Animated doodle gives us the two biggest planets of our solar system, which appear to pass close to each other on the first day of winter.
This shortest day of the year will put on a big show.
Monday, as the Northern Hemisphere ushers in winter with the solstice, we are also treated to a rare and spectacular sight in the sky: the grand conjunction.
During this event, Jupiter and Saturn, the two largest planets in our solar system, seem very close to each other, as if they were superimposed to form a double planet. The last time we witnessed such a sight was in the Middle Ages – almost 800 years ago.
Some people associate it with the fabled Star of Bethlehem that guided the three wise men in the biblical birth story.
So to celebrate the first day of winter and the great conjunction that occurs on the same day, Google built an animated doodle showing Saturn giving Jupiter a high-five as it orbits the solar system.
Conjunction occurs when two astronomical objects are close to each other as seen from Earth. In our perspective, the two giant planets appear only a tenth of a degree apart, when in reality they are about 450 million miles apart.
The two planets’ conjunction occurs every 19.6 years, but it is the first time since 1226 that the two planets have aligned at night and Earthlings can witness it.
This close alignment will be easily visible to the naked eye when you look up into the southwestern sky just after sunset.