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Jupiter And Saturn Set To Align For First 'Christmas Star' In 800 Years

We have had an exceptional year, so it seems fitting to end it off with an exceptional cosmic event. On the winter solstice (December 21), Jupiter and Saturn will align to create a rare "Christmas star". The Christmas "star" will be created when the two planets align so closely that they appear like one super-bright point of light.

The name of the event is referring to the star of Bethlehem.

Christian traditions believe that a bright star in the sky led three wise men to the manger that Jesus was born in. Some, including famous astronomer Johannes Kepler, believe that the three wise men could have seen a rare triple planet alignment. In that case, Jupiter, Saturn, and Venus.

Jupiter and Saturn have not aligned as closely since 1226!

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Patrick Hartigan, an astronomer at Rice University, told Forbes:

“Alignments between these two planets are rather rare, occurring once every 20 years or so, but this conjunction is exceptionally rare because of how close the planets will appear to be to one another.”

Although the planets will seem close, they aren't really.

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When we think about the distance between objects in the solar systems, we use a measurement called an astronomical unit (au). One astronomical unit is the average distance between the Earth and the Sun (about 150 million kilometers). When Jupiter and Saturn align, they will be 5au apart from each other.

An exceptional "star" for an exceptional year!

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You will be able to see the Christmas star in the night sky anywhere in the world. Look to the southwest about an hour after sunset.

And with all due respect to religious beliefs, let's hope this Christmas star is merely an astronomical phenomenon. I don't know if this year can handle any more world-changing events!

h/t: Forbes

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