Christmas star becomes visible in Iowa

While looking at the sky on the night of Dec. 21, you may have seen a bright light right next to the setting sun. This light is known as the “Christmas Star.” 

The “Christmas Star” was created by Jupiter and Saturn. The two largest planets were so very close together, but in reality so far apart. While they were in close proximity, they created a bright light in the sky. 

Astronomy teacher Jason Steffen said, “Jupiter has an orbital period of about 12 years and Saturn has an orbital period of 29.4 years.  Since they are orbiting in the same direction around the sun, this means that about every 20 years they seem to be near each other in the Earth’s nighttime sky.  This is a conjunction.”

The star was best visible during the sunset on the night of Dec. 21, during the winter solstice. 

The two planets switched places in the sky that night, making the one bright star during their swap. Jupiter was the brightest and easily visible. Saturn was not as bright and was above Jupiter. 

The close alignment of planets was visible for the first time in centuries. The last time these planets aligned for those on Earth to see was March 4, 1226. 

Jupiter and Saturn have been growing closer to each other since this summer. They align every 20 years or so, but not as close as they got this past December. 

Those who missed out on seeing the star can explore these links to see the “star.”

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.