Photos: Jupiter, Saturn conjunction put on a show forming ‘Christmas star’

Planets separated by .1 degree in sky but still 450 million miles apart

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WKMG 2020

Jupiter and Saturn during the Great Conjunction on Dec. 21, 2020 as seen above the Space Coast Lightfest in Melbourne, Florida. (Image by: Michael Seeley)

ORLANDO, Fla. – Monday night Jupiter and Saturn inspired people all over the world to step outside and look up to see a sight that hasn’t happened since the 17th century.

There is something unifying about looking up at the night sky anywhere in the world and knowing you are looking at the same celestial event, especially during this year.

Monday night marked the “Great Conjunction” of Saturn and Jupiter when the two planets were separated --from Earth’s view-- by .1 degree in the sky, or about a pinkie finger’s width if held up to the sky. The planets were close enough to look like one bright star and due to the timing the event was called the “Christmas Star.”

According to NASA, it’s been nearly 400 years since the planets passed this close and nearly 800 years since the alignment happened at night when it’s visible to the naked eye.

However, even though on Earth the two planets appeared to kiss in the sky they were not actually physically close. Jupiter and Saturn were more than 450 million miles apart.

Central Florida lucked out with clear sky and cool weather prompting sky gazers to observe the Great Conjunction. Astronomers set up their telescopes and hosted virtual events due to the pandemic to share enhanced views of Saturn’s rings.

Photographer Michael Seeley captured Jupiter and Saturn in the night sky above the Space Coast Lightfest in Melbourne at Wickham Park.

Jupiter and Saturn during the Great Conjunction on Dec. 21, 2020 as seen above the Space Coast Lightfest in Melbourne, Florida. (Image by: Michael Seeley) (www.photosofstuff.xyz)

Emil Buehler Planetarium Director Derek Demeter, at Seminole State College, shared the view below taken from Seminole County. The planetarium hosted a virtual watch party for the occasion.

The Jupiter/Saturn conjunction on Dec. 21, 2020. (Image taking by Derek Demeter/ Emil Buehler Planetarium) (WKMG 2020)

Museum of Arts and Science Daytona Beach curator Seth Mayo shared viewing tips with News 6 meteorologist Jonathan Kegges ahead of the event.

“The problem for this Great Conjunction is that it occurred very near sunset, so the sun’s glare most likely obscured the pair of planets,” Mayo said. “The last observable time these planets were this close was the year 1226.”

He captured the image below using a telescope Monday night.

The astronauts on the International Space Station shared their view of Jupiter and Saturn from 200 miles above Earth.

The International Space Station is seen in this third of a second exposure passing between Saturn, top, and Jupiter, bottom, as it flies over Alexandria, Virginia, Friday, Dec. 11, 2020. Onboard are: NASA astronauts Kate Rubins, Shannon Walker, Victor Glover, Mike Hopkins; Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Soichi Noguchi; Russian cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov, and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov. Saturn and Jupiter are drawing closer to each other in the sky as they head towards a “great conjunction” on December 21, where the two giant planets will appear a tenth of a degree apart. Photo Credit: (NASA/Joel Kowsky) ((NASA/Joel Kowsky)\r\rFor copyright and restrictions refer to -�http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/guidelines/index.html)

NASA photographer Bill Ingalls captured the image below near the National Monument a few days before the closest approach.

The Moon, left, Saturn, upper right, and Jupiter, lower right, are seen after sunset with the Washington Monument, Thurs. Dec. 17, 2020, in Washington. The two planets are drawing closer to each other in the sky as they head towards a “great conjunction” on December 21, where the two giant planets will appear a tenth of a degree apart. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls) ((NASA/Bill Ingalls)\rFor copyright and restrictions refer to -�http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/guidelines/index.html)

Their next Jupiter and Saturn Great Conjunction won’t happen again until March 15, 2080.

If you captured “Christmas Star” and want to share your images email web@wkmg.com.


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