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Kerala Kaumudi Online
Thursday, 21 January 2021 4.35 AM IST

Jupiter, Saturn conjunction: Planets cheek-to-cheek in rare cosmic event

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THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The solar system's two biggest planets, Jupiter and Saturn, came within planetary kissing range tonight, an intimacy that will not occur again until 2080. This "great conjunction", as it is known to astronomers, occurs fortuitously on the winter solstice for those in the Northern Hemisphere, and the beginning of summer in the global south.

Those who came to the beaches in Kerala to see this rare celestial event in the evening could not see clearly with their naked eyes. In Thiruvananthapuram, the clouds became the villain. However, those who came with binoculars got a brief glimpse of the conjunction towards southern part of the setting sun.

The two planets are, in fact, more than 730 million kilometres apart.

But because of their alignment in relation to Earth, they appear to be closer to each other than at any time in almost 400 years.

Optimal "conjunction" took place at 1822 GMT (11:52 pm Indian time).

Looking with a telescope or even a good pair of binoculars, the two gas giants are separated by no more than a fifth of the diameter of a full moon.

With the naked eye, they will merge into a "highly luminous" double planet, said Florent Deleflie from the Paris Observatory.

The last time Jupiter and Saturn nuzzled up this close was in 1623, but weather conditions in regions where the reunion could be seen blocked the view.

Visibility was apparently better the time before that during the Middle Ages, on March 4, 1226 to be precise.

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TAGS: GREAT CONJUNCTION, JUPITER, SATURN, RARE COSMIC EVENT
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