Are you a star gazer? Just now you can see the conjunction of Saturn and Venus in the south-western sky (just after sunset). Both planets seem to be very close together when we observe this from planet earth. On Monday 21st December the conjunction will be at its brightest. This only happens very rarely when Jupiter’s and Saturn’s 12- and 29-year orbits bring them together. It hasn’t been this bright since just before dawn on 4 March 1226! The Star of Bethlehem that guided the three wise men to the place of Jesus Christ’s birth may have been a great conjunction, too, as three great planetary conjunctions occurred around 7BC and another in 2BC, which would have appeared to observers in Babylon to have been in the general direction of Bethlehem to the west.
On the December solstice in 2020, Jupiter’s and Saturn’s orbits will bring them together in a ‘great conjunction’. Photograph: Jon G Fuller/VW Pics/ZUMA Wire/REX/Shutterstock