Jupiter & Saturn will come within 0.1 degrees of each other

This news story about this upcoming event is sooooo interesting:  https://www.cbsnews.com/news/jupiter-saturn-great-conjunction-double-planet-december-21/

I know many of us practitioners will be on holiday break during this time, but this might be a great activity to have students investigate and when they return to class we could discuss it or post pictures of it.

How can we incorporate this event and help our learners become curious about our world?


December is going to be a busy astronomy month.  December 21 at 8:30am EST marks the Winter Solstice, or the first day of Winter in the northern hemisphere.  It also marks the shortest day of the year, with only 9 hours and 33 minutes of sunlight.  Compare this to the first day of summer, June 21, when the sun was above the horizon for 14 hours and 46 minutes.  On December 22 we will gain 3 seconds of daylight which means that spring is almost here!


This is also the month for one of the best meteor showers of the year.  The Geminid Meteor Shower will peak on the evening of December 13 - 14 when rates could be as high as 85 meteors/hr.  Viewing will be especially good this year because it will occur during a new moon, so we will be able to see the faintest of meteors.  This is not the only day you can see the Geminids.  They will start as early as December 8, peak on December 13, and the numbers will diminish as we head into late December.  The nice thing about meteor showers is that no special equipment is needed.  Bundle up, have a clear view of the sky after 10:30 EST pm and look up!


If you have been watching the southern sky throughout the summer months, you've noticed two bright "stars" that have been slowly approaching each other.  These are not stars, but the planets Saturn and Jupiter.  Early in the summer they were several degrees apart, but now they are separated by less than 2 degrees.  This planetary alignment is known as a conjunction.  They will continue to approach each other until December 21 when they will be separated by only 1/10th degree.  This is so close that you will not be able to distinguish them as separate objects unless you view them with binoculars or a small telescope.  The last time this alignment happened was March 4, 1226.   Such an alignment is also thought to be responsible for the Star of Bethlehem.  This conjunction included the planets Venus and Jupiter and occurred on June 17, 2 B.C.   The alignment was so close that Venus actually crossed in front of Jupiter.