Jupiter and Saturn, the two behemoths of the solar system, are putting up a spectacle these days in the evening sky. Both these planets are scheduled for the closest meet on Monday evening at 6:21 pm.
December 21 marks the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere and the start of astronomical winter.
Like many other organisations working for popularising science, the Gujarat Council on Science and Technology has also arranged for observation of the great conjunction on Monday evening at Gandhinagar and all Community Science Centres (CSCs) in different districts.
The two planets will be closer in the sky on 21 December 2020 than they've been in almost 400 years!
— Planetary Society (@exploreplanets) December 16, 2020
Astronomy enthusiasts excited
According to Sandip Bhattacharya, the assistant director of Jaipur’s BM Birla Planetarium, astronomy enthusiasts, worldwide, are excited to watch and record the event in their instruments. The last time the two giants met was in the year 2000. Few enthusiasts are also webcasting the spectacle for an hour or so on Monday evening.
Experts at the BM Birla Planetarium are also keeping a watch on this celestial coincidence of a generation for the past few days. They have captured a photograph using an eleven-inch telescope from its premises on Sunday evening.
Jupiter and its fainter companion – Saturn, make its presence felt about a quarter of an hour before six nearly 25 degrees above the south-western horizon. The spectacle concludes by a quarter to eight as both the planets sets down for the rest of the night.
One can have a look at both the planets locked in a Tango for the next couple of weeks as their separation gradually increases and both disappear in the glow of the setting sun carrying on with their celestial romance.
Rare celestial event
The two huge planets of gas—Jupiter and Saturn will be seen close to each other during the night. It will be a rare celestial event of the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn. The planets will look extremely close to each other as over one another making them look like a bright speckle in the sky.
“This rare event can be witnessed from everywhere over the world without the usage of any unique gadgets. In case you already got a pair of binoculars or have a small telescope, you may get an even better view of the occurrence or could be lucky to detect Jupiter’s moons.
Last happened in 1623
The last time these two planets were seen so close to each other on July 16, 1623. At that time i.e. 397 years ago, they were at a distance of 5 arc minutes. Before that, the two planets Jupiter and Saturn have been this close in medieval times in 1226.
Thus, the coming together of Saturn and Jupiter on December 21, 2020, will begin a two-hundred-year epoch known as the Age of Air, said Bhattacharya.
The next time these two huge gas planets will come closer on March 15, 2080. That means you can see a similar phenomenon after approx a gap of 60 years.
Jupiter-Saturn spectacle to last 2 hours
The show will be fleeting — lasting only about two hours after sunset. Skywatchers will need to look to their west-southwest as it gets dark, where they will see the bright, coupled planets shining through the twilight. If they appear merged to the naked eye, a telescope or binoculars will aid in telling them apart.
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