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The Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn: What you need to know

You will be able to see the planets from your home.
You will be able to see the planets from your home.(WDBJ7)
Published: Dec. 21, 2020 at 8:44 AM EST
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Saturn and Jupiter will merge in the night sky Monday, and there’s been a bit of chatter on social media claiming on #December21 people will get superpowers.

The claim about superpowers is not true.

However, this claim is surrounded by an astronomical event unofficially known at ‘The Great Conjunction.’

December 21, the night sky will light up with a rare alignment of Saturn and Jupiter in the southwest sky.

“It is the closest it has been since the 13th century,” said Virginia Tech astronomer and professor Nahum Arav.

This astronomical event is also known on social media by many names. The ‘Christmas Star,’ ‘The Great Conjunction,’ and the day people could get superpowers.

“Most of these events and many other events have wild claims of supernatural things - we haven’t seen a single one of them ever happening, but it didn’t stop people from hoping,” said Arav.

We learned the superpower part isn’t true, but Arav says what is true, is that Jupiter and Saturn will get so close together they’ll almost look like one planet to the naked eye for a moment.

“The special thing about what we have now is that they will be very, very close together. The difference between them will be about 1/5 of the size of the moon,” said Arav.

It’s been nearly 400 years since the planets passed this close to each other in the sky, and nearly 800 years since the alignment happened at night.

“This is more or less once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Arav.

NASA says for those who would like to see this phenomenon for themselves, here’s what you can do:

  • Find a spot with a good view of the sky. Jupiter and Saturn are bright, so they can be seen even from most cities or your back porch.
  • About an hour after sunset, look to the southwest. Jupiter will look like a bright star. Saturn will be slightly fainter and will appear slightly above and to the left of Jupiter until December 21, when Jupiter will move and they will reverse positions in the sky.
  • The planets can be seen with the naked eye, but if you have binoculars or a small telescope, you may be able to see Jupiter’s four large moons orbiting.

Even though it’s been hundreds of years since the last time these two lined up like this, we won’t have to wait as long for the next conjunction – it’s now on the books for March 15, 2080.

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