The shortest day of the year will have a big show. On Monday, as the northern hemisphere marks the beginning of winter with the solstice, we are also treated to a rare and spectacular view of the sky:of Jupiter and Saturn.
During the show, the two largest planets in our solar system will appear very close to each other, as if they overlap to create a double planet. The last time we were treated to such a view was in the Middle Ages – almost 800 years ago.
Some associate her with the fabled Star of Bethlehem that guided the three sages in the story of the Biblical Birth.
To celebrate the first day of winter and the great conjunction that takes place on the same day, Google created an animated doodle that shows Saturn, giving Jupiter a maximum of five as it slides into the orbit of the solar system.
A conjunction occurs when any two astronomical objects appear close together in the sky when observed from Earth. From our perspective, the two giant planets will appear at only a tenth of a degree, even if they are actually about 450 million miles away.
The conjunction of the two planets takes place every 19.6 years, but it is the first time since 1226 when the pair aligned at night and the earthlings were able to assist it.
Tight alignment will be easily visible to the naked eye as we look at the southwest sky just after sunset.