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Rare lifetime celestial phenomenon in the western skies tonight

21 December 2020 12:00 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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  • One has to look at the western skies closer to the horizon and towards somewhat northwest direction

By Yohan Perera and Chathuranga Samarawickrama

Jupiter and Saturn may appear almost like an elongated ball of light 'Great Conjunction' of Jupiter and Saturn today, Professor of Physics Chandana Jayaratne said yesterday.  

"The celestial phenomenon will take place tonight when the two biggest planets of the solar system, Jupiter and Saturn comes closer to each other probably appearing them as a big elongated single planet. You can look at the western skies these days after the Sunset and you will see the two planets are gradually coming closer to each other and the closest approach will occur today when the two planets will be separated by just about one-tenth of a degree or 6.1 arc minutes.  The two planets will set down at 8.14 p.m. Therefore, to watch this spectacular event, one must select a place where you can see the western skies clearly without much trees 
or buildings. About 30 minutes after the sunset, from 6.30 p.m. – 7.30 p.m. One has to look at the western skies closer to the horizon and towards somewhat northwest direction; you would see the two planets, perhaps as a double star or an elongated ball of light.  Naked eye observation is possible or you may use a binocular," Professor Jayaratne said. "In their elliptical movement around the Sun, the Jupiter passes the Saturn in a conjunction every 19.6 years, so the event is already rare, but tonight, the event will be the closest in the recent history. The last time these two planets appeared so close was 397 years ago, on July 16, 1623, when they were only five arc minutes apart. That was 13 years after Galileo built his first astronomical telescope and discovered the four large moons of Jupiter, the rings of Saturn and Sunspots among other discoveries" he added.“We will get another conjunction of the two planets with 6-arc minute separation in 60 years time, on March 15, 2080” Prof. Chandana Jayaratne, also said. 


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