The great conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in 2020, sometimes referred to as the Christmas star, inspired many sky watchers to go out on Monday night to catch a glimpse of the rare event. Ed Piotrowski, chief meteorologist at WPDE-TV in South Carolina, was one of many to share a spectacular view.
“The great conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn through my telescope just after 6 pm,” he said in a photo tweet. “4 of Jupiter’s moons; Europa, Ganymede, Io and Callisto and Titan’s moon from Saturn visible.”
A conjunction in astronomy occurs when two objects appear close in the sky when viewed from Earth, and a large conjunction specifically involves Jupiter and Saturn. The 2020 event is the closest observable conjunction of the two since 1226, and the two planets will not come so close again until 2080.
You can hear the conjunction called the Christmas star. This is because some argue that a similar planetary encounter created the legendary Star of Bethlehem that took the biblical Magi, also known as the three wise men, to the Child Jesus. Not everyone accepts this – astronomy educator and former planetarium director Jeffrey Hunt said “there are other planetary alignments that could explain the Star of Bethlehem” – but it adds a timely element to this dazzling December.
And if you missed it on Monday, you can go out every night on Christmas Eve. The planets will remain comfortably close until December 24th.
Whether or not you go out to see the conjunction, you can enjoy the photos taken and shared by many viewers. Some, like Piotrowski, noticed that they were stacking the images (taking several photos with different focus points and combining them) and many described the configuration of the camera they used.
There were even some very good jokes.
Of course, NASA entered the fun, with a chance that only they could offer. “This is not a star, it is two planets! TheGreatConjunction looks great seen from the moon! “said a tweet.
Unfortunately, not everyone had a good view of the big conjunction. “We have a cloudy sky in Toronto and we can’t see anything,” wrote a Twitter user. “Disappointing.”
And in a year of unprecedented pain and sadness for many, the great conjunction made some people think deeply about our place in the universe.
“Beautiful night sky,” wrote a Twitter user. “I look (that) and think. There must be life somewhere.”
Another wrote, “Brilliant. I’m crying looking at this. Something much bigger and more beautiful than what is here on earth right now.”
Use our tips to try to identify the big conjunction during Christmas Eve, December 24th.