Rare planetary alignments can create a “Christmas star” similar to the one that is said to have guided the Three Sages.
Saturn and Jupiter will come their earliest in hundreds of years, creating a “splendid event in the sky” on Monday at the winter solstice.
While the planets remain millions of miles apart in space – to the naked eye on Earth, they would appear as a bright eye object.
While conjunctions – where objects appear so close to each other in the sky – are not rare, this will be the closest since 1623.
Appeared this year at the winter solstice, it has been described as the “Christmas Star” in reference to the story of the birth of Jesus.
Solstice is also the longest night of the year – giving people more opportunity to witness the scene.
Professor Michael Burton said that the largest planets in the solar system would be only 0.1 degrees away, one-fifth of the diameter of the full moon, and would appear as the brightest object in the sky.
Professor Burton, Director of the Arma Planetarium Observatory in Northern Ireland added: “When that is [the 1623 conjuction] An event was day.
“The last one that was actually in good position for vision was 1226,800 years old.”
He said the pairing is one possibility of what has become known as the Christmas star from the story of the birth of Jesus.
NASA astronomer Henry Throup described this phenomenon.
“You can imagine the solar system as a race track, with each of the planets running in their own lane and Earth toward the center of the stadium,” he said.
“From our point of view, we will be able to see Jupiter on the inner corridor, approaching Saturn throughout the month and finally past it on December 21.”
Professor Throp said, “Associations like this could happen on any day of the year, depending on where the planets are in their orbits.”
“The date of the conjunction is determined by the locations of Jupiter, Saturn, and Earth in their paths around the sun, while the date of the solstice is determined by the tilt of the Earth’s axis.”
How to see the Star of Bethlehem in the United Kingdom
The advice to see a rare event in the UK is to look southwest as soon as possible after sunset.
You should be watching about an hour after sunset – the planets will rapidly move below the horizon, according to Space.com advice.
The planets will remain in close alignment for a few days from December 21, and will remain easily visible to the naked eye when looking southwest just after sunset.
Space.com confirms that the phenomenon is so bright that it can be seen with the naked eye, even from within cities where there is a lot of light pollution.
Binoculars or telescopes should enable viewers to see the four large moons of Jupiter.
The chance of clear skies is set to be greater in the northern half of the UK.