Many people had their eyes on the sky on Monday night to witness the “Great Conjunction” of Jupiter and Saturn. For those who missed it, an amateur astro-photographer captured an amazing photo of the occurrence with Saturn’s rings clearly visible beyond Jupiter and its four moons.
The image captured in the photo was taken with a camera attached to a telescope, while those viewing the planets with the naked eye would have seen the two planets appearing as one bright star.
The conjunction, which happened to peak on the winter solstice of Dec. 21, brought Jupiter and Saturn closer together than they have been in 800 years.
While the planets appeared close together for us here on Earth, they are actually millions of miles away from each other. In fact, Jupiter and Saturn were 450 million miles apart from each other during the conjunction. Jupiter’s orbit basically just slid in between Earth and Saturn, meaning someone standing on Saturn could have theoretically seen a conjunction of Jupiter and Earth. Someone on Jupiter, however, would not have seen anything other than Earth in one direction and Saturn in the other.
The alignment of the two planets is also referred to as the “Christmas Star” or “Star of Bethlehem,” as some have connected an occurrence of the conjunction to the birth of Jesus. A conjunction of Jupiter and Venus that occurred around 2 B.C. has also been mentioned as the possible Christmas star, as Venus typically appears brighter to us here on Earth than Jupiter or Saturn.