Here’s how to see the rare “great conjunction” of Jupiter, Saturn
STATEN ISLAND, NY – The solar system’s two gas giants, Jupiter and Saturn, have moved closer to each other in the night sky – and will appear up close next month in a rare event called “The Great Conjuction 2020 “.
Jupiter generally appears bright and is one of the best nocturnal objects, but has recently stood out more than usual due to the presence of bright Saturn in the east near Jupiter, according to Space.com.
When the two planets are in conjunction – that is, when they have the same right ascension or celestial longitude – this is called the “great conjunction”. That’s because unlike conjunctions with other bright planets, these two don’t come together often, reports Space.com.
The next conjunction is scheduled for December 21, the same day as the winter solstice.
And that won’t happen again for another 20 years.
It is the closest pairing of Jupiter and Saturn since 1623, according to Forbes. There will be no further conjunction of the pair until October 31, 2040, when the planets are slightly further apart.
Most of the time, when Jupiter passes Saturn, the planets are more than one degree apart, according to Espace.com. But on Monday, December 21, they will be separated by about a tenth of a degree.
This means that if you look through a telescope, you will be able to see Saturn and Jupiter simultaneously in the same field of view. The planets will gradually get closer during the months of November and December. This week, the planets are only 5.1 degrees apart.
So how can you see the two planets?
According to Forbes, you have to look southwest to find Jupiter because it shines at magnitude -2.2 and is easy to spot. The Saturn dimmer will be to the left of Jupiter, or further east, and is more difficult to spot.
There’s an easy way to make sure you’re looking at Saturn: stretch out your arm, hold your middle three together, and place your right-most finger on Jupiter. At the other end will be Saturn, according to Forbes.