On the night of the Winter Solstice, Jupiter and Saturn will create a rare viewing experience from Earth known as a "Great Conjunction."
Jupiter and Saturn, two of the brightest planets in our solar system, will be so close in the night sky that they will appear as though they are touching.
This rare event, sometimes dubbed a "Christmas Star," is known in astronomy as a "Great Conjunction."
An astronomical conjunction is known as two planets that are or appear close together. The Jupiter-Saturn pairing is known as a "Great Conjunction" because of its rarity. Other planetary conjunctions happen multiple times per decade, but Jupiter and Saturn only perform a celestial dance once every two decades.
The sighting is seldom because Jupiter takes nearly 12 years to make a revolution around the Sun while Saturn requires nearly 30 years for the same revolution.
But not all conjunctions are created equal. The last time there was a Great Conjunction at night, similar to the one we'll see, was nearly 800 years ago.
But you don't have to wait to view the planets in close proximity. For weeks, the planets have been appearing closer together but they will appear closest on December 21.
TIPS FOR VIEWING:
- Look Southwest where the horizon is clear
- Plan on peak viewing for up to one hour
- It will look like one big star from the naked eye, but if you have a telescope you'll be able to see the planets and some of the moons
- Right now we're forecasting partly cloudy skies Monday night across central North Carolina