The Christmas Star Conjunction

Kai Heister

    When one thinks of the “Christmas Star”, what does one imagine? Most Christians would probably think of the star that supposedly shone on the night Jesus Christ was born, Christmas. However, those who don’t celebrate Christmas or are more interested in astrology than religion may instead know it as the 2020 alignment of Jupiter and Saturn. 

     Jupiter and Saturn have both been appearing in the western sky all of December, but they closely converged on the days surrounding Monday, December 21st (the winter solstice, coincidentally). The two planets pass each other fairly often in our solar system, with their positions aligning once every 20 or so years. What makes 2020’s alignment so special is the fact that it’s been almost 400 years since the planets passed each other this closely in the sky, and almost 800 years since the convergence of Saturn and Jupiter occurred during the night. According to NASA, one would have to go back to before daybreak on March 4, 1226, to see a visible, closer placement between Saturn and Jupiter in the night sky. Their alignment is only a tenth of a degree apart and lasted for several days. However, while these two planets appear very close, it is important to remember that they are still hundreds of millions of miles apart.

     This close alignment is called a “conjunction.” Looking for the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction was possible with the naked eye by looking low toward the west just after sunset. As with most astrological phenomena, fields and parks are best for viewing. When asked if they would go and see the conjunction, WFS’s Sue Kampert, Human Dynamics and Development teacher, says, “I am going to go outside that night, and I’m gonna try to find a good view so I can see it. I really like nature so I’m very excited, and I think it’s a neat thing to experience.” Caroline Vanderloo ‘22, says “I think I would go see it as long as it is fairly convenient to see because it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and is honestly pretty interesting.” Isabelle Miller ‘23, says, “Now that I know about it, yes. and it’s interesting that I haven’t seen more news coverage on this because it’s so rare. but I get that it’s been a hectic year so every news site is busy with covid and president stuff.” The 2020 “Christmas Star” is yet another reason why the year 2020 is so unique