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction in Chicago
The two largest planets in our solar system are coming closer than they have been since the Middle Ages, and this is happening just in time for Christmas – hence the nickname “Christmas Star”.

Although it is not a real star, both planets will definitely create a bright splash in the night sky.

On the night of December 21st, the winter solstice, Jupiter and Saturn will be very close together in our sky, they will look like twin planets. This close approach is called a connection. NASA says the event is a pure coincidence that it occurs during the winter solstice.

“Alignments between these two planets are very rare, occurring once every 20 years, but this connection is exceptional because of how close the planets appear to each other,” said astronomer Patrick Hardigan, professor of physics and astronomy at Rice. University of Houston, in a statement.

“At the dawn of March 4, 1226, you must return to see a closer alignment between these objects visible in the night sky.”

If you are a Stargazer, you may have noticed Jupiter and Saturn approaching from summer. They are currently visible in our night sky and are close to each other.

From December 16th to 25th, they will become even more convenient. Look for the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction in the western sky about an hour after sunset every evening during this time.

“You can imagine each of the solar planets as a runner in their own orbit, with the Earth orbiting the center of the arena,” said astronomer Henry Troop at NASA’s headquarters in NASA’s Headquarters.

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“From our standpoint, Jupiter can be seen on the way in. We approach Saturn every month and finally overtake it on December 21st.”

How to see

In Chicago, on the evening of December 21st, after sunset, you will want to see the lower southwest sky. It is only visible for a short time, an hour or more. The forecast calls for clear skies mostly on Monday evening, so the Christmas star should be easy to spot.

“On the evening of the close approach on December 21, they will look like twin planets, separated by only 1/5 of the diameter of the full moon,” Hardigan said. “For most telescopes, each planet and their many large moons are visible in a single scene that evening.”

Although the two planets appear to be close, NASA says they are still hundreds of millions of miles away.

Hope for clear skies, because those close to the equator with a better perspective, the world will know this connection.

“An observer is still north and can see the time when the planets merged before sinking below the horizon.” Hardigan said.

The planets will be bright enough to be seen at dusk, which may be the best time for many American viewers to notice the merger.

“When the sky is completely dark in Houston, this connection will be above 9 degrees to the horizon,” Hardigan said. “If the weather cooperates, it will manage to see if there is unobstructed view of the southwest.”

If you are in New York or London, or in those latitudes, try to find the link after sunset. Waiting an hour for the sun to set will keep the planets close to the horizon and make them very difficult to find.

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Hardigan said the best conditions for viewing this astronomical event were not having a clear southwest horizon and low clouds in the distance. Telescopes or telescopes can help distinguish planets. He said a telescope would help see Saturn’s rings and the bright moons of both planets.

Jupiter appears bright and easily visible. Saturn will be slightly blurred, slightly above and appearing to the left of Jupiter. On December 21st, Jupiter will overtake Saturn and they will change places in our sky.

“On December 21st, the sun will set at 4:30 pm. After that, it’s a race – the sky should be dark to see at 6:45 pm before sunset on Thursday and Saturday,” Walter Freeman said. Assistant Teaching Professor in the Department of Physics at the University of Syracuse College of Arts and Sciences in New York State.

“Jupiter and Saturn stand out from the twilight that begins between 5:00 or 5:15 pm. With binoculars, telescopes or 500 (millimeters) focal length or telephoto lens you can see Jupiter’s four big moons. There’s no better way to celebrate, so if you’re planning a star show one night, start by admiring the biggest planets before they set. “

Live events around the link

If you miss this link, if you want to see the planets in close proximity, if the sky is slightly higher, it will not happen until March 15, 2080 – then not again after 2400.

Between 0 and 3000 AD, or in the Common Era, only seven connections were closer than this – or two of them were so close to the sun that Hardigan says it could not be seen without a telescope. So, yes, this is an incredibly rare event.

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If your weather conditions do not allow you to watch this celestial event, many live streams are available.

Lowell Labs in Plaststop, Arizona will start ET at 7pm and show live footage through its telescopes. The stream will be on the lab’s YouTube page.

The virtual telescope project in Rome will also share live footage on its website.

If you are interested in learning more about the “Great Conjunction”, NASA Science Live will be sharing an episode of the ET event on December 17 at 3pm on NASA TV and its website.

WLS-TV contributed to this report

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