Tonight of December 21, the ‘Great Conjunction’ of Jupiter and Saturn will be seen at its best from almost anywhere in the world
2020 will say goodbye in the middle of a global pandemic, but also of an astronomical show where two planets will “meet” and will look like a great star that will shine in the west, just as the sun sets.
Jupiter and Saturn get closer every day and tonight, December 21, 2020, there will be a “super conjunction” of these two planets; the last time they were this close was 886 years ago.
“The alignments between these two planets are quite rare, they occur once every 20 years or so, but this conjunction is exceptionally rare due to how close the planets will be to each other,” said astronomer Patrick Hartigan, professor of physics and astronomy at Rice University, in Houston.
To see them you have to be aware of the sunset, because as soon as it is hidden, these two planets will appear in the sky.
“They will be so close that they will practically look like a single star like that to the naked eye. As soon as the Sun sets, these two planets will go behind the Sun, we will have an hour or an hour and a half to admire them, because after that they will hide ”, said the astrophysicist from the University of Guadalajara in Mexico , Alejandro Márquez Lugo.
On December 21, in addition, the winter solstice will be held, when the day will be shorter than the night; and there will also be a shower of stars, the Ursids, which are given by the passage of the Earth through the orbit of Comet 8P / Tuttle.
WHERE TO LOOK TO SEE THE ‘GREAT CONJUNCTION’ OF JUPITER AND SATURNO?
Unlike other astronomical spectacles, such as meteor showers, where there are certain conditions that allow better visibility, the great conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn is something that can be seen with the naked eye.
It does not matter from which part of the world you are, the Great Conjunction can be appreciated from almost all places on Earth, approximately one hour after the sun sets, however, you will have to take into account the climatic conditions of your country to be able to appreciate them.
To observe them you can do it by directing your gaze towards the southwest, especially towards the horizon as soon as it begins to get dark, details the doctor of engineering Alejandro Farah, academic technician in the Department of Instrumentation of the Institute of Astronomy of the National Autonomous University of Mexico.
“Where the sun sets, that is the west; From there you have to trace a little south, about 30 degrees, and they will see it there, ”he says.
If you are in New York, California or London, you can best observe the conjunction after sunset. Waiting an hour after the sun sets will only bring the planets closer to the horizon.
“In Mexico, at 6 in the afternoon, which is already practically dark, it is going to be an incredible show. Those who have binoculars or a telescope will be able to focus them together, which is very difficult to achieve, ”says Alejandro Farah.
For astronomers who have one of these observation instruments, Farah points out that it will be possible to perceive some of Jupiter’s moons – for the first time observed, in fact, by Galileo -: Callisto, Europa, Ganymede and the plagued Io volcanoes, the site with the most volcanic activity in the entire Solar System.
On the other hand, when pointing the instrument at Saturn, the rings that revolve around the planet extending hundreds of thousands of kilometers will be seen quite pronounced, as well as Titan, the largest of the 53 natural satellites that orbit it. .
“My recommendation is: everyone who has a telescope, take it out and point it at anyone; they are going to be surprised. It is practically once in their life that they will have these two celestial objects, these planets, in the same field of view of the telescope ”, emphasizes Farah.
Other places where you can appreciate this astronomical phenomenon, in case you cannot see it in your country due to weather conditions, is through the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, who as of 5 pm (ET), on their YouTube channel , which you can enter from HERE, will display live images with the help of its telescope. Another available site is the Virtual Telescope Project in Rome, which you can also enter from HERE to see its live broadcast.
So now you know, there is no better way to celebrate the longest night of the year than by looking at the stars and the conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn. If you miss this astronomical event, you will not see it again until October 31, 2040, when both planets will be seen close again, although not with the same closeness.