How to Watch Jupiter and Saturn Do Something Special Tonight
As long as the clouds are out of the way tonight, Jupiter and Saturn will appear the closest in nearly 800 years.
Astronomers call such an event a “great conjunction,” and you can see it with the naked eye. Even better, the apparent proximity of the planets means that they can also be seen in the same field of view when viewed through binoculars or a small telescope.
The last time Jupiter and Saturn appeared this close was in 1623, but the event was difficult to see from Earth due to its proximity to the Sun. The last time they were so close and easily seen was in 1226 – when Genghis Khan was busy conquering Asia.
NASA suggests looking to the southwest for Jupiter and Saturn in the hour after sunset on Monday evening, adding: “On the 21st they appear so close that a little finger at arm’s length easily covers both planets in the sky. ”
The space agency also provides specific instructions on how to view the two planets in the night sky:
- Find a place with a clear view of the sky, e.g. B. a field or a park. Jupiter and Saturn are bright so they can be seen even from most cities.
- Look at the southwest sky an hour after sunset. Jupiter looks like a bright star and is easily visible. Saturn is getting a little weaker and appears slightly above and to the left of Jupiter until December 21st when Jupiter overtakes it and they reverse positions in the sky.
- The planets can be seen with the naked eye. However, if you have binoculars or a small telescope, you may be able to see Jupiter’s four large moons orbiting the huge planet.
According to NASA, when the orbits of Earth, Jupiter, and Saturn regularly align and the two planets appear close together in the night sky, a great conjunction occurs roughly every 20 years.
In reality, Jupiter and Saturn are more than 724 million kilometers apart – Earth is 885 million kilometers from Jupiter, the closest of the two planets.
And don’t worry if you miss the spectacle on Monday – Jupiter and Saturn will still appear close together for a while.