The brightest light in the heavens shines on the first night of winter this year just days before Christmas.
Look up toward the western sky in Jacksonville just after sunset on Dec. 21, and you will witness something not seen since 1623: two planets, Jupiter and Saturn, will come super close together appearing as a single star on the winter solstice.
The pairing of two objects lined up in the sky is called a conjunction by astronomers, and both gas planets have been drawing closer in the western sky since October.
This great conjunction deserves extra attention because it will be separated by less than the apparent diameter of a full moon in the constellation Capricornus.
Jupiter will be the brighter planet with Saturn appearing dimmer just a mere 0.1° to the right.
Both of the solar system’s giant planets will be gone from the night sky by Christmas.
This event will be the last time most people alive will ever see Jupiter and Saturn so close to each other.
Orbital motions align the two planets together in a “great conjunction” every 19.6 years; setting the next one Nov. 5, 2040, and April 10, 2060, both which won’t be as close together as 2020′s.
Is the Star of Bethlehem real?
From Earth’s vantage point stars are fixed points of light in the sky.
The Bible mentions the Star of Bethlehem only a few times in the second chapter of the Gospel of Matthew without enough details to determine what actually was in the sky.
Some astronomers say the Magi in the Nativity story may have witnessed a comet, supernova or the triple conjunction between Jupiter, Saturn and Venus.