The year 2020 is to end with a special celestial event as two of the largest planets in our solar system, Jupiter and Saturn will come in conjunction on Monday.
What makes this event more special is that it is happening after 367 years. It was last observed in 1623 and will take place again in 2080. On Monday, these two slow-moving planets will be 0.1 degrees apart.
US space agency NASA says that the timing of the conjunction is such that everyone will be able to see it.
What is a Great Conjunction
Jupiter and Saturn are two slow-moving planets. When Jupiter, which orbits the sun once every 12 years, overtakes the even slower-moving Saturn, their visual convergence is called a Great Conjunction. Even though this happens in every 20 years, sometimes the pairing appears too close to the sun to be seen.
How to watch it in India
The two planets will appear so close that a pinkie finger at arm’s length will easily cover both of them in the sky. In India, they will be visible around an hour after the sunset between 6:30 and 7:30 pm in the southwest sky.
If someone watches it through a telescope, Jupiter’s four moons can also be seen.
State-run Jawaharlal Nehru Planetarium in the city centre has made arrangements to watch the celestial conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn planets on Monday between 6.30-7.30 p.m., an official said on Sunday.
“We have set up telescopes in our premises to watch the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn on Monday evening if weather conditions permit,” said the planetarium official in a statement here.
Due to the COVID-induced restrictions on people gathering in large numbers in public places, those who register online to watch the celestial event will be allowed in the planetarium in batches of limited numbers to maintain social distancing.
“Those unable to watch the event at the planetarium due to curbs on crowding, can see the conjunction of the two stars online at our website (www.taralaya.org) or Facebook and Youtube channel,” said the statement.
As the fifth planet from the sun, Jupiter is the largest in the solar system, as a gas giant with a mass one-thousandth of the Sun.
“As the sixth planet from the sun and second largest in the solar system, Saturn is a gas giant with an average radius of nine times that of earth,” added the official.
The conjunction also coincides with the longest day (December 21) in the year as the sun reaches a point where it appears to shine farthest to the south of the equator over the Tropic of Capricorn, marking the start of the winter solstice.