What's a homebody to do, besides hunker down inside a humble abode, on a bitterly cold January night in the Midlands?

Try bundling up Monday night and taking a brief, brisk respite in your backyard while gazing at the heavens. The brave will be rewarded by the rare sight of a conjunction of the moon and Jupiter.

Our solar system's largest planet and the moon will be at their closest Monday night, said David Kriegler of the University of Nebraska at Omaha's physics department.

It will be 13 years before this union happens again.

The waxing gibbous moon, which means more than half-lighted but less than full, will pass less than one degree to the south of Jupiter.

The moon and Jupiter have been growing closer over the past few nights, and the two will be close for a few additional nights after Monday.

“Conjunctions are special because such things as the Christmas star were thought to be conjunctions of Regulus (the brightest star in the constellation Leo) and Jupiter, or Regulus, Jupiter and Saturn,'' said Kriegler.

“So these are thought to be what prompted the wise men to journey to the Christ child.''

When gazing skyward, you can't miss the conjunction. Your eyes and maybe a pair of binoculars are all that are needed, he said.

After it grows dark, stargazers can watch all night or until sunrise, said Kriegler.

The near-joining will take place in the eastern sky after sunset, well above the horizon.

Contact the writer: 402-444-1259, jay.withrow@owh.com

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