For fans of stargazing and the planets, Christmas will come a bit earlier this year. The two largest planets in our solar system are slowly but surely moving towards one another and creating a Christmas star.
On the 21st of December, the summer solstice, these two planets will be closer together than they have been since the Middle Ages. In fact, they will be so close together that they would look like a double planet. This is known as a conjunction.
In a statement, Rice University astronomer and professor of physics and astronomy, Patrick Hartigan, said that "alignments between these two planets are rather rare, occurring once every 20 years or so, but this conjunction is exceptionally rare because of how close the planets will appear to one another".
CNN reports that the last time these two planets were so close together was just before dawn on the 4th of March 1226. If you miss this conjunction and want to see the planets with the same proximity, just higher in the sky, it won’t happen until the 15th of March 2080 – and then not again until after 2400.
In South Africa, the ideal time to see this rare phenomenon will be just after sunset between the 16th and 25th of December.
Image credit: DNA India