Special Christmas star
If you look up into the night sky during the Christmas period, you will see something rare – a special Christmas star.
To be fair, it is not really a star, but rather what astronomers call “a conjunction of planets”. This is when two planets are so close together in the sky that they appear to be a single bright star. The last time this conjunction happened was more than 800 years ago.
On December 21 (which is also our summer solstice) at around 9pm, if you look out towards the west, you will see this bright ‘star' just above the horizon. This is the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn. This event will be visible from anywhere on the Earth, although the best views are near the equator.
Both planets will be viewable together through binoculars or a telescope. On the solstice night only, both planets and their moons will appear in the same high-magnification telescope's frame.
Try not to miss it – this event won't happen again for another few decades and it won't be at Christmas time either. The two planets won't be this close to each other again until March 15, 2080, and again sometime in the year 2400.
Some people have speculated that the ‘Star of Bethlehem' was a special conjunction of three planets: Jupiter, Saturn and Mars. A triple conjunction is extremely rare to witness, and to most people of the time, they would have only seen and marvelled at a bright, new star shining in the heavens.