Here’s a little gift for you: On December 21, the date of the winter solstice, what’s become known as a “Christmas Star” will rise in the sky. Technically, though, the cosmic event isn’t really a star, but is Jupiter and Saturn coming extremely close together. Still, if you look up at the sky in the southwest direction on Monday night, you may be able to see two celestial bodies combine into a pointed beam of light. This treat for stargazers (even if it is, again, not necessarily a literal star) is the visual manifestation of the Great Conjunction, a yearlong astrological journey that poses to bring about major change. And this specific instance of the transit is notable because it is so rare.
While Great Conjunctions (when Jupiter and Saturn come together in the sky) happen roughly every 20 years, not every meeting is created equally. With this specific transit, the two planets are so close together they appear as one, forming a “double planet” (or, thanks to its calendar proximity to December 25, a Christmas Star). And to be sure, this hasn’t happened in a very long time.
“Two Jupiter-Saturn conjunctions in the last 800 years have been as close by declination as the one we’ll experience shortly after the winter solstice next Monday,” says astrologer SJ Anderson, who adds that both previous noted conjunctions included themes of expansion. “A conjunction in Aquarius in 1226 timed [with] the rise of the Mongol expansion, and a conjunction in Leo in 1623 timed [with] English colonial expansion into North America and Shakespeare’s First Folio.”
Stargazing is a “dark nature” activity that offers similar mental well-being benefits of surrounding yourself with nature during the day. Research also supports that looking at the stars can be a huge mood booster and stress-reducer.
This Christmas Star offers a festive outward appearance, and since it doesn’t really have much to do with the actual holiday despite its nickname, all stargazers can (and should) enjoy it. Getting out into the cold and searching for this celestial union can be a big win for mental health—and, uh, who couldn’t benefit from that right now? Stargazing is a “dark nature” activity that offers similar mental well-being benefits of surrounding yourself with nature during the day. Research also supports that looking at the stars can be a huge mood booster and stress-reducer. And it’s also something you can do solo or, if you feel safe, socially distanced from a fellow stargazing enthusiast.
As far as how, specifically, to see the Christmas Star, get to a dark location, with minimal light pollution (if you can), and consider bringing binoculars. It might be difficult to spot in some locations (us city-dwellers, for example, can’t totally control our bright-lights environments), so if you miss it, no worries. At the very least, we can all know the astrological and astronomical gift is a signal that this doozy of a year is coming to a conclusion, and brighter skies lay ahead.
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