The Star of Bethlehem is one of the loveliest symbols of Christmas. But what was it? Simply an inspired idea to emphasize the spiritual importance of the story? Or was it based on an actual astronomical happening?
I read recently that an Australian astronomer worked out that the Star of Bethlehem was a major conjunction between Venus and Jupiter in which they were so close together they looked like one body. Oh, this also meant that the nativity occurred in June.
My take on this is in an article I wrote last year asking What Was the Star of Bethlehem? The Star of Bethlehem is one of the loveliest symbols of Christmas. But what was it? Simply an inspired idea to emphasize the spiritual importance of the story? Or was it based on an actual astronomical happening?
Yes that's a great idea Mona, and thanks for a super article.
Wish I had known all of this when I used to drag my sons out to look at the stars etc. through our telescope����..often referred to a Ladybird book, which covered astronomy for children, to bolster up the little I knew.
Last edited by Francine - German Culture; 12/13/1105:28 AM.
Avatar: HOHENZOLLERNBRUECKE Cologne with CATHEDRAL and LUDWIG MUSEUM. The Bridge a symbol of how Germany was rebuilt after WWII, it was left in ruins, the Cathedral with roots in the 13th century represents the country's history, Museum of Modern Art the present day.
In the 17th century, Johannes Kepler said that the Star of Bethlehem was a nova. He thought that it was caused by planetary conjunctions. (In a planetary conjunction, two or more planets seem to be quite close together in the sky.)
But although Kepler worked out three laws that described the motion of the planets, it took another 150 years to work out the size of the Solar System. Two planets may appear to be close together due to our viewing angle, yet be hundreds of millions of miles apart.
A nova happens even farther away. It's a type of dead star re-igniting in a thermonuclear explosion. The nearest stars to us (besides the Sun) are some six trillion miles away and not affected by Solar System planets.
I found a lovely painting of a flower called the Star of Bethlehem. It's by Marianne North, a 19th century artist who traveled the world recording the plant life. Her wonderful paintings have a special gallery in the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, west of London.
Discovery news has a short discussion called Star of Bethlehem: Top 4 Celestial Suspects. It includes an image of each - three photos and an artwork. We don't have any photos of a nova. Here is a drawing and short explanation of what a nova is. (It isn't actually a "new star" - even though Tycho Brahe thought it was when he called the one he saw in 1606 "stella nova".)