Great Conjunction 2020: Though Jupiter and Saturn pass each other and align in the sky roughly every 20 years, tonight would still mark a unique event of Great Conjunction.
The event is occurring on the day of the winter solstice, when the night is the longest. (Image: NASA/ Bill Ingalls)
Christmas Star: The Great Conjunction is set to occur tonight! Christmas Star is set to be visible a few days before Christmas Day as Jupiter and Saturn would come together as one in the night sky. Though Jupiter and Saturn pass each other and align in the sky roughly every 20 years, tonight would still mark a unique event of Great Conjunction, according to US space agency NASA.
Great Conjunction 2020: Why is it unique
Since the positions of Jupiter and saturn align about every 20 years, the Great Conjunction would not seem to be a big deal. But it is. This year, the two planets would be 0.1 degrees apart in the sky. The last time the two planets came this close together was about 400 years ago in 1623. While this would be enough to make the event unique as it is, there is more. This year is also the first time in roughly 800 years since the planets aligned during the night time. Another happy coincidence is that the event is occurring on the day of the winter solstice, when the night is the longest, which means that nearly everyone on Earth would be able to witness the event. In case anyone were to miss watching the event on December 21, it would last for a few days.
The Great Conjunction of 2020 is set to occur at 6:20 pm UTC, which means that it will begin at 11:50 pm on December 21 in India.
At this time, while the planets would actually be millions of miles apart in space, they would come together at their closest when viewed from Earth.
Viewers would not require any special equipment to witness the event, as the planets would be visible with naked eye as Jupiter and Saturn are bright. While they would be very close together, keen observers would be able to distinguish between the two planets. The slightly fainter of the two would be Saturn, and it would be slightly above and to the left of Jupiter tonight. After tonight, the two planets would switch positions.
While the planets can be viewed unaided, a small telescope or binoculars would help in the ability to also view four of the moons of Jupiter orbiting the giant planet.