On the 21st of December, Jupiter and Saturn will align to create the ‘Christmas Star’ for the first time in 800 years.
The ‘Christmas Star’ is the result of a phenomenon known as a Great Conjunction. Conjunctions tend to occur every 20 years. However, this is the closest conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn to occur since 1623, meaning that for the first time in 800 years, you will be able to see the Christmas Star. Patrick Hartigan, an astronomer at Rice University revealed:
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.
So, make sure you step outside tonight andtake a look at the starsas the next opportunity to see the conjunction won’t be until 2080.
The great event known as the Christmas Star or the Star of Bethlehem has long been present in Christian narratives and nativity scenes as it was said to be the star that guided the three wise men to Jesus. However, many believe that it could have been an even rarer conjunction of Jupiter, Saturn and Venus. When these planets align like this they can create a bright light which can look like one enormous star.
According to astronomy journalist Dr Stuart Clark, the bright and rare Christmas Star should be visible at around 5pm GMT in the south-west. However, Hartigan also warned that those of us in the UK will need to be quick as we won’t have much time to check it out:
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.
So, it looks like a mug of hot chocolate and stargazing is definitely in the cards tonight… at least for a minute.