What Was the Christmas Star? Can You Spot the Phenomenon Again This Year?

Christmas is a time for celebration and tradition.

December 25 is the most significant day for Christians. This date is marked by the arrival and birth of Christ by Gabriel the angel, modern-day nativity scenes that include Christ’s birth in a stable, kings and shepherds giving gifts, and the arrival of Gabriel the angel.

But one of the most puzzling aspects of the story has long mystified scholars—the Christmas star, also known as the Star of Bethlehem. Over hundreds of years, astronomers have offered many scientific explanations for why the Christmas star appears.

Dr. Daniel Brown, an associate professor in astronomy at Nottingham Trent University suggests that the so called celestial phenomenon could be part Biblical interpretation, part embellishment.

He said to Newsweek: “The star of Bethlehem is part of the traditional Christian Christmas story throughout the world. But did these events happen in some form or manner and specifically did the star of Bethlehem actually exist? This is a question that astronomers have asked themselves since the times of Johannes Kepler in 1614 and we might now have come to a possible conclusion.”

Only the Star of Bethlehem story appears in the New Testament’s Book of Matthew. Other aspects of the Nativity are found in Luke.

According to Matthew’s gospel, a bright star glowed in the eastern skies when Jesus was born. This star was seen by a group known as wise men. These are biblical “Magi,”Sometimes called kings they are now a key component in school nativity play.

Christmas 25 is the most closely associated date for Christians with Christ’s birth
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Brown stated: “The key information can be drawn from the gospel of Matthew, stating that King Herodes was alive, wise men arrived from the east, they saw a star in the East, they went first to Jerusalem and no one in Judea actually noticed or recorded this.”

He also stated that astronomers have long suggested many different, but ultimately unsatisfactory candidates to be responsible for this event.

He said: “It could be comets, like Halley’s Comet. It could maybe be an exploding star known as a supernova observed. But these objects all fall short, as they would have been seen by others in Judea.

“They would likely move through the night across the sky, so not a good sign to be following. If you’re coming from the east and following an object in the east it will most likely go west, not east. These objects are not an explanation.”

Renowned 17th-century astronomer Johannes Kepler even proposed an astrological dimension as a solution, claiming a close meeting between Jupiter and Saturn happening several times—known as a rare triple conjunction—could be the answer.

star Bethlehem
One of the most puzzling aspects of the nativity story has long puzzled scholars—the Christmas star, also known as the Star of Bethlehem
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A conjunction is when two astronomical objects pass one another due to their daily rotation.

Because gas giant Jupiter orbits the Sun every 11.9 years while Saturn’s orbit takes 29.5 years, a conjunction between the two—called a “great conjunction” due to its rarity—occurs roughly every 20 years.

Brown, however, rejected Kepler’s idea. He said: “We have to include an astrological dimension.”

He also mentioned how Dr. Michael Molnar (an astronomer and former manager of Rutgers’s physics instructional labs) has convincingly argued that the star that led the Magi towards Bethlehem was actually Jupiter’s moon.

Brown stated: “M Molnar proposed in 1999 that the wise men from the east were indeed looking at the birth horoscopes and found one that had very strong and rare signs of a possible king.

“This included Jupiter in Aries, the star sign that represents Judea. The key is Jupiter joining this kingly meeting when he appeared for the first time during the season and briefly in the East.

“These facts married together explain amazingly well how no one in Judea, not interested in astrology, would have noticed and why the wise men travelled to Jerusalem as well as to the west.”

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