With this year’s winter solstice comes more than just confirmation of our already-cold weather and ever-fleeting daylight: The rare “Christmas Star” will be visible for the first time in 800 years.
Each year, Earth’s northern hemisphere enters the winter solstice on Dec. 21 — the shortest day of the year — officially marking the start of winter. This year, bright planets Jupiter and Saturn will align perfectly on Dec. 21 to create what is commonly called the Christmas Star or the “Star of Bethlehem.”
According to NASA, Jupiter and Saturn align with one another every 20 years or so, but not as close together as they will be in 2020. The planets have not aligned this closely in about 400 years, nor has their alignment been visible (occurred at night) in about 800 years.
The timing of the occurrence couldn’t be more perfect: The winter solstice may be the shortest day of the year, but that also means it’s the longest night of the year — so there will be plenty of opportunity to take a peak at this once-in-a-lifetime star.
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