As we head into the dark nights of winter your author’s thoughts once again turn to ‘sky gazing’ and so this website tends to feature some astronomy related posts which I think may interest the reader. Some do have links to radio, others are what I consider interesting and like to share. This is one which points to an event that is rarely seen in the night sky and just in time for the holidays.
Jupiter and Saturn will appear closer to each other on 21st December than they have been since the Middle Ages. If you gaze into the southwestern horizon at the right time, the two gas giants will look like neighbouring points of light.
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, you have to go all the way back to just before dawn on March 4, 1226, to see a closer alignment between these two objects.
The last time Jupiter and Saturn came this close was 1623, but that conjunction was too near the Sun to be seen. So 1226 is actually the most recent time such a close conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn was visible to humans.
Weather permitting, on the 21st December, the conjunction will be observable anywhere on Earth, although it will more difficult in high northern latitudes. You won’t need a telescope, but you’ll have to find a good viewing spot and be on time. Avoid tall buildings or mountains, and look toward the low southwestern horizon right after sunset.
Professor Matthew Bate from the University of Exeter explains how to view the event or watch the live stream from the university if your local weather does not co-operate.