Saturn, Jupiter will appear closer than they have in centuries this year


While all eyes are on a handful of states as election results continue to be tabulated in the United States, those looking for a distraction can look up to the skies.

Through the end of the year, several planets in the solar system will appear brightly in our night sky, though fair warning: you won’t be able to see them all at once.

According to EarthSky, we can expect a planetary conjunction over the next several weeks, or a meeting of planets on our sky’s dome. Saturn and Jupiter will edge closer together until December 21, when they will appear closer than they have since 1623. Look for them right after nightfall, with Saturn following Jupiter westward.

Starting on November 10, look at the horizon an hour before sunrise, and the waning moon will provide you with a clear view of Venus and Mercury.

Mars will also appear bolder, though its brightness peaked in October, and while Uranus and Neptune will be visible, you’ll need a telescope to spot them.

Earth has had quite the celestial show this year, with a new comet flying past us for the first time in 6,800 years in July. Comet C/2020 F3 flew through the inner solar system this summer, appearing so brightly that observers could spot it without the aid of a telescope.

While there was also speculation that an apparent asteroid, which is nearing the Earth and which will have its closest approach on December 1, could eventually become classified as a mini-moon, a savvy scientist quickly figured out that it was most likely space junk.

Dr. Paul Chodas, the director of NASA's Center for Near Earth Object Studies, noted that the "mini-moon," titled Asteroid 2020 SO, appeared to be an old rocket booster. “It’s following an orbit about the Sun that is extremely similar to Earth's, nearly circular, in the same plane, and only slightly farther away the Sun at its farthest point," he told CNN.

Chodas believes it’s a rocket body from an Atlas Centaur-D rocket launched on September 20, 1966. The rocket carried the Surveyor 2 to the Moon, but when the spacecraft crashed, the rocket lunged into orbit and is just now resurfacing.

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