Jupiter, Saturn to align tonight; how to view the 'great conjunction'

Posted at 8:52 AM, Dec 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-21 07:19:51-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Look up at the sky tonight. We will get a treat as Jupiter and Saturn will be the closest they have been in the sky in four centuries.

Appearing as a “Christmas star,” the "great conjunction" happens Monday, which also happens to be the Winter Solstice, marking the start of the winter season. The best time to see it will be about an hour after sunset.

A conjunction happens when planets appear close in the night sky and line up with Earth’s orbits. The last time Jupiter and Saturn were this close was 1623, about 14 years after the invention of the telescope. But that year, the conjunction was too close to the sun to view it.

However, the last time Jupiter and Saturn were this close and visible to the Earth was during the Middle Ages in 1226.

To view the conjunction, you will want to look to the southwest just above the horizon. If you want to do a fun activity with your kids, grab a dime and hold it at arm’s length towards the sky in between your fingers. Jupiter and Saturn’s angular distance is nearly equal to the thickness of a dime.

Here's a good way to remember how far above the horizon to look up: the conjunction will be about 15 degrees above the horizon, about the length of a thumbs up.

Watch the full explainer in the video above.