Planets set to line up in the night sky

Planetary conjunction (c) SPL
Planets often intersect on their journey around the Sun, but this conjunction is unusual.

Jupiter and Saturn are ready to cross in the night sky, appearing with the naked eye as a “double planet”.

The timing of this conjunction, as the heavenly event is known, has led some to suggest that it may have been the source of a bright light in the sky 2,000 years ago.

It became known as the Star of Bethlehem.

The planets are approaching every night and will reach their closest point on December 21st.

The stellar stars in the UK will have to watch the weather closely to avoid astronomical disappointment.

“It’s clear every night, it’s worth taking a chance, because the weather isn’t good,” Dr Carolin Crawford of the University of Cambridge’s Institute of Astronomy told the BBC.

If there is a gap in the darkness of winter, both planets will appear in the southwestern sky, just above the horizon shortly after sunset.

What hope for the stars of Great Britain? From Simon King, BBC Weather

Monday will be a wet and windy day for many, but in the evening, most of the cloud and rain will clear. Therefore, there should be a lot of clear spells that develop in most parts of the UK. The exception to this may be in the south-west of England, the south and west of Wales, where the cloud will remain around, with rain spreading. If you leave it too late at night in the south of England and the Midlands, the cloud and rain will spread. here overnight.

Is this the return of the Star from Bethlehem?

Some astronomers and theologians believe this.

As Prof. Eric M Vanden Eykel, a professor of religion at Ferrum College in Virginia, pointed out in an online article, the moment led to a lot of speculation “whether this could be the same astronomical event that the Bible reports on the sages to Joseph, Mary and the newborn Jesus ”.

This is not just modern, festive speculation. The theory that the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn could be the “Wonder Star” was proposed in the early 17th century by Johannes Kepler, a German astronomer and mathematician.

“2,000 years ago, people were more aware of what was happening in the night sky,” said Dr. Crawford.[so] it is not impossible for the Star of Bethlehem to be a planetary alignment like this. ”

How rare is the event?

As the planets intersect in their journey around the Sun, conjunctions are not particularly rare, but this is special.

“Conjunctions are great things to see – it happens quite often – but [for the planets to be this close] it is quite remarkable, “Prof. Tim O’Brien, an astrophysicist at the University of Manchester, told BBC News.

The two planets – the largest in the Solar System and some of the brightest objects visible in the night sky – have not been so close to each other in an 800-year-old dark sky. And while the UK forecast is not at all favorable to star gazes, it could change.

“The schedule is changing – this is just British weather and this is astronomy for you,” said Prof. O’Brien.

“The planets will settle in the southwest, so you have to get out there as soon as the sky darkens.

“None of us will be around 400 years old, so you have to keep an eye on the weather and go out if you get the chance.”

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