By Sue-Ann Wayow
FOR those looking forward to seeing a Christmas star may get their wish as for the first time in 800 years, two planets will meet each other forming what is sometimes called “the Christmas Star.”
Astronomer and senior lecturer in the Department of Physics at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Dr Shirin Haque explained that two planets Jupiter and Saturn were scheduled to meet each other on December 21 at around 6.30 pm , local time.
She posted a video presentation on Facebook encouraging citizens to look out for the ‘star.’
Haque said, “The last time, these two planets appeared so close to each other in the sky and was easily visible was like 800 years ago although typically every 20 years, they do have a conjunction but not as great as the one that is due to happen. Jupiter orbits the sun, every 12 years approximately, while Saturn orbits the sun every 29 and a half years respectively. This December 21st which is the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere, these two planets are going to be separated by just .1 degrees in the sky.”
A conjunction was when the planets start to drift towards each other she explained.
When they begin to meet, the shape formed could seem like a star because “it could look like a single elongated object especially if you are not wearing glasses,” Haque said.
The next time such a phenomena would happen would be in 2874 and at that time, it will actually be on Christmas Day itself, Haque said.
She advises citizens to get ready to look out for the planets just after sunset.
Haque said, “We need to get a clear western horizon and look southwestern from about 6.30 pm. By 7.30 pm it will be a really too low on the horizon. Just after sunset, you will see the two planets really clearly in that part of the sky.”
For an extra visual treat, persons could use binoculars in order to also see Jupiter’s moon.
And to tell the difference between the two planets, Jupiter will be shinning brighter, Haque said.