WASHINGTON — We are in for a celestial treat to close out the year 2020, and I think we have earned it too.
For the entire month of December, Saturn and Jupiter pass in orbit as if they were one planet, projecting the image of a single, bright star. That star, dubbed the “Christmas Star” or the “Star of Bethlehem,” will be most visible on Dec. 21.
While the two planets appear close together every 20 years, this year is the brightest and closest they have been in 800 years. According to some astronomers, we have to travel back into the Middle Ages to witness a closer alignment. They will appear less than the diameter of a full moon apart.
Look to the southwest about 45 minutes after sunset to see the two planets. Even in early December, they will appear close together and visible with the naked eye.
On Dec. 21, the day of the Winter Solstice, they will appear as one bright light or star. Then on Christmas Eve, they will be apart, but still a very distinguishable sight in the southwestern sky.