Stargazing: Jupiter and Saturn almost meet in the conjunction of the century

Stars in dark sky
You'd be pretty pleased if you saw that many stars from your camping spot! (Image credit: Getty)

Star gazing. Something that reminds me firmly of my childhood. I have countless memories (or perhaps one big memory of all the times merged together) of sitting in a field in the dark, getting cold and waiting for a blip of light to appear in the sky. Whether it was a once-in-a-lifetime comet or just a satellite passing by, my Dad would be out there with the binoculars and us in toe.

But this year, on December 21, there’s something worth sitting in a damp field for. There is a ‘great conjunction’ between Jupiter and Saturn. The two planets will align in a way that they haven’t since the Middle Ages – and if that doesn’t sound enough like a Lara Croft movie to get you excited, then you’d best move on to the nest article.

Jupiter and Saturn will appear closer together and brighter in this conjunction than they have in the last 800 years. You’ll have the best chance of seeing it low in the western sky for about an hour after sunset. Plus it’s the day of the solstice: winter solstice in the northern hemisphere and summer in the south.

NASA says, “Over the first three weeks of December, watch each evening as the two planets get closer in the sky than they've appeared in two decades. Look for them low in the southwest in the hour after sunset. And on December 21st, the two giant planets will appear just a tenth of a degree apart - that's about the thickness of a dime held at arm's length! This means the two planets and their moons will be visible in the same field of view through binoculars or a small telescope.”

Luckily you’ve got time to prepare by checking out our buying guide to the best binoculars, learning about dark sky stargazing, and checking out our guide to the northern hemisphere night sky. See you outside on Monday!

Emily Woodhouse

An adventure writer based on Dartmoor, England, Emily is an active member of Mountain Rescue and a summer Mountain Leader, but loves all things adventure – before her third birthday she had lived on three continents. Founder of Intrepid magazine, she works to help break stereotypes about women in the outdoors. Her expeditions have included walking all Dartmoor’s 119 tors in a single two-week outing, cycling to Switzerland and back, and riding the Rhine from source to sea.