Christmas Star Reemerges for the First Time Since 1223

by rstevens

Rachel Stevens, FISM News

“The Great Conjunction” is when Jupiter and Saturn are a tenth of a degree apart in their alignment, which creates what looks like the star of Bethlehem the wisemen saw in the story of Christ’s birth. 

“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east, and have come to worship Him.” 

(Matthew 2:1-2)

For the first time since around 1226, the Great Conjunction will create this optical illusion of a bright star on this year’s December 21 winter solstice. The shortest day of the year will bring the longest, but likely brightest night of the year. 

While these Jupiter-Saturn conjunctions occur every 20 years, this 2020 conjunction will be a special one. The last time these two planets were aligned so closely at 0.1 degree apart was 1623, and the last time they were this closely observable was 1223, according to EarthSky.

About an hour after local sunset time is when this Christmas miracle should be most visible, according to NASA. Although it will be apparent to the naked eye, telescopes can be used to magnify and enhance the viewing experience.