“On December 21st, if you look up towards the West just after sunset, what you should see is Jupiter and Saturn getting closer to one another than they've been in anyone on this planet's lifetime,” says Jackie Faherty, an Astrophysicist at the American Museum of Natural History.
This Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn has been coined the ‘Christmas Star’, not only because of it’s festive timing, but because of the connections that some experts theorize historical event may have to astronomical phenomenons from the past.
“What happens in astronomy which I think is really cool, is that we can go back through historical texts and we can locate when somebody has said something in a story or a folklore that we can connect back to an astronomical event,” she says. “A biblical story that is told around Christmas time is of three wise men being guided by a star.”
Faherty explains that because the atmosphere tends to distort the way things appear, if 2 things are near to each other in the sky they can appear blended into one bright spot. “In this case, the star of Bethlehem idea may very well just have been a great conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, which is bright and brilliant and no one would be missing it.”
The next time to expect a Jupiter & Saturn Conjuction that stands up to this one is in the year 2080, and then not again until 2417, so you may want to catch it while you can.