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Saturn And Jupiter Meet In Wyoming Skies December 21

Michael O'Shea

Monday, December 21, is the longest night of the year, but this year there's something to brighten the skies: a planetary conjunction.

University of Wyoming astronomy researcher Harrison Leiendecker said a conjunction happens when planets appear very close together from our view on Earth. He said Jupiter and Saturn will come so close together that they may appear as one object.

"The planets will appear close together in the sky from our point of view, but in reality they're actually still millions of miles apart from each other," said Leiendecker. "The event itself is really cool because this great conjunction hasn't been visible to us for nearly 800 years. This time, we'll see Jupiter catch up with Saturn's position in its orbit."

He said this conjunction could happen on any night of the year, but since it's on the winter solstice, there's a better chance at seeing the planets in the night sky.

Leiendecker said to look to the southwest after sunset to see the planets, which will be visible to the naked eye. To see Jupiter's moons or Saturn's rings, you'll need a small telescope or binoculars. The planets will appear close together for the next few days.

Have a question about this story? Please contact the reporter, Ashley Piccone, at apiccone@uwyo.edu.

Ashley is a PhD student in Astronomy and Physics at UW. She loves to communicate science and does so with WPM, on the Astrobites blog, and through outreach events. She was born in Colorado and got her BS in Engineering Physics at Colorado School of Mines. Ashley loves hiking and backpacking during Wyoming days and the clear starry skies at night!
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