Photos reveal Jupiter and Saturn aligned in the sky as a 'Christmas star' that hadn't been seen for 800 years
Saturn (above) and Jupiter (below) in the sky over a church in New York City. Gary Hershorn
Photographers from around the world captured Jupiter and Saturn, which were almost perfectly aligned in the night sky this week.
Monday was the next day the two planets appeared in 800 years - the last time they were both so close and visible was in 1226.
The two planets are aligned or connected every 20 years. But this year they were close enough to look like a "double planet".
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On the eve of the winter solstice, Jupiter and Saturn appeared to be touching in the night sky.
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The last time the two planets looked this close from Earth's point of view was almost 800 years ago. The astronomical event is known as conjunction, the term for the alignment of celestial bodies. Since the two largest gas giants in our solar system were involved in this conjunction, it is called the great conjunction.
The conjunction was not a one-night event: the planets in the sky began to approach each other on December 17th, and they will continue to appear close together until Christmas. On Monday, Jupiter and Saturn were closest. So if you haven't seen it before, you still have a few more nights to try.
This "poinsettia", as the conjunction was called, appeared brighter than almost any star in the sky, according to NASA. This made the two planets easy to photograph.
Katherine Trouche, science communicator at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, took a stunning photo with her telescope and an iPhone XR (below).
An image captured with a Celestron 90 SLT telescope and an iPhone XR on December 18, 2020 shows Saturn, Jupiter, and some of their moons. Katherine Troche
"To be able to see five moons and two planets more than 400 million miles away with nothing but pieces of glass and metal is nothing short of amazing," she told Business Insider.
A double planet
The distance between Jupiter and Saturn is actually more than four times the distance between the earth and the sun.
But on Monday the planets in the sky were separated by a distance about one-fifth the diameter of a full moon. This is so close that the two points of light formed a kind of double planet.
People from all over the world caught the rare alignment in the past week.
Photographer Alireza Vafa captured this view of the Moon, Jupiter and Saturn over the Alborz Mountains in Iran.
Con Kolivas, an engineer and amateur astronomer from Australia, took this photo on Sunday.
Gary Hershorn, a New York based photographer, faced cloudy conditions on Monday. But he did take a picture of the two planets approaching over the Statue of Liberty the week before.
An image of Saturn (top) and Jupiter (bottom) in the sky over the Statue of Liberty in New York City, December 2020. Gary Hershorn
"As a photographer, I was excited to see the 'poinsettia'," he told Business Insider. "The two planets have settled next to the Statue of Liberty for the past week and have moved a little closer together every day. It was a beautiful sight to see them come down from behind the statue last week."
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