Christmas Star to brighten holiday

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Christmas Star

‘Star of Bethlehem’ to appear Dec. 21, the ‘darkest day of the year,’ Winter Solstice

By Juanice Gray, jgray@natchitochestimes.com

This has been a rough year. Covid-19, a change in the White House and a couple of pretty fierce hurricanes created total upheaval to life as we knew it when the year began. Most are ready to see the year end and are looking forward to a better 2021. But on Dec. 21, the night of the winter solstice and literally the darkest day of the year, the solar system will give us a rare gift, just in time for Christmas. Jupiter and Saturn will be so close they will create a brilliant point of light in the sky – a “Christmas Star” or “Star of Bethlehem” – to cap off 2020 with a celestial Christmas. 

Science says this will be the first time this phenomenon has occurred since the Middle Ages. The last time the two planets were so close was 1623, but stargazing conditions at the time meant the astronomical event likely was not seen on Earth. The last time such a close pairing was observable to the naked eye was in 1226, according to EarthSky.

Anyone can see the 2020 Christmas Star anywhere on Earth as long as skies are clear. From Dec. 15-18, one can easily find Jupiter and Saturn by looking toward the waxing crescent moon in the western sky 45 minutes after sunset, according to NASA’s Night Sky Network. Jupiter and Saturn meet every 20 years, but on Dec. 21 they will be just 0.1 degree apart, creating the “Christmas Star” phenomenon.

This near-proximity of two planets relative to Earth is called a conjunction. Typically planets look like a brighter star in the sky, except this time, that optical effect will be doubled. Conjunctions of these two planets typically happen every 20 or so years, however, one where these planets are this close only happen every 400 or so years, with the last two happening in 1623 and 1226

An online post circulating on social media, sums up the event very adeptly with a merging of science and faith, and is worth sharing here:

“In the year when Jesus was born, there was violence, chaos, political and social unrest. It was dark. The Magi (3 wise men) followed the star until it rested on where he was and they began to worship him. In a time where it was dark, light was brought in to our world.

Jesus stepped into the chaos and brought peace. Fast forward to this year, 2020. It’s a time of violence, chaos, political and social unrest. It is dark. How fitting, that in the moment of time during the Christmas season that we get to see this beautiful reminder…that even in the darkest of times…Light will, and has, stepped in.

In our chaos He is there. In our darkest time, He is there. He brings Light, and makes all things new. So as you look up on Dec. 21 for the Christmas Star, may we be reminded of His power, and His Light that he brings for all mankind. He is perfect at stepping into chaos and bringing it into peace.”