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Tonight Dec. Saturn and Jupiter get close to one another from our perspective on Earth about once every 20 years because of their orbits. our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more!
This year, however, the two planets will appear closer to each other than they have in centuries ; that their duet is occurring at the end of December inspired the label "Christmas Star" for what is otherwise known as a " great conjunction. Today is an important celestial day for another reason, too: it is a solstice, marking the official start of winter in the Northern Hemisphere and the beginning of summer in the Southern Hemisphere.
Editor's note : If you capture an amazing view of the great conjunction of Dec. Follow us on Twitter Spacedotcom and on Facebook. If you prefer to stay indoors or have an obstructed view, there are also several webcasts you can watch live from the comfort of your home. Today, Saturn and Jupiter will appear just one-tenth of a degree apart, or about the thickness of a dime held at arm's length, according to a Dec. Under high magnification, however, Jupiter and Saturn may appear as separate objects.
It's certainly a charming cosmic coincidence that the day with the least amount of daylight all year in the northern hemisphere is also the day that the two planets make a special illumination in the sky. It's been about years since Jupiter and Saturn passed this close to each other in the sky, and almost years since their conjunction occurred at night, according to NASA. Observers with binoculars or telescopes may see the planets and some of their moons in the same field of vision.
Although Jupiter and Saturn remain hundreds of millions of miles apart in space, the two largest planets in our solar system will appear to snuggle close in tonight's sky.