As tumultuous as the year 2020 has been, wrapping it up by looking to the skies and seeing the “Christmas Star” may provide the glimmer of hope the world is desperate for as the year winds down.
If you’re not familiar, the Christmas Star event expected tonight refers to the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, the two brightest planets in the night sky. Tonight, they will be as close as they get to each other, creating what some describe one bright star to the naked eye, though most stargazers will still be able to see two distinct heavenly bodies.
The last time the two planets were this close was July 16, 1623, but it was not widely visible. Prior to that the conjunction occurred in 1226 and was visible, so we are talking about a rare occurrence.
Viewing the Christmas Star won’t be as simple as going outside and looking up, the conjunction is occurring near the horizon right at sunset, so you will only have from 5:30 p.m. to about 7 p.m. to see it.
To view the conjunction you don’t need a telescope, you can see it by looking about 20 degrees above the horizon in the Southwestern sky, the two planets will be the brightest objects in the sky.
If you want to be certain you aren’t looking at the wrong thing, there’s an app for that. Go to the app store and download “Sky Guide,” an app that allows you to point your phone at the sky while it shows you which stars are visible there by name. Find Jupiter and Saturn on the app, then put your phone down and see them with your own eyes.
If you have a telescope, you may be able to see Jupiter’s four biggest moons as well.
If you missed the Christmas Star on Monday evening, you can still see it for the rest of the week. Jupiter and Saturn will still be in conjunction, but they will not be as close as they were Monday.