Planetary conjunction one for the ages

  • In this Dec. 13 photo made available by NASA, Saturn, top, and Jupiter, below, are seen after sunset from Shenandoah National Park in Luray, Va. The two planets are drawing closer to each other in the sky as they head toward a “great conjunction” on Monday, Dec. 21. NASA VIA AP

Staff Writer
Published: 12/21/2020 3:56:53 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Planet watchers will get to enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime event Monday night, when Jupiter and Saturn will get close enough together in the night sky that they will look like one, bright star.

Clear skies permitting, “It should be an amazing sight!” said Meg Thacher, in a press release from Smith College.

Thacher is a senior laboratory instructor at Smith, and in the release she offers tips for seeing the conjunction of the two largest planets in the solar system, which will appear closer together in the sky than they have been for 800 years.

She advises people to go outside around sunset, look to the west where the sun is setting and observe the brightest star, which will actually be Jupiter with Saturn very close by. The planets can be observed with both the naked eye or through binoculars or a telescope.

“But don’t stop watching after Monday!” Thacher suggests, noting that observers will be able to see the planets drift apart from each other in the days after.

Thacher is the author of “Sky Gazing,” a book that aims to make astronomy accessible that was written for children in fourth through ninth grade.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.


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