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Kiwis to get unique view of Jupiter and Saturn this weekend last seen 400 years ago

In a treat for Kiwi stargazers over Christmas, Jupiter and Saturn will appear at their closest in almost 400 years.

“If you look low on the western horizon just to the right of where the sun sets, about half an hour or so after sunset, then you should get a great view," John Rowe said. Source: Julie Fraser.

Known as a Great Conjunction, the two planets will be visibly at their closest to each other on Monday. But they will also appear strikingly close between Saturday and Wednesday, 23 December.

It is the closest the planets have appeared to be since 1623.

To see the rare astronomical event Kiwis can look to the west from half an hour after sunset on these nights, according to astronomers at Auckland’s Stardome Observatory & Planetarium.

“If you look low on the western horizon just to the right of where the sun sets, about half an hour or so after sunset, then you should get a great view – weather permitting of course,” Stardome Observatory & Planetarium’s John Rowe said.

“The planets will appear to sink quite quickly so are only going be visible for about an hour and a half each of the four evenings.  Perfect timing for the kids to see before bedtime too.”

The celestial phenomenon occurs because the planets are in line as viewed from Earth. 

“The Great Conjunction refers to a time when the two largest planets in the solar system pass close to each other in the sky as viewed from Earth.

“This is extremely exciting because it is the closest the two planets have appeared since 1623.  And given the next time Jupiter and Saturn will be this close is 2080 — 60 years from now — this really is a rare once in a lifetime experience for most people.”