Don’t Miss It: Jupiter, Saturn Will Look Like Double Planet for First Time Since Middle Ages

Jupiter and Saturn

Just after sunset on the evening of December 21, 2020, Jupiter and Saturn will appear closer together in Earth’s night sky than they have been since the Middle Ages, offering people the world over a celestial treat to ring in the winter solstice.

“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,” said Rice University astronomer Patrick Hartigan. “You’d have to go all the way back to just before dawn on March 4, 1226, to see a closer alignment between these objects visible in the night sky.”

Jupiter and Saturn have been approaching one another in Earth’s sky since the summer. From December 16-25, the two will be separated by less than the diameter of a full moon.

Jupiter Saturn Conjunction

A view showing how the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction will appear in a telescope pointed toward the western horizon at 6 p.m. CST, December 21, 2020. The image is adapted from graphics by open-source planetarium software Stellarium. Credit: This work, “jupsat1,” is adapted from Stellarium by Patrick Hartigan, used under GPL-2.0, and provided under CC BY 4.0 courtesy of Patrick Hartigan

“On the evening of closest approach on December 21 they will look like a double planet, separated by only 1/5th the diameter of the full moon,” said Hartigan, a professor of physics and astronomy. “For most telescope viewers, each planet and several of their largest moons will be visible in the same field of view that evening.”

Though the best viewing conditions will be near the equator, the event will be observable anywhere on Earth, weather-permitting. Hartigan said the planetary duo will appear low in the western sky for about an hour after sunset each evening.

“The further north a viewer is, the less time they’ll have to catch a glimpse of the conjunction before the planets sink below the horizon,” he said. Fortunately, the planets will be bright enough to be viewed in twilight, which may be the best time for many U.S. viewers to observe the conjunction.

“By the time skies are fully dark in Houston, for example, the conjunction will be just 9 degrees above the horizon,” Hartigan said. “Viewing that would be manageable if the weather cooperates and you have an unobstructed view to the southwest.”

But an hour after sunset, people looking skyward in New York or London will find the planets even closer to the horizon, about 7.5 degrees and 5.3 degrees respectively. Viewers there, and in similar latitudes, would do well to catch a glimpse of the rare astronomical sight as soon after sunset as possible, he said.

Those who prefer to wait and see Jupiter and Saturn this close together and higher in the night sky will need to stick around until March 15, 2080, Hartigan said. After that, the pair won’t make such an appearance until sometime after the year 2400.

40 Comments on "Don’t Miss It: Jupiter, Saturn Will Look Like Double Planet for First Time Since Middle Ages"

  1. The universe consumes and grows. Just as every other living entity does. Therefore the universe is alive. A living entity. Civilisation to the universe is like a virus to a human. In someway most likely one way , everything is connected to everything. Remember that.

    • Maybe a virus. Maybe more like gut bacteria. Maybe it’s not obvious if you have a darker perspective, but as we evolve, develop deeper understandings of our interconnectedness and start to realize the evolutionary advantages of altruism and cooperation, we have an opportunity to be more symbiotic, and less parasitic to the universe we live in. You might not be able to change the whole world immediately, but if you live your life in that way, who knows? Maybe it will spread.

    • Given the conservation laws, what is the universe “consuming?” –even black holes radiate away energy back into the universe.

      Expansion isn’t the kind of “growth” that comes from metabolizing anything.

      Even if it were “alive.” Living things seem to have apparent teleology– they adapt to more efficiently reach some state that looks like a goal. Maybe civilizations are part of that process in your analogy.

      Why must New Agers who would never eschew the technological conveniences of warm baths and modern medicine make man to out to be the Antiochus’ pig that defiles their sacrosanct “Universe”-god?

  2. When will this be happening in AEST?

  3. Excuse me but it will be Summer Solstice for half the world over. A mistake I would think should be beyond a science journalist,

  4. Interesting, I love it. Thanks for information & comments.

  5. Samirmoy Banerjiee | November 22, 2020 at 8:16 pm | Reply

    A infinite deep dark to light energy to gaseous matter called universe birth.Then gradually comes semisolid solid vapourh2o next star then A GREAT CHAIN REACTION OF DECALION YEARS.

  6. Curtis D. Swegheimer | November 22, 2020 at 8:38 pm | Reply

    12/21/2020 Can the Jupiter-Saturn allinment effect gravity for earths rotation

  7. What is time in india

  8. What’s the time in india

  9. Sue the old nurse | November 22, 2020 at 9:04 pm | Reply

    Did this happen 2000 years ago. ..Christmas?

  10. “EVERYTHING IS CONNECTED TO EVERYTHING” That is AWESOME!!!

  11. We have an awesome creator God! “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” Gen. 1:1. The Bible is true.

  12. Shadrack phelun | November 23, 2020 at 1:19 am | Reply

    Waaah I love it,what time in Kenya

  13. If God have created the Universe he or she must be dead star tired.

  14. Cool 😎 I love it 100%
    And then??? Know what

  15. Hmmm, roughly. 800 years since 1224, then the next appearance after 2080 is 400 years (2400), leaves one to think 200 years for next appearance – maybe 100 years again after that. Could get to the point where this becomes a nightly occurrence? Or not.

  16. What a deceiving title. “Jupiter and Saturn will look like double planet…”? Very hardly the actuality depicted in the photo provided.

  17. No ‘Big Bang”, steady state Universe no beginning no end.

  18. Instead of gazing at the stars or the planet how about gazing at the plastic floating in our ocean. Or the dirty diaper has someone throw in the field picking up what I’m dropping?

  19. When cassini passed thru the rings, it deposited mineral fragments from the craft which are causing the rings to desolve.

  20. People talk about THE big bang, I believe there are an infinite number of big bangs going on continuously and always have and always will. We only see the local one.

  21. This is a perfect example of how stupid and self centred us humans can be. Here we have the knowledge to not only understand what we are looking at in the night sky but also the foresight to predict when such things like the alignment of Jupiter and Saturn will be so we can observe, even with all of this splendor there are people making remarks about who is in the best hemisphere 😩. How will we ever be able to come together as a species and a Global civilisation when there are still so many Muppets who can’t help but look inward and be divisive even when learning about incredible universel event’s such as this.! Stop looking at yourselves and Look UP people

  22. This is a perfect example of how stupid and self centred us humans can be. Here we have the knowledge to not only understand what we are looking at in the night sky but also the foresight to predict when such things like the alignment of Jupiter and Saturn will be so we can observe. Even with all of this splendor there are people making remarks such as who is in the best hemisphere, who will be having a winter solstice, who will enter a Summer solstice and of course as always GOD and religion 😩. How will we ever be able to come together as a species and a “Global” civilisation when there are still so many Muppets who can’t help but look inward and be divisive even when learning about incredible universel event’s such as this.! Stop looking at yourselves and Look UP people

  23. This is a perfect example of how stupid and self centred us humans can be. Here we have the knowledge to not only understand what we are looking at in the night sky but also the foresight to predict when such things like the alignment of Jupiter and Saturn will be so we can observe. Even with all of this splendor there are people making remarks such as who is in the best hemisphere, who will be having a winter solstice, who will enter a Summer solstice and of course as always GOD and religion 😩. How will we ever be able to come together as a species and a “Global” civilisation when there are still so many Muppets who can’t help but look inward and be divisive even when learning about incredible universel event’s such as this.! Stop looking at yourselves and Look UP people.!!

  24. Does that mean from December 21st to March 2021 we are going to be subjected to very cold weather?

  25. Small doubt from a newbie on science. Is it going to be visible from the southern hemisphere?

    • Article said ‘ visible from all over earth ‘ – just have to be at the right time with unobstructed view. Maybe find your closest observatory, or collegiate astronomy professor, contact them and ask.
      Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

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