It’s 800 years since it was last visible…

Turn your gaze to the skies tomorrow evening, when a rare astral event is due to take place. For about two hours after sunset on Monday December 21, the ‘Christmas Star’ will be visible to the naked eye.

This celestial phenomenon occurs when the planets of Saturn and Jupiter are in near alignment. The last time the Christmas Star appeared was almost 800 years ago, and it won’t return to our skies until 2080.

According to the Dubai Astronomy Group, the Christmas Star will appear above the UAE from sunset (5.40pm) until 7.50pm.

NASA refers to this spectacle as the ‘Great Conjunction’ – and although conjunctions can happen on any given day, this one will be particularly visible as it falls on the winter solstice, the longest night of the year.

“You can imagine the solar system to be a racetrack, with each of the planets as a runner in their own lane and the Earth towards the centre of the stadium,” said Henry Throop, astronomer in the Planetary Science Division at Nasa Headquarters in Washington.

“From our vantage point, we’ll be able to be to see Jupiter on the inside lane, approaching Saturn all month and finally overtaking it on December 21.”

Although the Christmas Star should be visible to the naked eye (away from light pollution), if you want to zero in on this spectacle, the Dubai Astronomy Group is hosting a paid viewing (Dhs30) at Al Thuraya Astronomy Centre in Mushrif Park.

Last week, the sky above the UAE lit up with the Geminid meteor shower – see some incredible images of the meteor shower here.

Image: @NASAHQphoto