On December 21, NASA’s robotic spacecraft, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), managed to take a stunning photo of the unique celestial event – “The Great Conjunction.” This event is marked by two giant gas planets – Jupiter and Saturn – getting so close in the sky that they appear to meld into one bright object.
The thing is that it may have been the same event that gave birth to the phenomenon of The Christmas Star or The Star of Bethlehem.
Jupiter and Saturn have a conjunction every 20 years, but this year was somewhat special because the planets appeared to be so close that a lot of people could see it. Cloudy skies have distracted a lot of skywatchers in Michigan, but the space probe did not have such a problem, so LRO’s camera managed to capture the planets as well as Saturn’s rings. On December 22, the planets already looked farther apart.
The special alignment of two planets happens only once in twenty years because of the varying time that each of them takes to orbit the Sun. Jupiter and Saturn will not appear this close again until March 2080.
The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter was launched in 2009 and will continue to keep in orbit around the Moon for the next six years until it is expected to consume all fuel.