MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - A rare planetary alignment tonight is being called the Christmas Star.
Just after sunset on the evening of Dec. 21, the two gas giants of Saturn and Jupiter will nearly appear as one very bright shining star in the evening sky. The illusion of the planets so close together has been dubbed the “Great Conjunction.”
The two planets will separated by a distance of only 1/5th the diameter of a full moon. In the world of astronomy, that is exceptionally close.
What makes this year’s great conjunction even more special is the fact that these two planets have not appeared this close in the night sky in nearly 800 years.
Jupiter and Saturn have been getting closer and closer each evening for the last several weeks. Tonight, just after sunset will provide the absolute best viewing as the great conjunction actually occurs.
The best time for viewing this planetary alignment is around 45 minutes after sunset this evening. That will place the optimal viewing around 6 to 7 p.m.
You’ll be able to see a very bright object shining stronger than any star. That’s Jupiter. Immediately next to Jupiter will be another object steadily shining as bright as most stars. That would be Saturn.
The conjunction will gradually set in the southwestern sky after sunset. That means your ability to see them will diminish with each passing minute after sunset unless you’ve got a completely unobstructed view to the southwest.
Skies will remain clear this evening and should provide optimal viewing.