Earthlings witness Jupiter and Saturn align
The rare spectacle resulted from a near convergence of the orbits of Jupiter and Saturn, which happened to coincide with the winter solstice on Monday, the shortest day of the year. To those who could observe the alignment under a clear sky, the two frozen gas spheres appeared closer and more alive - almost as a single point of light - than ever before in 800 years.
Jupiter - the brighter and larger of the pair - has been gradually approaching Saturn in the sky for weeks as the two planets revolve around the sun, each on their own track of a vast celestial race track, said Henry Throop, an astronomer at National Aeronautics and headquarters Washington Space Administration.
"From our point of view, we can see Jupiter on the inner track, walk towards Saturn all month and finally overtake him on December 21st," Throop said in a statement last week.
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At the time of convergence, Jupiter and Saturn appeared to be only a tenth of a degree apart, which is roughly the thickness of a cent held at arm's length. In reality, of course, the planets stayed hundreds of millions of miles apart, according to NASA.
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