As NASA noted earlier this month in anticipation of the event, the "Christmas Star" and/or the "Great Conjunction" is made possible by underrated planets Jupiter and Saturn.
"You can imagine the solar system to be a racetrack, with each of the planets as a runner in their own lane and the Earth toward the center of the stadium," Henry Throop, an astronomer in the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington, explained last week. "From our vantage point, we'll be able to be to see Jupiter on the inside lane, approaching Saturn all month and finally overtaking it on December 21."
The timing of this visual gem, the first of its kind in hundreds of years, is a result of sheer happenstance. Per Throop, conjunctions of this type could actually happen on any given day of any given year, though the timing of this particular example is indeed considered a "rare coincidence" for a multitude of reasons. Chief among them, of course, is that its nighttime status made astronomical appreciation possible for so many on this increasingly damaged-by-us planet.
While the opportunity to view Jupiter and Saturn at the closest alignment has already passed, the days ahead will still include chances to peep the planets.
In the meantime, here's a grab bag of Great Conjunction porn:
The most amazing photo of the #GreatConjunction I've seen yet. This one from @insertastronamehere on Instagram. Taken the night before the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, and you can also see both Jovian and Saturnian moons. Amazing. 🔭 pic.twitter.com/dUWtzutSUG
— Alan Baxter (@AlanBaxter) December 22, 2020
People around the world shared a moment of unity Dec. 21 when we looked up to admire the same thing: the Great Conjunction. Did you see it? Reply w/ your photos & videos.
Missed it? Don't worry; Jupiter & Saturn will still look impressive for the next few days.
📸: @NASAHQPhoto pic.twitter.com/GqhowvM8WX
— NASA (@NASA) December 22, 2020
The Saturn Jupiter conjunction as seen from IIT Delhi. Nikon P900, ISO 1600, exposure 1/20 s. Zoom 1200mm. Manual focus and hand held. December 21, 2020. #jupitersaturnconjuction pic.twitter.com/XhijifiaH7
— Nandini Sen (@NandiniSenHere) December 22, 2020
— scott budman (@scottbudman) December 22, 2020
Jupiter and Saturn appear a tenth of a degree apart in this image taken near Chapel Hill, NC during an astronomical event known as a “Great Conjunction.” See more images from tonight and previous nights #TheGreatConjuction ➡️ https://t.co/hBTFS69AUy pic.twitter.com/Z52IjG9LSt
— NASA HQ PHOTO (@nasahqphoto) December 22, 2020
My best shot at the #conjuction2020 #conjunction with Saturn and Jupiter clearly visible. Kind of cool that we are all looking at the sky right now sharing this moment. Cheers! pic.twitter.com/CDhq3PtztT
— chris mess 🎄 (@ChrisConrady) December 22, 2020
Look up more often. There's much to see.
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