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HomeAstronomyStunning pictures of the Great Conjunction as stargazers snap Jupiter and Saturn together

Stunning pictures of the Great Conjunction as stargazers snap Jupiter and Saturn together

Stunning pictures of the Great Conjunction as stargazers snap Jupiter and Saturn together
Stunning pictures of the Great Conjunction as stargazers snap Jupiter and Saturn together
Jupiter and Saturn above Oban on the Sound of Kerrera looking out towards the Western Islands in Scotland as they come close to crossing paths on Monday evening. (Credits: Nick Edgington/Bav Media)

Last night, the two largest planets in our solar system appeared closer together than at any point in the last 400 years.

Known as the Great Conjunction, photographers were ready across the world to snap the incredibly rare event as it happened.

The planets have been growing closer since the summer and last night, December 21, they reached their closest point – just 0.1 degrees apart in the night sky.

The event came in a busy week for skywatchers, with the Ursid meteor shower — the last for this year — peaking on the same evening.

At its height, the shower produces around five shooting stars an hour, which will burn up as they pass through the atmosphere at around 36 miles per second.

But it was the ‘double planet’ also known as the Christmas Star that left many of us looking upwards in awe.

People gather at River Parks trails at 41st and Riverside, to get a look at Jupiter and Saturn on Monday, Dec. 21, 2020, in Tulsa, Okla. The two planets were closer to each other than they've been in 800 years. (John Clanton/Tulsa World via AP)
People gather at River Parks trails at 41st and Riverside, to get a look at Jupiter and Saturn on Monday, Dec. 21, 2020, in Tulsa, Okla. (John Clanton/Tulsa World via AP)
epa08898530 A photo shows planets Saturn (top) and Jupiter converging in the sky of Damascus, Syria, on late 21 December 2020. Astronomers call this unique astronomical event as a 'great conjunction' which has not been observed for eight decades. The last time such conjunction was seen was on March, 1226. EPA/YOUSSEF BADAWI
A photo shows planets Saturn (top) and Jupiter converging in the sky of Damascus, Syria, on late 21 December 2020. (Credits: EPA)
Members of the Mota Velazco family use a telescope to view Jupiter and Saturn during a planetary conjunction, as they appear close together in a rare celestial event at the border crossing between Mexico and the United States in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico December 21, 2020. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez
Members of the Mota Velazco family use a telescope to view Jupiter and Saturn during a planetary conjunction, as they appear close together in a rare celestial event at the border crossing between Mexico and the United States in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico (Reuters)
epa08897456 Saturn (top) and Jupiter appearing at the closest distance to each other since July 1623 in a picture taken in central Seoul, South Korea, 21 December 2020. In the so-called great conjunction, the two planets appeared just 0.1 degree apart, or about one-fifth the width of a full moon, according to scientists. EPA/YONHAP SOUTH KOREA OUT
Saturn (top) and Jupiter appearing at the closest distance to each other since July 1623 in a picture taken in central Seoul, South Korea, 21 December 2020. (Credits: EPA)

Although the orbits of Saturn and Jupiter bring them into alignment every 20 years, this is the closest they have been since 1623.

This year’s conjunction is the first time it has happened at night since 1226. Because the 1623 alignment wasn’t visible from Earth, tonight’s conjunction is the first time stargazers will have witnessed the event for nearly 800 years.

‘You can imagine the solar system to be a racetrack, with each of the planets as a runner in their own lane and the Earth toward the center of the stadium,’ Henry Throop, an astronomer in Nasa’s Planetary Science Division, explained.

‘From our vantage point, we’ll be able to see Jupiter on the inside lane, approaching Saturn all month and finally overtaking it on December 21.’