'Christmas star' will be visible for first time in 800 years on Monday


The last few weeks of 2020 will feature some rare and spectacular astronomical events.

The Geminid meteor shower, which gave stargazers the opportunity to see anywhere from 50 to 120 bright shooting stars per hour, happened from December 4 through 17, peaking on the night of December 13 and during the early hours of December 14.

But if you look to the sky this Monday night, you could also see something that hasn't been visible from Earth since the year 1226.

On Dec. 21 just after sunset, "Jupiter and Saturn will appear closer together in Earth’s night sky than they have been since the Middle Ages," says Rice University astronomer Patrick Hartigan. He says it will be visible from essentially anywhere on Earth.

The event has become known as the "Christmas star" because the planets will look like they're combining into a single bright star. They've slowly been inching closer and closer together for several months, with the planetary conjunction coming the week of Christmas, according to NASA.

Hartigan describes it as a "double planet" since they will be exceptionally close together. They will appear to be separated by just 1/5th the diameter of a full moon.

Although the conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn happens once every 20 years, this is the closest they'll come together since 1623. But that time it happened too close to the sun for anyone on Earth to see.

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