The winter solstice, which is today, always feels significant to me. It’s literally the darkest day of the year and as soon as it’s past the days are getting lighter again.
And this year I feel like we need light more than ever!
Is it just a coincidence that tonight, after sunset, Saturn and Jupiter will appear so close together in the night sky that they just might look like one very large, very bright star? It’s as if the heavens know we need a little extra light right now.
Some people hypothesize that it was just such a conjunction of the two planets that sent the magi on their search for the king of the Jews. Interestingly, in 7 BC, the two planets actually met THREE times. First on May 29, then on September 30, and again on December 5. I know, I know, BC is Before Christ. Well, check this out from www.science.howstuffworks.com – “Because of a variety of changes and adjustments made to the calendar during the middle ages, it turns out that Jesus was most likely born in what we now think of as 6 B.C.”
So, THREE stars around the time of Jesus’ birth. Of course, we don’t know how it all actually lined up, but again–what a coincidence.
Of course, the two planets won’t quite line up tonight. They’ll be 6 arc minutes apart which is about 0.1 degrees. The closest they come most years is 1 degree, or, to the naked eye, about two moons apart. Even so–they will appear VERY close.
The last time this happened was in 1623 when the planets were 5 arc minutes apart. But the angle and time of day was bad so very few people would have seen it. The last largely visible conjunction was in 1226. I bet that threw a few folks into a tizzy!
Future conjunctions have also been calculated. One will be in 2080–some of us might be around for that one. And then twice in the 2400s. And then, in 2874, the Christmas star will appear . . . on December 25 and the planets will be just 2 arc minutes apart. Make of that what you will!
As for me, I’m just grateful for this glimmer of light on a dark day in a dark year. And it helps me remember where to look for the light I need the most.
Isaiah 9:2 – “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwell in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.”