The Astronomical Society of Southern Africa has some great advice for South Africans wanting to see the rare Christmas Star that will appear on the 21st of December.
South Africa (09 December 2020) – Everyone is getting excited about the Christmas Star that will be visible on the 21st of December 2020. The star is actually not a star but the alignment of the planets Jupiter and Saturn. It is known as a conjunction and this particular one is called a great conjunction.
We reached out to the Astronomical Society of Southern Africa (ASSA) Johannesburg Centre to ask about the Christmas Star. They gave us some incredible information that you will all find very helpful too!
“The conjunction is a really big event as I’m sure you know. Jupiter and Saturn will come as close as 0.1 degrees (a fifth of the moon’s angular size!) Great conjunctions are rare, occurring only every 20 years, and this one is particularly special because it’s so close. Over a period of one thousand years, from 1600 to 2599, there are only six great conjunctions where the minimum separation between Jupiter and Saturn is less than 0.2 degrees: 1623, 1683, 2020, 2080, 2417, and 2477.”
We asked ASSA how to spot the Christmas star on the 21st and again, they gave us some incredibly helpful tips. So if you are wanting to spot this rare sighting, take note below.
“You can see the two planets already with the naked eye. A few days before the conjunction, the moon will be useful to help you find them. Look West in the early evening (about an hour after sunset) and the two planets will be nearby the crescent moon (Jupiter is the brighter of the two).
On the 21st of December, it may be difficult to separate out the two planets with the naked eye, and they may appear as a single bright star. Start looking West from just after sunset because they will set fairly early (9pm). You should be able to see them even in light-polluted areas, so long as you have a clear view of the horizon. Darker, higher places are ideal, however.
If you’ve got a pair of binoculars, this could help you see it better, but obviously a telescope will do a much better job. Because they’ll be so close, you should be able to see both planets at the same time through a telescope! (I’m assuming Southern hemisphere directions to look and the time differs from place to place. For exact times specific to location you can look at https://www.timeanddate.com/astronomy/night)
We were hoping as a society to have access to the observatory for the night and have public access. But unfortunately, with Covid it looks like we won’t be able to do this. But people can keep an eye on our facebook page for more info.” – Tessa Collins
If you would like to find out more you can check out the ASSA Facebook page here.
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