In this Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020 photo made available by NASA, Saturn, top, and Jupiter, below, are seen after sunset from Shenandoah National Park in Luray, Va. The two planets are drawing closer to each other in the sky as they head towards a “great conjunction” on Monday, Dec. 21, where the two giant planets will appear a tenth of a degree apart. (Bill Ingalls/NASA via AP)

In this Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020 photo made available by NASA, Saturn, top, and Jupiter, below, are seen after sunset from Shenandoah National Park in Luray, Va. The two planets are drawing closer to each other in the sky as they head towards a “great conjunction” on Monday, Dec. 21, where the two giant planets will appear a tenth of a degree apart. (Bill Ingalls/NASA via AP)

Jupiter and Saturn align in our skies tonight, to form the Great Conjunction

Stargazers typically gather in groups at observatories or with backyard telescopes for such events

By Charlie Carey

Culminating in crisp December skies, planets Jupiter and Saturn are coming together beginning Monday (Dec. 21) to form the rather rare Great Conjunction.

Happening roughly once every 20 years, the two biggest planets in the solar system will appear to pass each other. This year, however, is the closest they have come in about 400 years.

“From our vantage point, we’ll be able to see Jupiter on the inside lane, approaching Saturn all month and finally overtaking it on Dec. 21,” said Henry Throop, an astronomer in the Planetary Science Division at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Although appearing very close together from Earth, the two gas giants will still be hundreds of millions of miles away from each other.

Most visible just after sunset, it is purely coincidental that this astronomical sight also occurs on the winter solstice.

“Conjunctions like this could happen on any day of the year, depending on where the planets are in their orbits,” said Throop. “The date of the conjunction is determined by the positions of Jupiter, Saturn, and the Earth in their paths around the Sun, while the date of the solstice is determined by the tilt of Earth’s axis.”

For those wanting to see this planetary phenomenon for themselves, NASA recommends finding a viewing point with an unobstructed view of the sky, such as a field or park.

Luckily for those in urban settings, Jupiter and Saturn are generally bright enough to be seen from most cities – so long as the sky is free of clouds.


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

AstronomyChristmas

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Eighteen-year-old Aidan Webber died in a marine accident in 2019. He was a Canadian Junior BMX champion from Nanaimo. (Submitted)
Inadequate safety training a factor in teen BMX star’s workplace death in 2019

Aidan Webber was crushed by a barge at a fish farm near Port Hardy

Hecht Beach cabin in ashes. (Submitted)
Beloved secret cabin lost to fire on the North Island’s west coast

The trappers cabin was shared with locals, but kept mostly secret

An Atlantic salmon is seen during a Department of Fisheries and Oceans fish health audit at a fish farm near Campbell River, B.C. in 2018. Mowi Canada has applied to the Federal Court of Canada for a judicial review of the decision by Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan to phase out salmon farming in the Discovery Islands by June, 2022. (Canadian Press/Jonathan Hayward photo)
Major B.C. salmon farms seek court intervention in Discovery Islands ban

Fisheries minister is phasing out operations in the area by June 2022

Michelle Lau with donations that have already been contributed for families kept away from home due to the Town Park Apartments fire. (Zoe Ducklow Photo)
Fundraiser started for tenants left hanging after apartment fire

Tenants not allowed back in to get personal items, so in need of clothes, food, gift cards

A mattress on fire gutted the second floor hallway at Town Park Apartments C-block Jan. 17. (Port Hardy Fire Rescue images)
‘Suspicious’ Port Hardy apartment fire could keep tenants out of their homes for months

A burning mattress created smoke and heat, causing several tenants to jump from windows

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, speaks at a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
B.C. records 500 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, 14 deaths

Outbreak at Surrey Pretrial jail, two more in health care

A suspect has been arrested in connection with fires at Drinkwater Elementary (pictured) and École Mount Prevost. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Arson suspect arrested after fires at Cowichan Valley schools

Drinkwater Elementary and Mount Prevost schools hit within a week

A woman writes a message on a memorial mural wall by street artist James “Smokey Devil” Hardy during a memorial to remember victims of illicit drug overdose deaths on International Overdose Awareness Day, in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, on Monday, August 31, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. paramedics respond to record-breaking number of overdose calls in 2020

On the front lines, COVID-19 has not only led to more calls, but increased the complexity

Chartwell Malaspina Care Residence in Nanaimo. (News Bulletin file photo)
Two Nanaimo care-home residents have died during COVID-19 outbreak

Death reported Monday was the second related to Chartwell Malaspina outbreak, says Island Health

Rod Bitten of Union Bay won $500,000 in the Lotto Max draw on Jan. 15. Photo supplied
Vancouver Island electrician gets shocking surprise with $500K Extra win

Rod Bitten has been hard at work with home renovations, which is… Continue reading

Oyster River Fire Rescue members were called out to a suspicious fire in Black Creek. Two vehicles parked at a private residence were destroyed by fire. Photo courtesy Oyster River Fire Rescue
Suspicious fire destroys two vehicles at Vancouver Island residence

Oyster River Fire Rescue personnel were dispatched to a fire at a… Continue reading

Members of the BC RCMP Explosive Disposal Unit (EDU) is on route to Drummond Park opposite of Fulford Habour on Saltspring Island after the discovery of a suspicious cylindrical-shaped device. (Google/Screencap)
Bomb disposal unit en route to Salt Spring Island after suspicious device found in park

Police say a resident discovered the device Wednesday morning in Drummond Park opposite BC Ferries terminal

Seven streets in downtown Duncan, including Station Street, will soon have new native names added to their signage. (Submitted graphic)
New Duncan street signs will be in English and Hul’q’umi’num

Seven streets to get additional names in First Nations language

Southern resident killer whales in B.C. waters. Research shows the population’s females are more negatively influenced by vessel traffic than males. (Photo supplied by Ocean Wise Conservation Association)
Female orcas less likely to feed in presence of vessel traffic: study

Research the southern resident population raises concerns over reproduction capacity

Most Read