“Greatest conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter in almost 800 years” to occur on December 21st

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Image: Astronomy Ireland

The greatest conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter in almost 800 years is happening on December 21st 2020.

It also happens to be the Winter solstice in the Northern hemisphere and the peak of the Ursids meteor shower. These two planets meet every 20 years but it’s rare that they are this close in appearance as seen from Earth.The 2020 great conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn will be the closest since 1623 and the closest observable since 1226.

In 1623 Galileo himself was around and had invented his telescope some 14 years earlier but alas this meetup was too close to the sun and very hard to see but back in 1226 medieval times they would have had a great view but no social media to tell people about it.Saturn takes nearly 30 years to go around the sun, while Jupiter takes nearly 12 years. Thus, every 20 years, Jupiter catches up to Saturn as viewed from Earth.

You will need a clear sky low in the South West after sunset to witness this but you can watch them grow closer each night if you look in the same direction.Jupiter is the 4th bright object in our skies after the sun. moon and Venus and it’s 12 times brighter than Saturn so look for that really bright star like object that doesn’t twinkle as the sun sets and Saturn will appear as it gets slightly darker or your eyes adjust.There will be conjunctions in 2040, and 2060 but the next great conjunction will be in the year 2080.

David Moore from Astronomy Ireland will be on TMWR’s “Morning Call” on Thursday at 11.45 to discuss. He suggests that people make a plan to check out the night sky and watch the conjunction develop and perhaps take advantage of any dry clear nights for viewing.