How To See The "Christmas Star"

How To See The "Christmas Star"

If you get clear weather this week then you’ve hit the celestial jackpot.

Not only is there a meteor shower about to peak, but a great conjunction of planets that hasn’t been seen for 800 years—is now visible. 

Today Monday, December 21, 2020, Jupiter and Saturn will appear closer to each other than they have for nearly 400 years. It’s around 800 years since they have been so easily seen.

For the rest of December, they will appear to be super-close in the post-sunset night sky.

It’s called a “great conjunction” because Jupiter and Saturn are the two largest planets in the Solar System, and to the naked eye they’ll look like a single bright star. 

Tonight, December 21, and into the early hours of December 22 the Ursids meteor shower 2020 will also strike. So, if you go out stargazing expect to see a few shooting stars.

How, When and Where To See It

It’s being called the “Christmas Star,” but it is all about planets, not stars. The two largest planets in our solar system, Jupiter and Saturn will look like two bright stars that are almost touching, when seen by the naked eye. 

It will all happen just after sunset in the southwestern sky on December 21, 2020 and will take place low to the horizon. The two planets will sink below the horizon about two hours after sunset so you will need to be quick.

This is a historic sight. That we won’t see again in our lifetime. 

How, When and Where To See The Ursid Meteor Shower

Although you can see shooting stars from the Ursid meteor shower at any time between December 17-26, the peak night is December 21/22, 2020. Midnight will be the best time to get outside looking up. 

Expect to see between 5 and 10 shooting stars per hour if you have a clear, dark sky away from light pollution. Facing generally north is a good idea, though the streaks will appear longer to the east and west and they radiate out from Ursa Minor.

The Ursids meteor shower is the result of dust left in the Solar System in the wake of comet 8P Tuttle, which enters the inner Solar System every 13 years and is due back in August 2021. 

So if you are lucky enough to have clear skies tonight and in the next week get outside and do some star gazing.


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