By nearly all accounts, 2020 has been a rough year. But on December 21 — the night of the December solstice — the solar system will give us a rare gift. Jupiter and Saturn will appear to be so close to each other that they’ll look like a “double planet,” creating a very bright point of light in the sky. This will be the first time that this phenomenon has occurred since the Middle Ages, according to Forbes.
Patrick Hartigan, an astronomer at Rice University, told Forbes, “You’d have to go all the way back to just before dawn on March 4, 1226, to see a closer alignment between these objects visible in the night sky.” Forbes notes that some believe that the “Star of Bethlehem” in the story of the “Three wise Men” could have been a rare triple conjunction of Jupiter, Saturn and Venus.
So, how can you get a good view of this rare occurrence? The good news is, you could potentially see it from anywhere on earth. The bad news is, the skies need to be clear. But if they are clear, the planets will appear low in the western sky for about an hour after sunset. They’ll be closest on December 21, 2020, but you can see them each evening that week, and it will be bright enough to be seen, even during twilight.
All you need is an unobstructed view to the southwest. To see it, look to the southwest about 45 minutes after sunset. You can use this tool to figure out when the sun will set in your area.