The Great Conjunction to happen Monday

Published: Dec. 19, 2020 at 12:14 AM EST
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Saturn and Jupiter have been putting on a show the last couple weeks -- in the southwest sky. But an even bigger show is on the way.

On Monday, the two planets will be the closest in 800 years.

“Jupitar and Saturn have been in the sky since the summer and they’ll continue to be in the sky even after the conjunction on the 21st.”

The great conjunction... Or what many call the ‘Christmas star’ will grace the sky Monday, just in time for the holidays.

Shannon Schmoll, director of Abrams Planetarium at MSU, says you’ll be able to see this once-in-a-lifetime event happen right after sunset, when the planets will be closest.

“They’re gonna be about a tenth of a degree apart from one another which means that you’ll be able to see them through a telescope if you have one, at the same time, and that doesn’t usually happen,” said Schmoll.

Schmoll says this conjunction only happens about every 20 years and due to the placement and speed at which Jupiter and Saturn orbit the sun, but, there alignment is often not easy to see.

“Sometimes where they are relative to the sun and the earth makes it that they appear pretty close to the sun so they get lost in the sun’s glare. This time they are pretty close to the sun, but not as close, so we’ll be able to see them really nicely in the southwest right after sunset.”

With the last visible conjunction occurring roughly 40 years ago, Schmoll says the best place to catch it is at the top of a parking structure or in an open parking lot with a clear view.

“But if you happen to miss this one, or if it’s cloudy, which we live in Michigan, that happens a lot. In the year 2080 we will have another one that’s just as close so just 60 years from now that’s it,” added Schmoll.

And while most families may be staying apart this Christmas, Schmoll says the separation adds even more significance to this year’s great and rare conjunction.

“The beautiful thing about this conjunction is everyone around the world can see it so even if you feel separated from everyone else around, you can all go outside and see the same thing happening and maybe that can make you feel a little closer together just like Jupiter and Saturn are getting closer.”

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