Star of Bethlehem or The Christmas Star

Conjunction of Venus, Jupiter to form Star of BethlehemIn Christian tradition, the Star of Bethlehem, also called the Christmas Star, revealed the birth of Jesus to the Biblical Magi, and later led them to Bethlehem. The star appears only in the nativity story of the Gospel of Matthew, where magi "from the east" are inspired by the star to travel to Jerusalem. There they meet King Herod of Judea, and ask where the king of the Jews had been born. Herod, following a verse from the Book of Micah interpreted as a prophecy, directs them to Bethlehem, to the South of Jerusalem. The star leads them to Jesus' home in the town, where they worship him and give him gifts. The wise men are then given a divine warning not to return to Herod so they return home by a different route.

Many Christians see the star as a miraculous sign to mark the birth of the Christ (or messiah). Some theologians claimed that the star fulfilled a prophecy, known as the Star Prophecy. Astronomers have made several attempts to link the star to unusual astronomical events, such as a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, a comet or a supernova. The subject is a favorite at planetarium shows during the Christmas season, although the Biblical account describes Jesus with a broader Greek word, which can mean either "infant" or "child" (paidon), rather than the more specific word for infant (brephos), possibly implying that some time has passed since the birth. The visit is traditionally celebrated on Epiphany (January 6) in Western Christianity.

In 1614, German astronomer Johannes Kepler determined that a series of three conjunctions of the planets Jupiter and Saturn occurred in the year 7 BC. He argued (incorrectly) that a planetary conjunction could create a nova, which he linked to the Star of Bethlehem. Modern calculations show that there was a gap of nearly a degree (approximately twice a diameter of Moon) between the planets, so these conjunctions were not visually impressive.[45] An ancient almanac has been found in Babylon which covers the events of this period, but does not indicate that the conjunctions were of any special interest. In the 20th century, Prof. Karlis Kaufmanis, an astronomer, argued that this was an astronomical event where Jupiter and Saturn were in a triple conjunction in the constellation Pisces.

In 3–2 BC, there was a series of seven conjunctions, including three between Jupiter and Regulus and a strikingly close conjunction between Jupiter and Venus near Regulus on June 17, 2 BC. "The fusion of two planets would have been a rare and awe-inspiring event", according to Roger Sinnott. Archaeologist and Assyriologist Simo Parpola has also suggested this explanation. This event however occurred after the generally accepted date of 4 BC for the death of Herod. Since the conjunction would have been seen in the west at sunset it could not have led the magi south from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. It also does not fit with an event seen at rising that might have started them on the journey.
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