The best place to see the rare “Christmas Star”

An astronomical phenomenon known as the Christmas Star or the Great Conjunction of 2020 will reach peak brightness in Lynchburg on December 21. (File Photo)

Many of us top our Christmas trees with a star or decorate with stars at the holiday. It’s a nod to the Nativity story found in Matthew 2:2 in which a group of foreigners come looking for the new king and use a bright “star in the east” to find him.

Now through December 21, if look up right after sunset, you just might see something similar – and astronomical phenomenon many are calling the Christmas Star or Bethlehem Star of 2020.

The so-called Christmas Star really isn’t a star at all. Instead, our solar systems two largest planets, Jupiter and Saturn, will move very close together – so close, in fact, that they will look like a single bright planet. Astronomers are calling this event the Great Conjunction of 2020, and it’s causing a buzz in both astronomer and social media circles.

It’s an event 400 years in the making and the most visible the phenomenon has been in the last 800 years.

“The last time Jupiter and Saturn have been this close was 1623 and Galileo wrote about it,” says local astronomer Billy Hix. “So, when you view it, you are standing on the shoulders of someone like Galileo who saw the same view many years ago.”

Hix says the “Christmas Star” will reach peak brightness on December 21 and the best spots in Moore County to view the Christmas Star will be hilltops, away from city lights, with unobstructed views to the south-southwest. Hix says you won’t need a telescope or binoculars to see it and because these planets are located near the horizon, viewing will be best just after sunset.

“A nice open field, a ball field, any place that is high and gives you a clear view of the horizon,” says Hix. “Don’t go outside at 8 p.m. and wonder where to look – it is too late. This is only going to be visible about one hour after sunset.”

It’s genuinely a once-on-a-lifetime event. It hasn’t happened since 1623 and won’t happen again until 2080. Hix says he encourages locals, especially those with young kids, to participate.

“I beg you to take the kids to see this event,” he says. “The last time it was visible in the night sky for everyone to see was in the fall of the year 1226.   Think about the world at that time.   That was the first year that the Julian calendar took effect.”

To learn more about the Great Conjunction of 2020, read the article on Astronomy Magazine by clicking here. •

{The Lynchburg Times is the only independently owned and operated newspaper in Lynchburg, Tennessee. We cover Metro Moore County government, Jack Daniel’s Distillery, Nearest Green Distillery, Tims Ford State Park, Motlow State Community College, Moore County High School, Moore County Middle School, Lynchburg Elementary, Raider Sports, plus regional and state news.}

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