christmas star light
Source: Getty

Rare "Christmas Star" Appearing for First Time in 800 Years to Close Out 2020


Dec. 3 2020, Updated 1:44 p.m. ET

If you're a big fan of significant lunar events that are once-in-a-lifetime occurrences, then buckle your seatbelts, because the "Christmas Star" light phenomenon is even rarer than that. The last time a celestial happening like this lit up the sky was nearly 800 years ago, meaning that the most recent human beings who witnessed this were still living in the Middle Ages.

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You'll be able to catch this dazzling display on December 21, 2020 and because of its close proximity to the Christmas holiday, it's been also dubbed as the "Star of Bethlehem."

So what causes the gorgeous cosmic phenomenon? An extremely rare alignment between Jupiter and Saturn. Rice University astronomer Patrick Hartigan dished out to Forbes what makes this visible star so significant.

"Alignments between these two planets are rather rare, occurring once every 20 years or so, but this conjunction is exceptionally rare because of how close the planets will appear to be to one another. You’d have to go all the way back to just before dawn on March 4, 1226, to see a closer alignment between these objects visible in the night sky."

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christmas star light
Source: Getty

To put that into perspective, there's so little known about the year that the Wikipedia entry for it only has a handful of links to specific events. It's so old that Tristan and Isolde was first written down, England was only on their third Henry as King, and leprosy was a legitimate health scare for a large part of the population. 

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The next time you're going to get to see a star light up the sky of this size again won't happen until the year 2080 and it won't be the "Star of Bethlehem" either, so if you take to experiencing cosmic occurrences like some people collect Pokemon, then you aren't going to want to miss this rare alignment of Jupiter and Saturn.

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So how will you be able to see it? If you're in the Northern Hemisphere then you're going to want to grab a telescope and direct it to the Southwest section of the sky. 

There are tons of stargazers who are geeking out at the possibility of catching a glimpse of the rare celestial event.

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Other people are just happy that there's something wholesome and seemingly miraculous happening at the end of 2020, as if this could be taken as a "sign" for good things to come in 2021.

And while there are a lot of folks who are just hearing about the Bethlehem Star now, there have been tons of "star nerds" who've been anxiously anticipating its resurgence for quite some time now.

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And while purchasing a high-powered and expensive telescope to get the most out of your stargazing experience, there are other ways to check out the Christmas star without forking over a lot of money for the special event. Mental Floss posted a bunch of tips for anyone trying to catch a better glimpse of some heavenly bodies.

Getting to a higher point in your area where there aren't a lot of street lights is a good move.

If you're going to be walking around in the dark, either get a red flashlight or put a piece of red cellophone over your standard flashlight. You can also start out with using regular old binoculars instead of a telescope. Cold winter nights without humidity are also the best for viewing stars, so dress warmly! You can also educate yourself by looking at star charts like Google Sky, and following astronomers on social media.

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Are you excited to end 2020 by checking out the "Christmas Star"? Or would you rather be indoors with some warm hot cocoa and mentally preparing yourself for another letdown of a year in 2021?

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