Sky show: Jupiter and Saturn dazzle; northern lights possible

The great conjunction of 2020 approaches. It occurs on the winter solstice on Dec. 21.

Jupiter and Saturn on Dec. 21.
Jupiter and Saturn on Dec. 21.

Keep an eye on the southwest sky just after sunset for the next couple of weeks.

Jupiter (bright red) and Saturn (smaller white) are bright in the southwest sky near the horizon.

Jupiter and Saturn on December 14, 2020
Jupiter and Saturn on Dec. 14.

The two planets are drawing closer and will appear closer than they have in the last 800 years on the winter solstice on Dec. 21.

The occurrence of a great conjunction near the winter solstice is sometimes called the Christmas Star. This rare planetary alignment hasn’t occurred in about 800 years.

Northern lights potential?

A solar storm is sending a burst of energy called a “Coronal Mass Ejection” toward Earth.

Coronal Mass Ejection
Coronal Mass Ejection

Northern lights are quite possible the next two nights as the burst interacts with the Earth’s magnetosphere. The forecast for the “auroral oval” brings higher chances for northern lights to near the northern U.S. after midnight Wednesday night into Thursday morning.

Auroral oval after midnight on December 10
Auroral oval after midnight Thursday.
NOAA Space Weather Center

There are a few clouds across parts of Minnesota Wednesday night, but keep an eye out if you have clear skies.

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