Jupiter and Saturn Comes Closer In Monday’s Evening Sky

Paris: The solar system’s two biggest planets, Jupiter and Saturn, came closer in Monday’s evening sky, an event that will not occur again until 2080.

This “great conjunction”, as it is known to astronomers, occurred fortuitously on the winter solstice for those in the Northern Hemisphere and the beginning of summer in the global south.

The two planets were, in fact, more than 730 million kilometres (400 million miles) apart. But because of their alignment in relation to Earth, they appeared to be closer to each other than at any time in almost 400 years.

Optimal “conjunction” took place at 1822 GMT.

The best viewing conditions on Monday were in clear skies and close to the Equator, while people in Western Europe and along a vast swathe of Africa had to train their sight to the southwest.

Hundreds of sky gazers assembled at the Birla Industrial and Technological Museum in Kolkata as the leading science museum made arrangements to view the conjunction at the south-western part of the sky through a telescope, a BITM spokesman said. People gathered to watch the phenomenon, which took place after about 400 years, on rooftops and open grounds in different parts of Kolkata and West Bengal though the winter fog partially hindered the view.

Enthusiasts queued up to watch The Great conjunction (Jupiter-Saturn) at Kesari wada in Pune.

The last time Jupiter and Saturn nuzzled up this close was in 1623, but weather conditions in regions where the reunion could be seen blocked the view.

Visibility was apparently better the time before that during the Middle Ages, on March 4, 1226 to be precise.

Jupiter, which is the larger planet, takes 12 years to revolve around the sun, while Saturn takes 29 years.

Every 20 years or so, they appear to observers on Earth to come closer to each other.