This year’s winter solstice will bring something special in regards to the planets in our solar system. Saturn and Jupiter will be appearing closer in the night sky than they have since July 16, 1623.
Saturn and Jupiter appearing much closer together than usual from Earth’s viewpoint isn’t something special; it happens roughly every 20 years in an event called the “great conjunction.” What’s so special about it this year is that the two gas giants will appear only a 10th of a degree apart from one another.
The last time the two planets appeared this close together was back in 1623, and during that great conjunction, the planets weren’t viewable with the naked eye due to their proximity to the Sun. March of 1226 was the last time the two were as close and visible to the naked eye.
Those of you who live in the Northern Hemisphere and want to witness this year’s great conjunction should keep an eye towards the southwest on December 21. You should be able to see the two planets without any tools, but something like a telescope would undoubtedly yield a much better view.
The next great conjunctions will occur on November 2, 2040, and April 7, 2060, but those won’t be nearly as close as this year. In fact, those events will appear about 11 times farther apart. If you want to witness another great conjunction as close as this year, you will have to wait until March 15, 2080.