Jupiter and Saturn Will Be the Closest They've Been in 800 Years — How to See the 'Christmas Star' This December

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Long before we had Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video to keep us occupied at night, humans used to delight in another form of relaxing entertainment: stargazing. And in just a few days, you’ll be able to catch a celestial show that humanity hasn’t seen in nearly 800 years.

On Dec. 21, Jupiter and Saturn will align in a position known as the great conjunction, which is the point at which they’re closest to each other in the night sky as seen from Earth. This phenomenon is often also referred to as the “Christmas star.” While this meeting happens every 20 years or so, in 2020, the planets will be closer together than they have been since 1623. But that year, the alignment was too close to the sun to view from Earth. The last time humans were able to see a great conjunction this close was in 1226, well before telescopes were invented.

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  • a person standing in front of a building: Hoda Kotb tells Jenna Bush Hager about a special moment she shared with her daughters, Hope and Haley, when she took them to see the Rockefeller Christmas tree lit up at night. 

    Hoda shares magical moment taking daughters to see Rockefeller tree

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    TODAY

  • Dolly Parton sitting on a table: Dolly Parton discusses how she celebrated the holidays growing up and the birthday video she made for Hoda Kotb. She also opens up about her new Netflix movie, “Christmas in the Square,” and coffee table book, “Dolly Parton Storyteller,” and takes fan questions via Zoom, as well as chatting with “Pioneer Woman” Ree Drummond.

    Dolly Parton talks holiday projects and answers fan questions

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    TODAY

  • Dramatic video from Boston shows the plight of two window washers whose scaffold malfunctioned as they were working 13 stories up. Firefighters were able to pull them to safety through windows.

    Caught on video: Firefighters rescue window washers after scaffold malfunctions

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    TODAY

  • a person sitting on a table: Back in October, Brianna Hill, a law school student, faced two major challenges at the same time: taking her bar exam and having a baby. Now she joins TODAY live along with her baby, Cassius, to talk about how she managed to successfully do both. “Having a baby really puts the bar exam in perspective,” she says.

    Meet the law school student who went into labor during bar exam (and her baby!)

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  • Hoda Kotb et al. posing for the camera: Teens are rarely considered by adoptive parents. Marking National Adoption Month, TODAY’s Hoda Kotb sits down with a group of older kids in various stage of the adoption process who talk about their challenges and dreams. “I’m just looking for someone to share my love with,” one says.

    Older kids talk about the challenges of getting adopted

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    TODAY

  • Cyndi Lauper wearing a suit and tie talking on a cell phone: Grammy, Emmy and Tony-winning music icon Cyndi Lauper stops by TODAY to talk about receiving the Icon Award at Billboard's Women in Music event this week, as well as putting together the star-studded New York City concert titled

    Cyndi Lauper talks about 'Home for the Holidays' benefit concert

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    TODAY

  • a close up of a sign: Country stars Tim McGraw and Faith Hill have a Christmas tree that appears to be trying to compete with the one at Rockefeller Center. McGraw tweeted out photos of himself doing the decorating on a giant ladder.

    Tim McGraw and Faith Hill have a HUGE Christmas tree

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    TODAY

  • Meghan Markle who is smiling and looking at the camera: In an emotional New York Times op-ed Wednesday morning, Meghan Markle revealed that in July she suffered a miscarriage that would have been her and Prince Harry’s second child. NBC’s Erin McLaughlin reports for TODAY.

    Meghan Markle reveals she suffered a miscarriage in July

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  • Michael Phelps smiling for the camera: The most decorated Olympian of all time, Michael Phelps, joins TODAY via FaceTime to talk about the delay of the Tokyo Olympics until 2021 and the mental health challenge it presents athletes. “It is challenging,” he says, but advises his fellow athletes to look on it “as an opportunity to fine-tune” themselves for an additional year.

    Michael Phelps: Delay of Olympics is tough, but an opportunity for athletes

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  • a man sitting on a table: Brothers David and Daniel Kleban followed their passion and started Maine Beer Co. nearly 10 years ago. NBC’s Savannah Sellers caught up with them to learn about how they built their business around the desire to do good and give back.

    How 2 brothers built their beer business around giving back

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  • a person standing in front of a clock: “Saturday Night Live” cast member Chole Fineman has been going viral with her impression of Drew Barrymore. Now the actress finally met her doppelganger face to face when Fineman went on Barrymore’s show.

    Drew Barrymore meets her ‘SNL’ doppelganger, Chloe Fineman

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  • a woman smiling for the camera: Chloe Fineman, one of the newest featured players on “Saturday Night Live,” did some hilarious impressions from Oscar-nominated films Saturday night, including the cast of “Little Women” and Scarlett Johansson.

    Watch Chloe Fineman of ‘SNL’ impersonate the ‘Little Women’ cast

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    TODAY

  • a person standing in front of a building: Hoda Kotb tells Jenna Bush Hager about a special moment she shared with her daughters, Hope and Haley, when she took them to see the Rockefeller Christmas tree lit up at night. 
    Hoda shares magical moment taking daughters to see Rockefeller tree
    Hoda Kotb tells Jenna Bush Hager about a special moment she shared with her daughters, Hope and Haley, when she took them to see the Rockefeller Christmas tree lit up at night. 

    TODAY Logo
    TODAY

  • Dolly Parton sitting on a table: Dolly Parton discusses how she celebrated the holidays growing up and the birthday video she made for Hoda Kotb. She also opens up about her new Netflix movie, “Christmas in the Square,” and coffee table book, “Dolly Parton Storyteller,” and takes fan questions via Zoom, as well as chatting with “Pioneer Woman” Ree Drummond.
    Dolly Parton talks holiday projects and answers fan questions
    Dolly Parton discusses how she celebrated the holidays growing up and the birthday video she made for Hoda Kotb. She also opens up about her new Netflix movie, “Christmas in the Square,” and coffee table book, “Dolly Parton Storyteller,” and takes fan questions via Zoom, as well as chatting with “Pioneer Woman” Ree Drummond.

    TODAY Logo
    TODAY

  • Dramatic video from Boston shows the plight of two window washers whose scaffold malfunctioned as they were working 13 stories up. Firefighters were able to pull them to safety through windows.
    Caught on video: Firefighters rescue window washers after scaffold malfunctions
    Dramatic video from Boston shows the plight of two window washers whose scaffold malfunctioned as they were working 13 stories up. Firefighters were able to pull them to safety through windows.

    TODAY Logo
    TODAY

UP NEXT

This year, Jupiter and Saturn will be just a tenth of a degree apart at their closest. To help you visualize that distance, that’s about the width of a dime if you hold one out at arm’s length. (It’s worth noting that despite their apparent closeness from our vantage point, Jupiter and Saturn are actually 400 million miles apart.) As such, anyone with a pair of strong binoculars or a telescope will be able to see both planets within a single field of view. You’ll even be able to witness them with the naked eye, though the show is much more impressive at closer range. 

To spot the great conjunction, look to the southwest sky just after sunset on Dec. 21. The two bright planets, which will appear consistently bright and not twinkling like stars, will be pretty low in the sky. The good news is that they’ll be viewable everywhere on the planet, so as long as the skies are clear, you’ll be good to go. If you don’t have your own binoculars or telescope, many local astronomy clubs and observatories are hosting socially distanced viewing events. You definitely won’t want to miss the show this time around; after Dec. 21, Jupiter and Saturn won’t be this close in the night sky until March 15, 2080.

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