PAGASA: Closest alignment of Jupiter, Saturn visible on Dec. 21

Job Manahan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 15 2020 06:01 PM

PAGASA: Closest alignment of Jupiter, Saturn visible on Dec. 21 1
(L-R) The waxing crescent moon and the planets Saturn and Jupiter are shown above a windmill at Western Trails Park on November 19, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Ethan Miller/Getty Images via AFP

MANILA — Save the date. 

The closest alignment of the solar system's largest planets, Jupiter and Saturn, will be visible to the naked eye on Dec. 21, state weather bureau PAGASA said Tuesday.

The said planets, for the first time in 800 years, will appear visibly closest during the said date, in what astronomers hailed as the "great conjunction."

PAGASA’s astronomical publication unit chief Jose Mendoza IV said the best time to witness the astronomical event would be after sunset. 

Mendoza added that the conjunction would be spotted somewhere in the western horizon. 

"Buong Pilipinas, buong mundo 'yan (na makakakita.) Makikita nila 'yan pagkatapos lumubog (ng araw.) Kasi malapit na sila sa horizon mo, malapit na sila mag-set," he told ABS-CBN News. 

(The whole Philippines, and the world, would witness the event. They would see it after the sun sets because the planets would be closer to the horizon.) 


Mendoza explained that the closest alignment of Jupiter and Saturn, estimated to have a distance of 0.1 degrees as viewed from the earth, was possible because of their pacing on the ecliptic, or the planets' "highway." 

"'Pag nagkakataon na ang kanilang speed ay nagkakasabay, as viewed from the earth, nagkakapang-abot sila sa ating paningin," he said. 

(If their pacing becomes the same, they seemed to be aligned as viewed from the earth.) 

He also emphasized that while the encounter happens every 20 years, the alignment this year is "rare."

The planets will be this close again after 60 years, or in 2080, he said. 

"Padikit sila nang padikit, palapit nang palapit, hanggang sa almost magkalapit na sila... mas maliwanag siya kasi nag-combine ang liwanag." 

(They become closer and closer and their light becomes one.) 

The state weather bureau's astronomical diary pointed out that a person would need a "modest-sized" telescope to view the two planets' atmospheric features. 

"Satellites and rings will require a modest-sized telescope under a dark and clear sky condition," it read. 

There have yet to be announcements from PAGASA regarding a special screening for the event, but Mendoza said the gathering of astronomers would not be possible due to the pandemic. 

The astronomical event also coincides with the winter solstice, according to the weather bureau. 


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