Lucky stargazers were treated to a show on Monday morning, when the annual Geminid meteor shower occurred. Picture: Paul Balfe
Lucky stargazers were treated to a show on Monday morning, when the annual Geminid meteor shower occurred. Picture: Paul Balfe

‘Awesome' once-in-20-year space event

Three out-of-this-world events are set to provide stargazers an early Christmas present over the next week, with everything from shooting stars to a planetary "touch" not seen since the 13th century.

The summer space show began on Monday morning when the annual Geminid meteor shower lit up the early morning sky.

It culminates on Thursday when Saturn and Jupiter "kiss" in the closest meeting since 1226.

Dr Brad Tucker, an astronomer from the Australian National University, said the end of 2020 would be "a good one".

Dr Brad Tucker said a celestial event on Thursday would mean stargazers could see Saturn and Jupiter ‘kiss’.
Dr Brad Tucker said a celestial event on Thursday would mean stargazers could see Saturn and Jupiter ‘kiss’.

The Geminids are an annual meteor shower involving Earth passing through the tail of asteroid 3200 Phaethon.

Stargazers in dark spots with a clear view of the north saw between 15 and 40 meteors or shooting stars per hour between 2am and sunrise on Monday.

If you missed the early morning show, Jupiter and Saturn will shine on Thursday.

"Jupiter, Saturn and the moon will form an awesome grouping in the sky," Dr Tucker said.

"A little bit after sunset, from about 8.30pm, look towards the west. You'll see a thin crescent moon and two bright objects right next to it - Jupiter and Saturn."

Dr Tucker said the show would end with a bang later on Thursday when the two planets "kiss" in a once-in-20-year event called the "Great Conjunction".

"This is a special event, and the closest one since 1226," Dr Tucker said.

"It will also be the longest day of the year, occurring on the summer solstice."

Amateur astronomers with a small telescope or binoculars will be able to see the two planets "touch" each other.

"You should be able to see the rings and shape of Saturn and the moons of Jupiter," he said.

Originally published as 'Awesome' once-in-20-year space event


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