It’s been a tough year. To many of us, every day during the coronavirus pandemic has felt incredibly long. Perhaps it will come as a relief that Monday will be the shortest day of the year. December 21 will also bring a rare cosmic phenomenon. If the sky is clear over the next few nights, look out just over the southwest horizon. You may see Jupiter and Saturn coming together and then drifting apart in an event known as “the great conjunction.” Although this occurs once every two decades, the last time they came this close, and we Earthlings got such a clear view, was in 1226.

William Teets, director of the Dyer Observatory at Vanderbilt University, explains what exactly happens on the winter solstice, and invites you to join his livestream of the great conjunction on Dec. 21.

This week we also liked a profile of Anthony Fauci, an in-depth piece about llamas and an article that explained what’s going on with food insecurity in Los Angeles County.

Anurag Papolu

Multimedia Editor

The 2020 winter solstice night will be accompanied by another cosmic event known as ‘the great conjunction,’ when Saturn and Jupiter will appear right next to each other. Andrew Doughty/EyeEm via Getty Images and Jeff Dai/Stocktrek via Getty Images

What you need to know about this year’s winter solstice and the great conjunction

William Teets, Vanderbilt University

The 2020 winter solstice is also when Saturn and Jupiter appear closest to each other for 60 years, Here's what you need to know about both the events.

Fauci is an accomplished scientist who also excels at connecting with the public. AP Photo/Cliff Owen

10 reasons why Anthony Fauci was ready to be the face of the US pandemic response

Barbara Gastel, Texas A&M University

2020 was a big year for Fauci – but he's been on the national stage for decades. Here's more about his work before COVID-19 and why he was perfectly poised to help the US respond to the pandemic.

Llamas In a pen, Pasajes, Tarija, Bolivia. Insights/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Llamas are having a moment in the US, but they’ve been icons in South America for millennia

Emily Wakild, Boise State University

Llama toys, therapy lamas, petting zoo llamas: llamas are hot in the US, surpassing unicorns in popularity, but their relationship with South American people stretches over 7,000 years.