Jupiter and Saturn’s 2020 great conjunction, sometimes referred to as the Christmas star, inspired plenty of skygazers to head outside Monday night to catch a glimpse of the rare event. Ed Piotrowski, chief meteorologist for South Carolina’s WPDE-TV, was one of many to share a spectacular view.
“The great conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn thru my telescope just after 6 p.m.,” he said in a photo tweet. “4 of Jupiter’s moons; Europa, Ganymede, Io & Callisto, and Saturn’s Titan moon visible.”
A conjunction in astronomy occurs when two objects appear close together in the sky when observed from Earth, and a great conjunction specifically involves Jupiter and Saturn. The 2020 event is the closest observable conjunction of the two since the 1226, and the two planets won’t get this close again until 2080.
You may hear the conjunction referred to as the Christmas star. That’s because some argue that a similar planetary meetup created the legendary Star of Bethlehem that led the biblical Magi, also known as the three wise men, to the Christ Child. Not everyone accepts that — 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 December dazzler.
And if you missed it Monday, you can head outside nightly through Christmas Eve. The planets will remain cozily close through Dec. 24.
Whether or not you’re heading outside to view the conjunction, you can appreciate the photographs taken and shared by many viewers. Some, like Piotrowski, noted that they were stacking the images, (taking multiple photos with different focus points and combining them) and many described the camera setup they used.