During the year 2020, Jupiter and Saturn were approaching each other in the sky. The approach will result in a rare astronomical phenomenon that has not occurred since the Middle Ages and can be seen from Earth at dusk on Monday (21), given that today will be the minimum distance between the planets. Another similar conjunction will occur in 2080, 60 years from now.
The proximity will make the two celestial bodies look like a double planet. This type of phenomenon occurs due to the orbits of the planets around the Sun, so they are perfectly predictable. To do this, just look west at the end of today, according to Tilt.
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It is important that the sky is clear, without dense clouds or rain. The conjunction should be seen from Brazil for a little over an hour and the closer to the Equator, the greater the visibility.
The ideal is to find high places, without buildings, mountains or artificial lights, 30 minutes after sunset, close to 19h. The interesting thing is to look at the same side that the sun sets, according to Tilt.
“From a strictly technical point of view, it is not a phenomenon of great importance since celestial mechanics is a well-known and ancient area of astronomy. But the importance comes from the rarity of such a close conjunction, ”explained Roberto D. Dias da Costa, professor in the Department of Astronomy at the Institute of Astronomy, Geophysics and Atmospheric Sciences (IAG) at the University of São Paulo (USP).
Still according to the professor, this rarity comes from the fact that the planets revolve around the Sun at different speeds and with different periods: “the Earth revolves around the Sun in one year, of course, Jupiter every (approximately) 12 years and Saturn every (approximately) 30 years. It is this ‘dance’ that makes conjunctions rare, there are few opportunities in which these stars are aligned for us who observe here on Earth ”, he added.
Alignments, technically called conjunctions, occur when two bodies are apparently very close to each other in the sky. “I speak ‘apparently’ because, of course, the distances to us are very different, they are just on the same line of sight.
Jupiter and Saturn, the two largest planets in the solar system, are usually called ‘big conjunctions’. In the case of this year’s alignment, they will in fact be very close to each other, the angular distance between them in the sky will be equivalent to one fifth of the diameter of the full moon, so they will be very close, ”said the Astronomy professor.
The conjunctions between these two planets occur every 20 years. However, this year’s phenomenon will be truly exceptional, as the planets will be very close to each other, which has not happened for hundreds of years.
Another conjunction with the nearby planets occurred in 1623, “but at that time the two planets were very close to the Sun and probably nobody noticed. The most similar and observable conjunction (since it was visible at night) occurred in 1226, almost 800 years ago, ”recalled Costa.
Between December 16 and 21, the alignment will be seen at all points on Earth from which the planets are seen, which is equivalent to practically the entire planet, although viewing conditions are better near the Equator. “From all over the Brazilian territory it will be possible to see,” said the professor.
The minimum distance, however, will be on the 21st, which coincidentally is the summer solstice day, which marks the beginning of the same. “But on the nights immediately before and after that date, they will also be close,” he said.
For those who want to observe the phenomenon, “just look towards the sunset in the early evening of the 21st and observe the two bright spots very close to each other. In the nights just before and after that date they will still be very close. As it is a slow phenomenon, we will probably see many photos circulating on social networks, ”said Costa.
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