Get your telescopes ready folks, we’re about to witness an incredibly rare astronomical event called the ‘Christmas Star’, which is coming our way on December 21st, and is sure to bring joy to everyone who witnesses it. Well, I can’t promise explicit joy, but surely some satisfaction in the fact that you saw a once-in-a-lifetime thing.
Last seen in 1266 in the Middle Ages, the ‘Christmas Star’ is a rare astronomical occurrence where Jupiter and Saturn, the biggest planets in our solar system, get super close together like the iconic binches that they are, and unite to shine a single light our way.
According to NASA, this event won’t happen until 2080, which is a long way away. Most of us will be old coots by then, so if you want a story to tell your potential grandkids, about how you saw the legendary ‘Christmas Star’, here is your chance.
Aussies, for us to see the occurrence on December 21, we’ll need to look west at twilight, so about one hour after the sun sets. Binoculars and telescopes are obviously encouraged, but you should be able to see it with your naked eye shining real bright in the sky.
“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 one another,” said Patrick Hartigan from Rice University, Texas in a statement.
“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.”
The astronomical beauty will look like a ‘double planet’, according to astronomers, which is just technical talk for ‘big shiny ball in sky looks pretty and we love it’.
“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,” said Hartigan.
“For most telescope viewers, each planet and several of their largest moons will be visible in the same field of view that evening.”
So looks like we’ll be able to catch much more than the ‘Christmas Star’, which is good news for people who get bored easily.
If you need me, I’ll be lying underneath the light of the Christmas Star, frankincense burning, myrrh doing its thing.