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Jupiter and Saturn will offer rare celestial treat in time for Christmas

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"Stars under night sky. Queenstown, Otago, New Zealand" by dave.see is licensed with CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
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A rare celestial event that some are calling the “Christmas Star” will unfold over the next few days.

Jupiter and Saturn are the two largest planets in our solar system, and they catch up with each other’s orbits about every 20 years.  Now, the two celestial giants are nearing each other in their closest approach in almost 800 years.  The “Great Conjunction,” as it’s known, will peak on Monday evening, right on time with the winter solstice.

Shannon Schmoll is director of the Abrams Planetarium at Michigan State University.  She says you can start watching the spectacle now.

“All you need to do is go outside and look in the southwest right after sunset and you’ll be able to watch Jupiter and Saturn over the course of the next several days pass each other," said Schmoll. "So, don’t just go out on Monday…try to go out as much as you can as long as it’s clear.”

Schmoll says some astronomers speculate it may have been a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, or possibly Jupiter and Venus that formed the storied “Star of Bethlehem” that heralded the birth of Jesus.

Again, you can watch the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn just after sunset, between now and the 21st (Monday).