Is stargazing a hobby of yours? Do you get mesmerized by the beauty of these giant balls of gas wandering about it the universe, only visible as shiny diamonds dangling in the sky from where you can see? Do these specks of light that shine throughout the night sky soothe your tired soul? Are you tempted to know how to see the Christmas star spend the night on your roof under a blanket just gazing at and talking to the stars and the moon?
If so, then you are called an astronomer or an astrologist in human language. And an aesthetic expert in star language. You will know every eclipse that will occur in the year, and you will know about every juncture. That will become a worth-seeing sight at night. What is more, you will know about every telescope. And every mobile app that will best help you watch these amazing phenomena happen.
Well, my fellow astronomers, let’s see what a Christmas star is, and how we can see it.
What is a Christmas Star?
Also known as the “Star of Bethlehem”, the Christmas star is a conjuncture of two of the largest planet of our solar system. Namely Jupiter and Saturn. Once in a few hundred years, these two planets orbit in such a way that they come really close to one another, forming a conjuncture seen as one whole star from the Earth’s line of sight.
Why is it a big deal?
It is just a star, right? Wrong! in fact, it isn’t even a star. It is such close proximity between two gigantic planets. But even that isn’t what makes it so special.
The Christmas star is a rare phenomenon that has occurred for many hundred years. To be precise, it had been 400 years since the two planets came in such proximity to each other. And 800 years since this happened during the night, allowing almost the whole world to witness this wonder.
A little story
The planets of Jupiter and Saturn, as well as their moons and rings, were discovered by Galileo Galilei in 1610. In 1623, the first Great Conjecture happened when Jupiter passed Saturn.
“You can imagine the solar system to be a racetrack. With each of the planets as a runner in their own lane. And the Earth toward the center of the stadium. Said astronomer Henry Throop while explaining the process. “Conjunctions like this could happen on any day of the year. Depending on where the planets are in their orbits,” said Throop. “The date of the conjunction is determined by the positions of Jupiter, Saturn, and the Earth in their paths around the Sun,
while the date of the solstice is determined by the tilt of Earth’s axis. The solstice is the longest night of the year. So this rare coincidence will give people a great chance to go outside and see the solar system.”
When did the Christmas Star last appear?
The last Christmas star the Earth witnessed was in December 2020. Because this phenomenon occurred near Christmas, it was labeled as the “Christmas Star”. The star was visible after sunset on December 21, 2020, and those who could not see it the first night might have seen it the night after, as the conjuncture stayed till the 29th of December.
The star was visible to the naked eye. If one had used a telescope, he or she might have seen the ring of Saturn and the moons of Jupiter as well. As soon as the sunset, the star was clearly visible with only half a light-year distance between the two planets and totally aligned in the earth’s line of sight.
How can one see the Christmas Star?
Here are a few things to get ready if you ever wish to see the Christmas star
Check the weather on the night of the event
If the weather is hazy and predicted to have clouds, you might miss the conjuncture of the Christmas star on the first night. Fortunately, the phenomenon persists for a whole week, so look out for clear weather any day after.
Have an A-class telescope or binoculars nearby
Even though the Christmas star is visible to the naked eye, it is better to have a device that will help gaze further beyond the earth’s orbit. That way, you are bound to see the moons of Jupiter and the ring of Saturn as a cherry on top.
Install a mobile application just in case
Usually, the stars get mixed up in the night sky. What you are looking at might be a regular star which you are hoping to be the Christmas star. If you have a mobile app installed that is programmed for stargazing, you can easily detect the conjuncture on your phone and then gaze at it all night.
Pick the right time and right direction
Even though the Christmas star is said to be visible after sunset, it greatly depends on where you are located. The further you are from the conjuncture at the horizon, the more time it will take for you to detect it.
Secondly, know to look at the southwestern side of the horizon. The timeframe to best view the Christmas star is between 9:15 to 10:15, when the sky is dark and the stars are beaming at their full.
Follow an astronomical page
If you live in a country where you can never get a glimpse of this amazing occurrence, you can always follow NASA’s website where they regularly post the events that happened in space
Stargazing is an addicting yet satisfying hobby for the soul. Nature always has its own way of making the soul calm and soothe after a tiring day of work. Take a cup of coffee, a warm blanket, a telescope, and your phone to the roof to get a relaxing view of God’s creation at night.
The Christmas star is one phenomenon that occurs once in a few hundred years and is not one to miss.