'Great Conjunction' of Jupiter, Saturn to grace night skies in December

Jupiter and Saturn will form a neat triangle in the sky on December 21, forming the 'Great Conjunction' - signifying the rarity of the event.

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Image for Representation (Photo: Reuters)

A rare union of Jupiter and Saturn will grace the night sky on December 21, forming what is known as the 'Great Conjunction'.

Jupiter and Saturn are in conjunction when they have the same right ascension or celestial longitude. This is what is referred to as a 'Great Conjunction', signifying the rarity of the union because unlike conjunctions with the other bright planets, these two don't get close as often, reported Space.com.

The crescent moon will be visible in the south-southwest as soon as the sky darkens, but the other two planets will be visible a little later. Jupiter will most likely make an appearance after sunset, and Saturn after that.

On Friday night, the two planets are going to form a neat triangle which will last for at least four and a half hours. However, the best viewing time is the first 30 minutes after sunset.

"The best observing time is about 30 minutes after local sunset for about two hours while the moon and planets are high enough in the sky to be nicely visible," astronomy educator and former planetarium director Jeffrey Hunt told CNET.

No special equipment will be required to see the 'Great Conjunction.' Hunt told the portal "a binocular or small telescope, such as a bird-watching scope, will show lunar craters (and) the moons of Jupiter. If the binocular is held steady, some of Jupiter's larger moons are visible. The small telescope will show a hint that Saturn has rings."

He also said the ones that fail to witness this rare union could watch out for another grouping of Jupiter, Saturn and the Moon on December 16.

Jupiter passes Saturn in a conjunction every 19.6 years, so the event is already rare, but the December 21 event will be the closest conjunction of the two since 1623, CNET reported.

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