BBC Sky at Night Magazine
Jupiter and Saturn
When: 21 December
See it with: Naked eye, binoculars and telescope How to see it: Early evening bright twilight towards the southwest horizon
Christmas is an interesting time of year for a conjunction of bright planets to occur in the evening twilight, often giving rise to ‘Christmas Star’ reports. These are usually prevalent when Venus is visible at Christmas, but Jupiter is the next brightest planet and it’s the one that will be catching our attention. On 21 December, after months slowly approaching each other, Jupiter and Saturn meet up for a spectacular ‘great conjunction’. They will appear so close in the sky that for a naked-eye view they may look like a single, bright object. They will be low in the evening twilight and will set quickly, so a good uncluttered southwestern horizon is essential in order to view this conjunction.
Binoculars will separate them into two objects with Saturn, the fainter of the two, lying above the mighty Jupiter. However, if you can use a telescope then aim it at them before they get too low. You will not only see them as discs, but may even see Saturn’s rings and Jupiter’s belts in the same view, along with the four Galilean moons of Jupiter and Saturn’s largest moon, Titan. This will be a brilliant conjunction as the year draws to a close.