Jupiter and Saturn and the 2020 Christmas conjunction
Something is coming up that you'll probably want to know about. Jupiter and Saturn are going to meet just before Christmas. Will it be the end of the world?
A planetary conjunction is when two planets appear very close to each other in the sky (from the Earth's point of view). They're not particularly uncommon, mainly because planets don't stray far from the Ecliptic, which is a little like the Sun's equator. However, this one's going to be pretty special.
On 21 December, just after sunset, Jupiter and Saturn will appear in the sky only one tenth of a degree apart. If you've got - meh - fairly dodgy eyesight like I do, you may not be able to tell they're separate. They'll be very close to the horizon in the South West.
I've added a few screenshots from the free planetary software program, Stellarium, to show you what it's going to be like.
This wide field, showing the various constellations as well as the horizon will give you an idea what it'll look like with the naked eye. You can see from the labels that the two planets are right on top of each other.
The view through a telescope shows that the planets will appear closer to each other than some of their own moons. By the way, this is the view you'd get through a basic telescope, the saxon 909 with a 10mm eyepiece.
For the photographers amongst us, I've also added a view as taken through a Celestron 8" Cassegrain with a planetary camera, in this case a QHY5III 462C. It'll be a devilishly hard photo to take: the planets are low and different brightnesses, the atmosphere will be awful, you'll need the whole frame... and in my case I'll have to demolish my own house to see it!
Of course, the planets won't suddenly appear where they are, they will have been edging towards each other for ages. Even now, several weeks before, they're quite close.
UPDATE: I took this photo from my bedroom in mid-December.
Also, knowing the media, there'll be lots of stories about it, and not all of them totally factual. Shall we make bets as to the most breathless of clickbait headlines?