The 2020 Christmas season is not only peculiar because it will be marked by the novel Coronavirus with its lockdowns, and meeting restrictions. It will also be remembered for the return of the Star of Bethlehem, which is not actually a specific star, but an astronomical event.
It is about the approach of Jupiter and Saturn, the two largest planets in our solar system. This phenomenon is called conjunction and, as some astronomers have explained, it could be the same as that referenced in the Bible. The story tells that the three wise men, Melchior, Gaspar and Baltasar, followed the star of Bethlehem to find Jesus in his place of birth.
Although it has been said that this only occurs every 800 years, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration of the United States (NASA) noted that these types of events occur every 20 years. However, this one is special, because it is a particularly large conjunction and will not be seen for 60 years. From Earth, Jupiter and Saturn will be seen so close that they will appear like a ‘double planet’ system, as reported by NASA.
Stellar travel companions
According to that entity, both planets have been traveling together in the sky during this year. Only in December they will get close enough to produce a beautiful astronomical spectacle. NASA points out that in the first three weeks of December it has been possible to observe the journey that the two planets have made. However, they reported that the day on which it will be seen most clearly is December 21st.
On that date the two huge planets will only be separated by one tenth of a degree. That is, from our perspective, they will be at a distance similar to the thickness of a coin, NASA informed. Both will be visible next to their moons and will be so close that Saturn may appear like a satellite of Jupiter.
According to NASA, “look for them in the southwest in the hour after sunset,” the entity said. “They will be visible in the same field of view through binoculars or a small telescope,” it added.
It must be said that the sky must be clear, as clouds can make it difficult to make the observation. NASA recommended “to look for a place without much surface lighting, because from places with too much light pollution (especially in large cities) you cannot see the night sky well.