View from the Cab: A ray of light

By: Kent Casson

There hasn’t been a ton to look forward to in 2020 but we can expect a Christmas miracle which no one here on Earth has experienced for hundreds of years.

The Winter Solstice next Monday, Dec. 21 will be extra special this year as something resembling the Christmas Star will appear in the night sky. Experts say Jupiter and Saturn will align so closely that they will appear to collide from our viewpoint here. Radiant light is expected to show.

These objects have not aligned this closely since the pre-dawn hours of March 4, 1226 so this is definitely something to put on the calendar and be on the lookout for. Weather observers say to look to the west or southwest about 45 minutes after sunset for the best viewing experience on the 21st.

Pay close attention to the weather forecast because that could make all of the difference in the world to be able to see this Christmas Star phenomenon. If I know there will be clear skies that day, our family will gladly put some lawn chairs out in the southwestern corner of the yard to watch this.

If you miss this display, a similar event won’t happen again until March 15, 2080. I have a feeling none of us will be around to enjoy that one. There will be more nearby alignments in 2040, 2060 and 2100 as well. The two gas planets aligned very closely back in 1623 but visibility was unlikely due to its proximity to the sunset.

Saturn will appear to be as close to Jupiter as some of the latter planet’s moons. The event is officially called the great conjunction which occurs every 20 years this century as the orbits of Jupiter, Saturn and Earth periodically align.

To make things even more interesting for all of you star gazers out there, The Space Weather Prediction Center says the northern lights can be seen as far south as the continental United States this month. This means viewing is possible in parts of northern Illinois and Pennsylvania along with many other locations around the nation.

The center issued G1, G2 and G3 geomagnetic storm watches which are a measure of the solar activity hitting Earth’s atmosphere. This solar energy can result in auroral displays visible at both of the Earth’s poles.

Keep your head held high because things are looking up this holiday season – literally.

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