It’s coming in December, which is really a once in a lifetime experience.
“Most adults have never seen a meeting like this and they will never have a chance to see it again,” Oliver said in a phone interview Wednesday.
Although this connection occurs once every 20 years, it is still rare: the two planets appear on top of each other because they are .1 degrees – about one-fifth the diameter of the moon – away from each other, Oliver said.
The last two planets appeared to be this close in 1623, or 14 years after Galileo built his first telescope, Oliver said. However, because of how close it was to the sun, I could not see it.
“Only astronomers really know, but they don’t have social media saying,‘ Hey! Check this out! ” He said.
The last time people noticed this closeness was in 1226, about 800 years ago, in the Middle Ages.
It also happens in the December solstice, adding to its rarity, he said.
The two planets are now approaching each other in Earth’s sky, Oliver said. For more than a week they will be separated by less than the diameter of a moon, December 21 is the closest approach.
If you look now, you may already see it active.
“It’s like young people in a high school dance: they get closer and closer,” Oliver said. “It’s been a year since I ‘ve seen this, and they’re getting closer, and now they’re going to dance slower.”
For both Boston visitors, it will be even closer before it comes down to the horizon, when both planets begin to darken or after sunset, Oliver said.
Next time there will be a chance to see Jupiter and Saturn together, but the sky is high, March 15, 2080, Oliver said.
In other words, don’t miss out.
“2020 is a great year for astronomy, and a lot of amazing things have happened in the night – and day – sky,” Oliver said. “To some extent, we focus so much on everything that is not big about 2020. We forget in these moments that it’s too big for us to lend to them.”
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