An incredibly rare ‘Christmas Star’ should be visible above Devon in the coming days.
John McLean of the Excel Observatory, who is also an associate of the Royal Astronomical Society, said that the ‘Christmas Star’ is a combination of two planets; Jupiter and Saturn where they will appear together will look like an object in the sky early in the evening of December 21st.
He said: ” This combination has not occurred since December 1623, although it was not visible at that time due to being very close to the sun.
” The last visible ‘great combination’ was in 1226 so this year’s event has become the ‘first’ for 800 years.
” This month’s combination will be at half past one in the afternoon and the planets will be just 0.06 degrees southwest, so during daylight hours.
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” The planets will be clearly visible, allowing weather after sunset at Devon, 10 degrees above the horizon in the southwest.
” When two planets come very close together, Saturn will be twice as far from Earth as Jupiter.
” December 21, the winter reception, is the shortest day of the year.
” So, ‘Christmas Star’ – not quite, but quite special. ‘
Jupiter and Saturn are the two largest planets in our solar system.
They would seem to be moving closer to each other, giving the idea of a ‘double planet’.
In reality, they would actually be millions of miles away, as recently explained by NASA.
Gas giants will be closer than they have been for centuries in the night sky at Christmas.
The combination, dubbed the ‘Christmas Star’ or ‘Star of Bethlehem’, will be visible in two weeks.
The next time the Christmas star will be visible from Earth is expected to be 2020.
Speaking to Forbes Magazine, astronomers said it was “rather rare” to observe such alignments.
Patrick Hartigan, an astronomer at Rice University in Texas, said: “Polarity between these two planets is rare, occurring every 20 or so years.
“This combination is very rare because of how close the planets will be to each other.”
He added: “You have to go all the way back before the dawn of March 12, 1226, to see a closer alignment of these things visible in the night sky.”
When will it be visible?
The ‘Christmas Star’ will be visible to Stargazers later this month on the evening of December 21st.
It is known that the Stargazers should expect the Celestial event to take place just after sunset itself.
According to Forbes it can be observed that the sky is clear from anywhere on earth.
This means that those in the UK should look for the event from sunset to 3:53 p.m.
The ‘star’ will rarely appear on the horizon just after sunset, with binoculars or a telescope as needed.
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