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Look up! Two major celestial events are happening today

Shobhna Iyer | Updated on: 1 July 2015, 8:20 IST

This last week, if you're the star-gazing kind (at least on clear, less-polluted days), you would have noticed two supremely bright stars in the sky. That's actually Venus and Jupiter, and they're coming closer to each other than they have in 2,000 years. In other words, in recorded memory.

The event is being dubbed the 'Star of Bethlehem' because it's believed the last time this happened was 3-2 BCE, and may have been what Star of Bethlehem refers to. You can check it out yourself tonight after the sun sets; you'll notice a third celestial being nearby, which is the star Regulus of the Lion constellation.

While they'll appear to be bumping into one another, they're actually super far apart: Venus is 56 million miles away from Earth, while Jupiter is a whopping 550 million miles away. It's just that they fall into the same line of vision for us. The two planets are expected to be so close tonight that they'll look like a supremely bright double star.

Of course they're significantly different in size, but the fact that they're the two brightest planets will make for a celestial show worth looking up for.

At the last (extra) second...

And perhaps a good time to do it would be 11:59 pm when - exactly at 11:59:59, you're going to get an extra second - officially counted as 11:59:60, before the clock rolls the next day, 00:00:00.

Really? Yes. It turns out not every day is 24 hours, or 86,400 seconds long. Today, for instance, has 86,400.002 seconds. This is measured using the Earth's rotation, the slowing down of which is responsible for that one extra second.

While leap years come like clockwork (#sorrynotsorry) every four years, leap seconds, it turns out, are less predictable. The leap we'll experience tonight is the 26th time an extra second will be added to a day since atomic clocks started measuring our time in the year 1967.

The goal, essentially, is to keep atomical time in line with astronomical time. If we don't, and we let those extra seconds pile up year and year, the way we read time will no longer be in sync with the planet's actual behaviour.

Ok, but why should you care? Because this could, alarmists say, have huge effects on the stock market, and the internet in general, as it did in 2012.

But mostly, it's just an extra second in your life. Think that means nothing? Comedian John Oliver disagrees:

See you at spendyourleapsecondhere.com at 11:59:59 PM (UTC), which is about 5:29:59 am tomorrow morning in India! Let's see how many of us are able to get out bed for this.

In the meantime, here's more of the amazing universe.

First published: 30 June 2015, 15:50 IST
Shobhna Iyer @shoiyer

After studying to be an archaeologist at JNU, Shobhna worked in travel publishing before joining Catch as a sub-editor. When not arguing over en and em dashes, you'll find her raving about her new favourite album, drinking copious amounts of coffee or ganna ras and struggling to come up with witty tweets.