While everyone else is social distancing on Earth, Jupiter and Saturn will do the opposite in our solar system. According to Nasa, on December 21, the two planets will be only 0.1 degrees apart, which is the thickness of a dime held at arm’s length.
The two planets’ orbits align every 20 years and get very close to one another. While Jupiter takes 12 years to orbit the sun, Saturn takes 30 years. Astronomers use the term conjunction to describe the meetings of planets and other objects in the solar system.
The year 2020 has been a one-of-its-kind year so far, and now we are going to witness another rare event: Jupiter and Saturn have not been this close to each other in 400 years. In 1623, Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei spotted the two planets aligning for the first time. However, the alignment visible in the sky can be traced back to 1226. The next time these two planets will appear this close together will be in 2080.
To see these two giants break the social distancing rule, Nasa recommends to look for them low in the southwest one hour after sunset. The rarity of this particular event is that no one alive today has ever seen the two planets this close together. With binoculars or a telescope, one can observe Saturn’s rings and some of Jupiter’s moons. Although these planets are getting closer to one another, they are still some 450 million miles apart. While Jupiter will appear bigger in the sky, Saturn will appear to be the smaller one next to it.
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