‘Christmas star’ not visible for 800 years will light up the night sky tonight

Skygazers will be able to witness a delightful sight this evening as a rare planetary alignment creates a “Christmas star” in the sky.

The sight of a star, similar to the one which is said to have lead the three wise men to the baby Jesus, will no doubt put you in the Christmas spirit.

On Monday, December 21, Saturn and Jupiter will come closer together than they have done in centuries.

Astrologer Professor Michael Burton described, of Armagh Planetarium and Observatory in Northern Ireland, this as a “spectacular event in the sky”, and you won’t want to miss it.

Conjunctions, where objects appear very close together in the sky, are not unusual occurrences.

But this “exceptionally close” conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn is the closest the two planets have been since 1623, accordion to Prof Burton.

Prof Burton said: “When that happened it was in the daytime skies so people would not have seen it because it would have been too light.

“The last one which actually would have been well placed to be seen was 1226, so we’re going back 800 years to the last one which would have been up in the dark sky to be seen.”

According to Prof Burton, a conjunction such as this is one explanation for what has is known as the Christmas star in the nativity.

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He explained: “Certainly one of the possibilities might have been two of the planets coming together.

“The whole question of what might the Christmas star have been is a very interesting question in its own right.

“Whether it was a conjunction, whether it was a comet, whether it was a supernova. No-one actually knows what it was”.

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Those hoping to catch sight of the light display are recommended to look to the south west as soon as possible after sunset.

The best time to spot the “Christmas star” is between 4.30pm and 6pm.

Luckily, you’ll be able to see it with the naked eye, just give your eyes time to adjust to the darkness.

But if you do have a telescope of binoculars, it will definitely help.

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