Great conjunction

Astronomical conjunction occurs when any two heavenly bodies appear to pass or meet each other as seen from Earth’s perspective. The conjunction normally involves two objects of the Solar System or one object of the solar system and a distant object.

Key Points for UPSC Prelims

  • 2020’s great conjunction coincides with the December solstice, the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere and the longest in the southern i.e. December 21.
  • On this day, Jupiter and Saturn will appear very close to each other, separated by just 6.1 arc minutes.
  • As per the reports, both the planets will be only 0.1 degrees apart.
  • The planets will appear as a big bright dot while being closer to each other. Though the planets will be seen very close to each other from the Earth, the planets will be actually at a distance of about 735 million km.
  • This phenomenon would be visible through naked eyes, from all parts of the world. As this conjunction occurs after 400 years, it is called as ‘Great Conjunction’.
  • As per researchers, the most recent observable Jupiter and Saturn conjunctions were during the years 1623 and 1226. The next conjunction is expected to happen in 2080.

Earlier Astronomical Conjunctions

Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter were very close to each other during the February, March, and April months of 2020. Mars was in conjunction with Jupiter on March 31 while Mars was in conjunction with Saturn on March 31. Before this, Mars and Jupiter were seen in conjunction in January 2018.

Jupiter and Saturn

Jupiter is the largest planet of the solar system and the fifth planet outward from the sun. It is also the second-slowest bright planet, after Saturn.

Saturn is the second-largest planet of the solar system and is the sixth planet outward from the sun. It is the slowest-moving planet that we can easily see with the eye alone.

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