Saturn and Jupiter to be in visible conjunction for the first time in nearly 800 years
By John McPhaul
Dust off the telescope. The most significant astronomical event of the year, the great conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, occurs shortly after the sun sets on Monday, Dec. 21, when the two largest planets in the solar system can be seen looking like a double planet.
“Jupiter is much brighter than Saturn, but with the naked eye you can see Saturn close to the right side, forming a very striking view to the west-southwest while it gets dark,” the Caribbean Astronomy Society said Sunday in a written statement.
The educational organization added that although a conjunction or apparent rapprochement between the two planets occurs approximately every 20 years, most of these events are extremely close to the horizon or during daylight hours, so they are usually not visible.
However, if weather conditions allow, the “meeting” of the two planets that occurs during sunset on Dec. 21 will be clearly visible for the first time since sunrise on March 4, 1226; that is, almost 800 years ago.
“The event is due to the fact that, as seen from our perspective, both Saturn and Jupiter will be almost aligned with the Earth, and although we will see them as being very close to each other, in reality Saturn will be located about 455 million miles (733 million kilometers) farther away or almost behind Jupiter,” said Eddie Irizarry, vice president of the Caribbean Astronomy Society.
The organization stressed that although the event will be visible with the naked eye, it will have the peculiarity that when pointing a small telescope toward the bright planet Jupiter, Saturn will look so close to it that both planets will be visible at the same time in the same visual field, something extremely unusual.
If weather conditions are favorable, images can be seen during the event through the Facebook.com/sociedad.astronomia web page, the society said.