Image of Jupiter captured by Nasa’s Juno Mission (representational image).(Twitter/@NASAJPL)
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For first time in nearly 800 years, Jupiter and Saturn will look like ‘double planet’

According to Rice University astronomer Patrick Hartigan, two of the largest planets of our solar system, Jupiter and Saturn, will appear close and will look like a ‘double planet’.
By Trisha Sengupta | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON NOV 28, 2020 07:08 PM IST

Are you someone who loves various celestial events? Do you often find yourself gazing at the sky? If you murmured “Yes” to any or both the questions, then you’ll be happy to know that December has an amazing gift to offer. Just a few days before Christmas this year, precisely on December 21, something magical will happen. Two of the largest planets of our solar system, Jupiter and Saturn, will appear close and will look like a ‘double planet’. What’s even more intriguing is that it is something that last happened nearly 800 years ago.

“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 one another,” said Rice University astronomer Patrick Hartigan, reports a statement issued by the institute. “You’d have to go all the way back to just before dawn on March 4, 1226, to see a closer alignment between these objects visible in the night sky,” he added.

Since summer, the two planets have been approaching one another in the Earth’s sky. However, on December 21, they will appear closest and will look like they are a ‘double planet.’

“On the evening of closest approach on December 21 they will look like a double planet, separated by only 1/5th the diameter of the full moon,” said Hartigan. “For most telescope viewers, each planet and several of their largest moons will be visible in the same field of view that evening,” he also added.

According to the statement, the best viewing condition will be near the equator. However, if the weather conditions are favourable, then this spectacle will be visible from everywhere around the world.

This is a unique opportunity for the stargazers to see this amazing celestial occurrence not only because it’s happening after nearly 800 years but also because the planets won’t come this close again until March 2080, according to Hartigan. Then, he added, it will again happen after 2400.

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