The Great Conjunction December 21, 2020
On December 21, the great conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn is going to take place. On this occasion, Jupiter and Saturn will be 0.1 degrees apart. The conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn is a rare event that takes place every 20 years on average. Although they will appear extremely close to each other in the night sky, they will still be millions of kilometers away in space.
The year 2020 was an excellent year for those who love sky-gazing. Some of the exciting astronomy events were: Annular Solar Eclipse on the day of the summer solstice, the four lunar occultations of Mars, the appearance of comet NEOWISE, the closest approach of Jupiter and Saturn in the same week, and the special opposition of Mars in October.
The rarity of great conjunctions is due to the slow-motion of Jupiter and Saturn across the sky. Among the planets that are visible to the naked eye, they are the two most distant from the Sun, taking 11.86 years and 29.5 years respectively to orbit it. As the two planets gradually move through the constellations at different speeds, they follow almost the same path across the sky, called the ecliptic. Periodically, Jupiter catches up with Saturn and overtakes it, resulting in great conjunction, on average once every 19.6 years.
On 21 December at 13:30 UT, Jupiter will be 0.1° south of Saturn. The gas giant will appear together in a telescopic view. It’ll be the first Jupiter-Saturn conjunction since the year 2000, and the closest Jupiter-Saturn conjunction since the year 1623. The next conjunction will take place in 2040. But this year’s conjunction won’t be matched until March 15, 2080.
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