This evening the alignment of the planets Jupiter and Saturn will be visible in our evening skies, known as the ‘Great’ conjunction . A conjunction occurs when planets appear very close to one another in the sky. Although the alignment of Jupiter and Saturn happens every 20 years or so, on this particular occasion it will mark the closest encounter of these planets in nearly 400 years. If clear skies allow on this Monday evening you can see this spectacle for yourself. Jupiter and Saturn have been slowly moving closer to each other over the past few weeks; December 21st is when they will be at their closest point during this conjunction. They will remain in close alignment for a few days and this is visible with the naked eye when you look to the southwest just after sunset.
The Christmas Star!
This year’s conjunction falls on the first day of winter here in the Northern Hemisphere and as a result some people have referred to the planetary alignment as forming a ‘Christmas Star’, like the star of Bethlehem. The solstice is also the longest night of the year and this rare coincidence will give people an opportunity to go outside to view this wonder for themselves. You will find more information on the conjunction on NASA’s website.
Planning on seeing the conjunction this evening?
If you are planning to venture to the Mayo Dark Sky Park this evening, and in particular the Ballycroy Visitor Centre viewing point, we have put together compilation of images to illustrate what you might see from Cleary’s Hill, which is available to see on our Facebook page. These images have been taken from Stellarium – for instructions on how to download the Stellarium software and the landscape views from the Ballycroy Visitor Centre – see http://www.mayodarkskypark.ie/discover/stellarium