Jupiter and Saturn will come close enough to form first ‘double planet’ visible in nearly 800 years

In the complex dance of the solar system, two celestial bodies about to partner up.



a star filled sky with Gallery Arcturus in the background: Jupiter and Saturn have been appearing increasingly closer in the night sky, and they will appear to overlap as a “double planet” on Dec. 21.


Jupiter and Saturn have been appearing increasingly closer in the night sky, and they will appear to overlap as a “double planet” on Dec. 21.

Jupiter and Saturn often look far apart — two separate specks puncturing different parts of the night sky. But later this month, the two largest planets in the solar system will come so close to each other that they may appear to be overlapping, according to NASA, creating a kind of “double planet” that has not been visible since the Middle Ages.

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Skywatch: What’s happening in the heavens in December

The once-in-a-lifetime sight is the product of an astronomical event known as a “conjunction,” in which two objects line up with each other in the sky. When it involves Jupiter and Saturn catching up to each other, it’s sometimes called a “great conjunction.”

“You can actually see it with your own eye. It doesn’t have to be measured with sophisticated instruments,” Michael Brown, an astronomer at Monash University in Australia, told The Washington Post. “The two objects are appearing very close in the sky but ultimately they’re very far away from each other.”

While Jupiter and Saturn will be separated on Dec. 21 by 0.1 degrees, or less than a third of the moon’s width, the two planets will nonetheless remain separated by about 450 million miles in space, he said.

Emily Lakdawalla, a freelance space writer, said planetary orbits can be compared to a kind of running track, with the sun in the middle. If Jupiter is running in circles closer to the inside, Saturn is walking at a slower pace further out.

“Jupiter is lapping Saturn,” she said.

Given the pace of their orbits — Jupiter takes about 12 Earth years to circle the sun compared to Saturn’s 30 — the two actually align in their paths roughly every two decades.

But there’s a catch: Because each track has a slightly different tilt, very close conjunctions like the one set for later this month are rare. The last time Saturn and Jupiter were close enough to create a “double planet” seen from Earth was in March 1226, Brown said.

The two planets came equally close in 1623, but that phenomenon was impossible to see from Earth because of glare from the sun, he added. So the conjunction later this month will be an extraordinarily rare event.

Since the summer, Jupiter and Saturn have been getting closer to one another, often visible at dusk, low in the western sky. Right around the solstice, they may appear as one overlapping body above the horizon.

Luckily, the Earth will not need to await another eight centuries to view another “double planet.” Given the tilts of each orbit, the next conjunction will actually be visible in 2080, according to projections from Rice University astronomer Patrick Hartigan.

But for many, this year will mark their first and only opportunity to get

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Jupiter and Saturn will come within 0.1 degrees of each other, forming the first visible “double planet” in 800 years

Before 2020 comes to a close, Jupiter and Saturn will be so close that they will appear to form a “double planet.” The great conjunction, as the planetary alignment has come to be known, hasn’t occurred in nearly 800 years. 

When their orbits align every 20 years, Jupiter and Saturn get extremely close to one another. This occurs because Jupiter orbits the sun every 12 years, while Saturn’s orbit takes 30 years — every couple of decades, Saturn is lapped by Jupiter, according to NASA.  

However, 2020’s conjunction is especially rare — the planets haven’t been observed this close together since medieval times, in 1226.

“Alignments between these two planets are rather rare, occurring once every 20 years or so, but this conjunction is exceptionally rare because of how close the planets will appear to one another,” Rice University astronomer Patrick Hartigan said in a statement. “You’d have to go all the way back to just before dawn on March 4, 1226, to see a closer alignment between these objects visible in the night sky.”

Aligning with the solstice on December 21, 2020, the two planets will be just 0.1 degrees apart — less than the diameter of a full moon, EarthSky says. The word “conjunction” is used by astronomers to describe the meeting of objects in our night sky, and the great conjunction occurs between the two largest planets in our solar system: Jupiter and Saturn. 

The planets will be so close, they will appear to overlap completely, creating a rare “double planet” effect.

saturnjupiter.jpg
Jupiter and Saturn will come within 0.1 degrees of each other on December 21, 2020, during what is known as the “great conjunction.” 

Getty Images


How to watch the great conjunction

During the last great conjunction in 2000, Jupiter and Saturn were so close to the sun that the event was difficult to observe. But skywatchers should have a clearer view of the celestial event this time around. The great conjunction will be shining bright shortly after sunset, low in the southwestern sky, as viewed from the Northern hemisphere, NASA says. 

Through the entirety of December, skywatchers will easily be able to spot the two planets. For the next three weeks, you can look up each evening to watch them get closer and closer in the sky. 

Jupiter currently appears brighter than any star in the sky. Saturn is slightly dimmer, but still just as bright as the brightest stars, with a recognizable golden glow. 

Saturn will appear just to the east of Jupiter, and will even look as close to the planet as some of its own moons. Unlike stars, which twinkle, both planets will hold consistent brightness, easy to find on clear nights. 

The event is observable from anywhere on Earth, provided the sky is clear. “The further north a viewer is, the less time they’ll have to catch a glimpse of the conjunction before the planets sink below the horizon,” Hartigan said. 

The planets will appear extremely close for about of month,

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Jupiter and Saturn will look like a double planet later this month

The two largest planets in our solar system are coming closer together than they have been since the Middle Ages, and it’s happening just in time for Christmas.





© NASA


So, there are some things to look forward to in the final month of 2020.

On the night of December 21, the winter solstice, Jupiter and Saturn will appear so closely aligned in our sky that they will look like a double planet. This close approach is called a conjunction.

“Alignments between these two planets are rather rare, occurring once every 20 years or so, but this conjunction is exceptionally rare because of how close the planets will appear to one another,” said Rice University astronomer and professor of physics and astronomy Patrick Hartigan in a statement.

“You’d have to go all the way back to just before dawn on March 4, 1226, to see a closer alignment between these objects visible in the night sky.”

If you’re a stargazer, you’ve likely noticed Jupiter and Saturn have been getting closer together since the summer. And they’re currently visible in our night sky, inching ever closer to one another.

But between December 16 and 25, they will become even cozier. Look for the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction low in the western sky for about an hour after sunset each evening during this time.

“On the evening of closest approach on Dec(ember) 21 they will look like a double planet, separated by only 1/5th the diameter of the full Moon,” Hartigan said. “For most telescope viewers, each planet and several of their largest moons will be visible in the same field of view that evening.”

While these two planets may appear close, they are still hundreds of millions of miles apart, according to NASA.

Hope for clear skies because the conjunction will be visible around the world, with the best perspective for those near the equator.

“The further north a viewer is, the less time they’ll have to catch a glimpse of the conjunction before the planets sink below the horizon,” Hartigan said.

The planets will be bright enough to be viewed in twilight, which may be the best time for many US viewers to observe the conjunction.

“By the time skies are fully dark in Houston, for example, the conjunction will be just 9 degrees above the horizon,” Hartigan said. “Viewing that would be manageable if the weather cooperates and you have an unobstructed view to the southwest.”

If you’re in New York or London, or along those latitudes, try to spot the conjunction right after sunset. Waiting an hour after the sun sets will only put the planets closer to the horizon, making them more difficult to spot.

The best conditions to see this astronomical event will include a clear southwestern horizon and no low clouds in the distance, Hartigan said. Binoculars or a telescope may help you distinguish the planets. A telescope would enable a view of Saturn’s rings and the brightest moons of both planets, he said.

If you

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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.

HEAR A SOUND BITE FROM SPACE: Hear a sound bite from NASA’s Perseverance as it travels along the final frontier  

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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University model predicts US could nearly double COVID-19 cases by Jan. 20

A model from Washington University in St. Louis predicts that the United States could nearly double in COVID-19 cases by Inauguration Day.



a group of people standing in a room: University model predicts US could nearly double COVID-19 cases by Jan. 20


© Getty Images
University model predicts US could nearly double COVID-19 cases by Jan. 20

The model predicts that the U.S. could reach 20 million cases by Jan. 20, CNN reports, nearly doubling the current 12.4 million infections already reported.

The model comes as the U.S. experiences a surge in hospitalizations and infections ahead of the winter months. Experts have warned that cases would rise as the colder weather forces people to spend more time indoors, where the virus can spread more easily.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week warned against traveling for Thanksgiving as cases spread, and several states have imposed new lockdowns and tighter coronavirus restrictions in an attempt to limit the spread of the virus around the holiday.

More than 3.1 million cases were reported in the U.S. since the beginning of November, CNN noted, the most reported in a single month. On Sunday, the nation marked the 20th straight day of more than 100,000 new confirmed cases.

According to the COVID Tracking Project, the U.S. set a new record for hospitalizations for the 14th consecutive day Monday, with 85,836 people hospitalized.

A projection from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics Evaluation predicts that another 140,000 Americans could die from the virus over the next two months, CNN notes. More than 258,000 people have already died from the virus.

President-elect Joe Biden has made confronting the pandemic a central focus when he takes office in January. In addition to assembling his coronavirus task force, he’s met with a bipartisan group of governors on addressing the pandemic.

Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris met with mayors Monday amid the surge of cases.

Meanwhile, President Trump has downplayed the virus and has been absent from meetings of the White House coronavirus task force, while his allies have called on Americans to resist new guidelines.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany last week criticized new guidelines put in place by states like Oregon and New York as “Orwellian.”

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San Antonio’s first double lung transplant for COVID-19 performed at University Hospital

A patient who suffered permanent lung damage from COVID-19 is recovering after receiving a double lung transplant at University Hospital several weeks ago.

The surgery in late October was the first of its kind to be performed in San Antonio. Only a small number of the procedures have taken place in Texas.

Before the transplant, the University patient had required extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, a type of life support that bypasses the lungs by manually adding oxygen and removing carbon dioxide from the blood.

Doctors with University Transplant Center said the patient, who is from the South Texas region, has asked for privacy at this time.

On ExpressNews.com: University Hospital to perform double lung transplants for COVID-19 patients with irreversible lung damage

Over the past few months, a handful of critically ill coronavirus patients from San Antonio have undergone lung transplants, but their procedures had all been performed elsewhere. Transplants are considered a last resort for patients who were largely healthy prior to their illness but show no signs of recovering from their lung injury.

In the most serious cases, COVID progresses to acute respiratory distress syndrome, where fluid accumulates in the air sacs of the lungs, impeding their ability to provide oxygen to the body. The organs can also suffer damage from the pressure of mechanical ventilation.

Nationally, only a small number of those patients have met the criteria for double lung transplants.

Candidates must have irreversible lung damage but be strong enough to participate in rehabilitation before the surgery, which has higher rates of infection and rejection than other types of transplants. Advanced age, serious underlying health conditions and damage to other organs — all common features of the sickest coronavirus patients — typically rule out patients from being considered for a transplant.

Dr. Edward Sako, surgical director of University’s lung transplant program and a professor of cardiothoracic surgery at UT Health San Antonio, said the staff had been bracing for a difficult surgery. Other transplant centers have reported a high level of scarring in COVID patients’ chests that complicated the process of removing their damaged lungs.

University Hospital, which is owned by Bexar County, has been treating COVID-19 patients, even those who lack insurance or can’t afford it. It continues to expand to meet the public’s needs.

On ExpressNews.com: Bexar County ME: The coronavirus pandemic could cause ‘domino effect’ of indirect deaths

However, Sako said they didn’t encounter such scarring with this patient, making the procedure similar to other lung transplants the program performs.

What is significantly different for COVID patients is the shock of needing a major, life-changing surgery after a sudden illness, said Dr. Deborah Levine, medical director of University’s lung transplant program. Other patients who need lung transplants contend with that reality as their disease progressively worsens over time.

“You don’t have the kind of mindset that, ‘I know I need a lung transplant in two years or one year or even six months,’” said Levine, who also leads the hospital’s Pulmonary Hypertension Center. “These patients haven’t had that time yet to put that into perspective for their life and how it will affect their family.”

Levine expects that, in addition to critically sick

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How to see Jupiter and Saturn align in rare double planet conjunction

  • Jupiter and Saturn will align in the night sky on December 21. It’ll be the closest they’ve appeared in 800 years.
  • The two planets move into alignment, or conjunction, every 20 years. But this year, they will be so close that they’ll look like a “double planet.”
  • The last time Saturn and Jupiter were both this close and visible was in 1226.
  • Here are the best ways to see this conjunction.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Jupiter and Saturn are about to line up perfectly in the night sky — the two planets will get so close on December 21 that they seem to touch. 

The last time they looked this close from Earth’s vantage point was nearly 800 years ago, on March 4, 1226.

An astronomical event in which celestial bodies align is called a conjunction. Since this conjunction involves the two biggest gas giants in our solar system, it’s known as the “great conjunction.” It happens to some degree once every two decades.

“But it is fair to say that this conjunction is truly exceptional in that the planets get very close to one another,” Patrick Hartigan, a professor of physics and astronomy at Rice University, explained on his website.

“In fact, they will be so close it may be a challenge to separate them with the unaided eye for many people,” he added.

Here’s how to see this rare conjunction.

How to view a ‘double planet’

jupiter.hubble

A photo of Jupiter captured by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope on August 25, 2020.

NASA, ESA, STScI, A. Simon (Goddard Space Flight Center), and M.H. Wong (University of California, Berkeley) and the OPAL team


On the night of the winter solstice, Jupiter and Saturn will be separated by a distance in the sky equal to about one-fifth of a full moon’s the diameter, according to Hartigan. They’ll look like they form a “double planet.”

Of course, the two planets are much farther apart than that — more than four times the distance between Earth and the sun. But to our naked eyes, they’ll look like a single point of bright light.

If you peek through a small telescope, Jupiter and Saturn will appear in the same field of view, along with some of their moons.

jupiter saturn conjunction

How Jupiter and Saturn will appear in a telescope set up in Houston, Texas, on December 21, 2020 as they approach each other in the sky.

Patrick Hartigan/Rice University/Adapted from Stellarium graphics


However, it will be challenging to see this conjunction in the United States, Canada, and Europe, Hartigan said, due to how low it will be on the horizon in the Northern Hemisphere.

“Viewing conditions are best close to the equator, though no matter where you are, there is maybe an hour or so to observe this conjunction before the planets sink into the haze,” he added. 

If you head out around twilight — the hour after sunset — and point your telescope toward the southwestern sky, you can spot the event, Hartigan

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Double tropical trouble is possible next week

The extremely active 2020 Atlantic hurricane season is just three named tropical storms shy of tying the 2005 record for the most storms to develop in a year, and there is the potential that the placid conditions that have settled into the basin this week could change. As atmospheric conditions become more unsettled, two new systems could brew and spin at the same time in waters just east of North America next week.

A total of 25 systems have reached tropical storm strength or greater so far in the Atlantic Ocean this season, closing in on the record of 28 named storms set in 2005. AccuWeather meteorologists are concerned that not only could one system be named after a Greek letter next week, but now two systems could be on deck.

The next systems to strengthen enough to become tropical storms will be given named after the next letters in the Greek alphabet, which have been used only one other time, in 2005: Epsilon and Zeta. After that, the next storm would be named Eta, a Greek letter that has never been used to name a storm in the Atlantic. In post-analysis after the 2005 season, an originally unclassified system that was dubbed a subtropical storm by the National Hurricane Center (NHC), but it was not given a name.

AccuWeather meteorologists are monitoring a currently disorganized area of clouds located just a few hundred miles southeast of Bermuda. Even though this area of clouds isn’t showing signs or organization currently, forecasters say there is plenty of room for this system to evolve into a tropical or subtropical system late this weekend into the middle of next week.

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“A weakly spinning storm will form first at the middle levels of the atmosphere then may spin down to the surface southeast of Bermuda,” according to AccuWeather’s top hurricane expert, Dan Kottlowski.

This image, captured on Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020, shows a tropical disturbance spreading showers and thunderstorms into the easternmost islands of the Caribbean (lower right). Showers and thunderstorms are also visible over the southwestern Caribbean (lower left), where a gyre is developing. Another batch of thunderstorms can be seen well north of the Leeward Islands (upper right). (CIRA at Colorado State/GOES-East)

As this happens, the system could evolve into a subtropical depression or storm, with both tropical and non-tropical characteristics, then it could strengthen further into a tropical depression or storm over the warm waters of the Atlantic.

“This feature is forecast to move over warm water and be in relatively favorable environmental conditions for development from Sunday to Tuesday or Wednesday as it moves slowly to the west or northwest,” Kottlowski explained.

“The window for development may close by later next week as it enters an area of increasing wind shear,” Kottlowski stated. Wind shear is the sudden increase in wind speed with altitude and/or the sudden change in wind direction across a horizontal area of the atmosphere just above the

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