‘Christmas Star’ set to light up night sky on winter solstice

Rare planet alignment could be source of the Star of Bethlehem in Bible

With this year’s winter solstice comes more than just confirmation of our already-cold weather and ever-fleeting daylight: The rare “Christmas Star” will be visible for the first time in 800 years.

DETROIT – If the weather cooperates, something very special will be visible on the winter solstice this Monday night -- the “Star of Bethlehem,” also known as the “Christmas Star.”

Despite the names, it’s actually not a star at all.

Since Jupiter orbits the sun every 12 years and Saturn orbits the sun every 30 years, the two largest planets in the solar system don’t line up very often. The two gas giants will cross paths in the night sky on the winter solstice on Monday, Dec. 21.

This will be the closest Jupiter and Saturn have been in hundreds of years, and the first to be easily observable in 800 years.

Though the planets are 450 million miles apart, to the naked eye, they will appear as one bright light in the sky.

Astronomers believe that a similar event could have created the Star of Bethlehem seen by the Three Wise Men, guiding them toward Bethlehem more than 2,000 years ago.

For astronomers around the world, it is an exciting and rare occurrence -- and we could all use something positive to end the year.

To view the Christmas Star, turn your gaze toward the southwest sky a little after sunset on Monday, Dec. 21.

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Dane is a producer and media enthusiast. He previously worked freelance video production and writing jobs in Michigan, Georgia and Massachusetts. Dane graduated from the Specs Howard School of Media Arts.