New Theories Suggest a Less-Than-Spectacular Star of Bethlehem
BY MARGIE WYLIE
c.2004 Newhouse News Service
While scientists disagree on the particulars, "one thing is absolutely certain," said Mark Kidger, an astronomer with the Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias in Spain's Canary Islands. "Whatever the Star of Bethlehem was, it was not an extraordinarily spectacular object."
Michael R. Molnar proposes that the heavenly sign was an eclipse of the planet Jupiter that took place in the constellation Aries, among other regal portents, on April 17 of the year 6 B.C.
That morning, just before dawn, Jupiter, a planet associated with kings, emerged from behind the sun to rise in the east, appearing as a morning star. Later that day, the moon moved in front of -- or occulted -- Jupiter.
While such events can be dramatic, this one was invisible, lost in the glare of the noonday sun. Even so, the Magi would have predicted it, argues Molnar, a retired Rutgers University astronomer who lives in Warren, N.J.
Kidger, author of "The Star of Bethlehem: An Astronomer's View," disagrees.
Occultations aren't rare and so wouldn't have excited seasoned skywatchers, he said. He noted that the moon occulted various planets almost 200 times between 20 B.C. and 1 B.C.
Kidger argues that what the Magi observed was a series of astrological portents, each of which has been individually suggested as the star. Together, they led up to a not particularly brilliant, but long-lived nova -- a distant, exploding star -- recorded by the Chinese in 5 B.C.
Saturday, December 04, 2004
MORE STAR OF BETHLEHEM THEORIES: As I said before, it's that time of year. I have no idea how valid the astronomy is and, as I said in the previous post, I'm skeptical about the history. I blog, you decide.