The conjunction also coincides with the longest day (December 21) in the year as the sun reaches a point where it appears to shine farthest to the south of Equator over the Tropic of Capricorn, marking the start of the winter solstice.
According to Nasa, its was Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei, who shaped the understanding of the solar system by discovering the four moons of Jupiter – Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto in 1610. In that same year, he also discovered a strange oval surrounding Saturn, which was later found to be its magnificent rings. 13 years later, the two giant planets traveled together across the sky with jupiter catching up to and passing Saturn in 1623, in an astronomical event known as a “Great Conjunction.”
"You can imagine the solar system to be a racetrack, with each of the planets as a runner in their own lane and the Earth toward the center of the stadium,” said Henry Throop, astronomer in the Planetary Science Division at NASA.
“From our vantage point, we’ll be able to be to see Jupiter on the inside lane, approaching Saturn all month and finally overtaking it on December 21,” he added.
How to watch the Great Conjunction
Saturn and Jupiter are easy to see without special equipment. Credits: NASA/Bill Dunford
To watch the Great Conjunction, find a spot with an unobstructed view of the sky, such as a field or park. Jupiter and Saturn are bright, so they can be seen even from most cities. An hour after sunset, look to the southwestern sky, Jupiter will look like a bright star and be easily visible. Saturn will be slightly fainter and will appear slightly above and to the left of Jupiter until December 21, when Jupiter will overtake it and they will reverse positions in the sky. You do not need special equipment to witness the phenomenion as the planets can be seen with the naked eye, however if you have binoculars or a small telescope, you may be able to see Jupiter’s four large moons orbiting the giant planet.
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