Photo via AFP
Photo via AFP

Jupiter and Saturn merged in the night sky on Monday, appearing closer to one another than they have since Galileo's time in the 17th century.

Astronomers say so-called conjunctions between the two largest planets in our solar system aren't particularly rare. Jupiter passes its neighbour Saturn in their respective laps around the sun every 20 years.

But this one was especially close: Jupiter and Saturn inched closer to each other, one-tenth of a degree apart from our perspective, or about one-fifth the width of a full moon.

The celestial event, experts said, should be easily visible around the world a little after sunset, weather permitting.

Toss in the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, the longest night of the year - and the summer solstice in the Southern Hemisphere - and this just-in-time-for-Christmas spectacle set out to be one of the greatest of Great Conjunctions.

As envisaged, space enthusiasts and skywatchers all over the world looked to the night sky to witness the great celestial event, as Twitter was flooded with images of the same.

A great conjunction of the planets Jupiter (L) and Saturn which comes after nearly 400 years is seen behind Christmas decorations in the night sky above Koh Lipe island on December 21, 2020.
A great conjunction of the planets Jupiter (L) and Saturn which comes after nearly 400 years is seen behind Christmas decorations in the night sky above Koh Lipe island on December 21, 2020.
Mladen Antonov / AFP
People stand in a queue to see a great conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn at the Maidan area in Kolkata on December 21, 2020.
People stand in a queue to see a great conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn at the Maidan area in Kolkata on December 21, 2020.
Dipyangshu Sarkar / AFP
People stand in a queue to see a great conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn at the Maidan area in Kolkata on December 21, 2020.
People stand in a queue to see a great conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn at the Maidan area in Kolkata on December 21, 2020.
Dibyangshu Sarkar / AFP

State-run Jawaharlal Nehru Planetarium in Bengaluru had also made arrangements to watch the celestial conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn planets on Monday between 6.30 - 7.30 PM.

"We have set up telescopes in our premises to watch the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn on Monday evening if weather conditions permit," said a planetarium official in a statement.

Due to the Covid-induced restrictions on people gathering in large numbers in public places, Doordarshan National was running a live telecast for all those who wanted to watch the great celestial event unfold.

Watch live telecast of the Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn here:

Saturn and Jupiter have been drawing closer in the south-southwest sky for weeks. Jupiter - bigger and closer to Earth - is vastly brighter.

To see it, look towards to the southwest fairly low on the horizon, shortly after sunset!

Saturn will be the smaller, fainter blob at Jupiter's upper right. Binoculars will be needed to separate the two planets.

Despite appearances, Jupiter and Saturn have actually come to be more than 450 million miles (730 million kilometres) apart. Earth, meanwhile, is currently 550 million miles (890 million kilometres) from Jupiter.

A telescope will not only capture Jupiter and Saturn in the same field of view, but even some of their brightest moons.

Their next super-close pairing will occur on March 15, 2080.

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