Jupiter and Saturn to form ultra-rare ‘double planet’ this December

Winter solstice is around the corner and with it comes a rare and spectacular phenomenon in the night sky.

On December 21, Jupiter and Saturn will align to form a “double planet,” an occurrence that hasn’t happened in nearly 800 years, according to Deborah Byrd and Bruce McClure with Earth Sky.

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You may have already noticed the sky seems a little brighter these last few weeks. That’s because from Nov. 16 to 21, the two planets started their journey bringing them some three degrees apart, according to Byrd and McClure.

From now until the day of the conjunction, “Jupiter will travel about 6 degrees and Saturn 3 degrees on the sky’s dome. That movement will mean that Jupiter bridges the 3-degree gap between itself and Saturn,” according to the Earth Sky authors, causing a “great conjunction” that won’t be matched again until March 15, 2080.

It’s the first meeting of the two planets since 2000, but the closest Jupiter-Saturn conjunction since 1623.


Jupiter/Saturn conjunctions are considered the rarest of “bright-planet conjunctions” due to their slow movements. “Saturn takes nearly 3o years to go around the sun full circle whereas Jupiter takes nearly 12 years,” according to the Earth Sky authors.

This movement, in turn, is what causes Jupiter to “catch up” to Saturn, making for a picturesque view from Earth.

While this year has been full of unprecedented events, the night skies have given us some pretty amazing views of unusual sightings. We’ve witnessed a rare blue moon on Halloween, Leonid meteor showers, and now the showstopper of them all: the “great conjunction.”

So grab your telescope or just step out into the night air from now until December 21 to witness the eye-catching event each night as Jupiter and Saturn shine brightly among the stars.

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