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Roswell turns out to view ‘Christmas Star’


Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

Mostly clear skies and a wide view of the horizon brought a number of people Monday night to the west side of Cielo Grande Recreation Area to view a rare celestial event just after sunset.

The orbits of Jupiter and Saturn, the largest planets in the solar system, have been moving closer together in Earth’s sky, something that happens about every 20 years, according to NASA. But Monday night, they appeared closer together than they have in nearly 400 years, seeming to form a single bright object in the sky.

Sarah McArthur of Roswell and her son, Dylan, visiting from Albuquerque, were among those at the recreation area. They had set up a telescope that Sarah’s father had given them when Dylan was a boy, she said.

Sarah said she’s not an avid astronomer, but has several apps on her phone to identify celestial objects.

“I can point out some of the stuff,” she said.

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Dylan kept the telescope lined up on the planets, and the mother and son invited a couple of nearby families to take a look. Saturn’s rings could be seen through its viewfinder.

“It’s very beautiful,” Donovan Garcia, 12, said after he took a look. His siblings Jayliyah, 6, and Kayliyah, 7, got to look through.

“We had been hearing about it and we were really big on seeing the Christmas Star,” their mother, Paloma Garcia, said.

Because Monday was also the winter solstice — the shortest day of the year and the start of winter — and just days before Christmas, the event has also been called a “Christmas Star.”

The conjunction will remain visible in the southwestern sky until Jan. 7.

The last time the two planets appeared this close together at night, when they could be easily observed, was 1226. A similar alignment happened in 1623 but was not easily seen, mostly due to its alignment with the horizon. Jupiter and Saturn will not appear to be this close again until 2080.

City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or reporter04@rdrnews.com.

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