Thursday, July 02, 2015

The Star of Bethlehem?

I RATHER DOUBT IT: ‘Star of Bethlehem’ shines again? (Stuart Winer, Times of Israel). The sub-heading says what we do know: "Jupiter and Venus line up for celestial conjunction in eye-catching heavenly display."
In Jerusalem, the two planets could clearly been seen hanging in the western sky and appeared as a double star although in reality the plants are hundreds of millions of kilometers apart.

According to Christian tradition, a bright star appeared in the sky signaling the birth of Jesus to the Three Wise Men and then leading them to his location in Bethlehem.

While there are several theories as to what might have inspired the legend, astronomers noted that in 3-2 BCE there was a similar conjunction of Jupiter and Venus to the one that shone down this week.
The current conjunction has been lining up for some time and I noted it last week, with a photo at sunset (fourth one down) as seen from northern Italy. Back in St. Andrews, I also went out late on the evening of the 30th, when the conjunction was at its closest. Luckily, the sky was clear, and I could see Venus with Jupiter just above it. It seems that at no point were the two planets overlapping such that they could be confused with a single, extraordinarily bright star.

That is not to say that it could not have happened 2000 years ago and led the Magi west. That remains a possibility, one of the several that I review in this post, where I also give my own view of the matter. Other past posts on the Star of Bethlehem are linked to there, and two more recent ones are here and here.