On 21 December 2020 at 11.51 pm one of the splendid celestial phenomena “Jupiter in Conjunction with Saturn” will occur. In other words, both Jupiter and Saturn will appear to be near each other as seen from Earth after Sunset. The last time this kind of close encounter between Jupiter and Saturn occurred was on 16 July 1623. Whereas the next time Jupiter and Saturn will be on 15 March 2080. Though, this astronomical phenomenon will occur close to midnight people in India can see these two planet’s closest encounter easily for an hour after Sunset between 6.15 p.m. to 7.30 pm. As both of these Planets will set in the West by 8.02 p.m. They appear like non-twinkling star-like objects to bare eyes.
Direction & Timings – How to find which is Jupiter or Saturn? Half an hour after Sunset around 6.20 pm onwards one should look towards West Direction then he/she first would see two non-twinkling star-like objects. Wherein the brightest one is Planet Jupiter and the other one being Planet Saturn. Though Planet Jupiter will not occult or eclipse Planet Saturn people may experience difficulty to notice the gap between Jupiter and Saturn on 21 Dec 2020. However, till the end of the year as days pass by people can witness the growing gap/distance between these two objects in the sky after Sunset.
Observe What happens after 21 Dec 2020? Jupiter – Saturn - Moving Apart: What is more interesting is that this coming together of these two planets has been noticed by people across the world for two weeks now. However, after 21st December 2020 people can observe these planets moving away from each other in the sky over the next few days/weeks. Hence PSI suggests people take a selfie with Jupiter & Saturn.
Are they really close or they appear so from Earth? Interestingly though Saturn and Jupiter are separated by enormous distance & location of orbits. Due to phenomena of Conjunction for an observer on earth they appear near each other in Earth’s Sky. i.e. present positions of these planets while on their journey around the Sun is such that they appear near each other from Earth.
On 21 December 2020 Distance between Earth and Jupiter is at 5.9 A.U. i.e. 88,41,23,415Km (88.41 Crores Kilometers). Whereas the distance between Earth and Saturn is at 10.82 AU. i.e 161,86,48,961 Km (161.86 Crores Kilometers). Importantly Distance between Jupiter and Saturn on 21 Dec 2020 is 4.9 A.U. i.e. 73,31,37,000 km (73.31 Crore Kilometers). Hence though these planets appear to be near each other, they are separated by enormous distances among themselves and from Earth.
Importance – Coming together: It is a known fact that Planet Jupiter orbits Sun once every 11.86 years whereas Saturn goes around Sun once every 29.5 Years. So once in every 19 years and 7 months conjunction of Jupiter with Saturn occurs. But the degree of separation between them varies and will not be this close like on 21 Dec 2020 or Year 1623. Normally depending on their position around Sun in their orbit the rising and setting time of these Planets is determined. Based on this either Jupiter, Saturn appear in the morning or evening or some time together separated by minutes to hours. But the present geometrical position of Earth, Jupiter, and Saturn in such that both these planets appear very near to each other in the sky at the same time after Sunset in the evening sky.