Christmas 2020: What’s in the Stars?

Though many children around the world might think December 24 is the longest night of the year (it can be so hard to fall asleep while anticipating Christmas morning!), the longest night of the year actually occurs tonight! We talked a great deal about what the winter solstice is in this blog, but this year’s solstice is particularly special – Google even commemorated it with their doodle of the day!

Checking the sky…

If you haven’t heard about the “Great Conjunction” yet, the doodle offers a helpful hint. Tonight, for the first time in nearly 800 years, the two largest planets in our solar system will nearly overlap to form a “double planet.” We will be able to see Jupiter and Saturn cross within 0.1 degree of each other (approximately the thickness of a dime held at arm’s length!). Though they will actually remain approximately 450 million miles apart, if you look out low above the horizon tonight, they will appear to be very close! If you want to check it out, NASA recommends the following tips:

• Find a spot with an unobstructed view of the sky, such as a field or park. 

• An hour after sunset, Jupiter will look like a bright star and be easily visible in the southwestern sky. Saturn will be slightly fainter and will appear slightly above and to the left of Jupiter until December 21, when Jupiter will overtake it and they will reverse positions in the sky.

• Feel free to use binoculars, but the planets can still be seen with the unaided eye.

Lastly, check out NASA for a daily guide on watching the sky for the rest of the month!

Checking the forecast

No matter where you live or how you feel about snow, almost everyone can agree that a something about a white Christmas feels magical! We’ve talked before about how likely different areas of the country are to see an inch or more of snow on Christmas based on climatology, but what are the chances that we will see snow this year? Well, as of today, there is currently snow cover across approximately a quarter of the country.

Several systems will be moving across the country over the holiday weeks ahead, so remember to have multiple ways to receive weather warnings. Santa says you get an automatic pass to the nice list when you are prepared for hazardous weather. Fe also added not to forget to stock up on ice melt if you live in a snowy/icy area; he and the reindeer appreciate it! For your most up to date forecast for your region, be sure to check out your local National Weather Service office! We at STM wish you and yours a happy and healthy holiday!

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