Seattle's Child

Your guide to a kid-friendly city

Christmas star 2020 JiaYing Grygiel photo

Jupiter (right) and Saturn seen from the Magnolia bluff in Seattle, around 5 p.m. on Dec. 6. Photos by JiaYing Grygiel

Heads up! Rare ‘Christmas Star’ to shine in December sky

Jupiter and Saturn to align for the first time in almost 800 years.

Christmas star 2020 JiaYing Grygiel photoWhat is the “Christmas star”? For months, Jupiter and Saturn, the two biggest planets in our solar system, have been steadily pulling closer together. On the winter solstice, Dec. 21, they’ll come so close (within 0.1 degrees) that they will appear to overlap like one big, bright star.

It’s the first time since the Middle Ages (in 1226, to be specific), that Jupiter and Saturn have aligned to create this “Christmas star.” Some people believe this is the “Star of Bethlehem” the shepherds saw in the Nativity story.

Even in the city, you can go outside for some quick backyard astronomy — and to look for the Christmas star. Jupiter and Saturn are easy to find on clear nights though the month of December. And luckily, they’re on a bedtime-friendly schedule: The planets will be most visible in Seattle immediately after sunset, between 5 and 6 p.m. Look low in the southwestern sky — if you wait too long, the planets will sink below the horizon.

Binoculars or a telescope are helpful, but the planets are so big you can see them with the naked eye.

How will you recognize them? Jupiter looks brighter than any star in the sky, and Saturn has a golden glow (and it’s near Jupiter). And unlike stars, the planets don’t twinkle.

This story was originally published on Dec. 8. 

Christmas star 2020 JiaYing Grygiel photo

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About the Author

JiaYing Grygiel

JiaYing Grygiel is the mama of two boys and a freelance photographer and writer. Her work has appeared in Seattle's Child, The Bellingham Herald and The Philadelphia Inquirer. She previously worked as an editor for MSN.com and The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and now blogs at photoj.net.