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Meteor shower and conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter in busy night for stargazers

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Stargazers will be able to see the year’s final display of shooting stars tonight.

The Ursid meteor shower is expected to peak on Monday night but will be visible into the early hours of Tuesday.

At its peak the shower will produce around five meteors per hour, which will burn up as they hit the atmosphere at 36 miles per second.

Royal Observatory Greenwich says the meteor shower occurs around the time of the winter solstice, meaning longer nights for stargazing.

The meteors will be visible to the naked eye but to have the best chance of seeing them, people should be far away from artificial lights and give their eyes time to adjust to the dark.

Jupiter and Saturn are aligning in what astronomers are calling the 'Great Conjunction'.
Image:
Jupiter and Saturn are aligning in what astronomers are calling the Great Conjunction

The display will coincide with Jupiter and Saturn appearing just 0.1 degrees apart, around a fifth of the Moon’s diameter.

Referred to as the Christmas Star, it will be the closest the two planets have appeared since 1623.

Jupiter and Saturn are aligning in what astronomers are calling the 'Great Conjunction'
Image:
Jupiter and Saturn will appear the closest they have been for centuries

The best time to see the Christmas Star is between 4.30pm and 6pm UK time and to the naked eye the two planets will appear like a single bright object.

Those in the north have a better chance of seeing the event, as the forecast is for clearer skies there.

Those in the south still have a chance, however, with the Royal Astronomical Society saying that “the two planets only appear to move apart very slowly, and will still appear unusually close together on the days that follow”.

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