As the well-known story in the Gospel of Matthew tells, three wise men or wise men followed the star of Bethlehem to Jerusalem about 2000 years ago, and after consulting King Herod of Judea, the men found the newborn baby Jesus in the small town of Bethlehem: it is difficult to prove whether such an event actually took place in history, but if so what was the Star of Bethlehem?
This is a question that scientists have long been concerned with, not only from a religious or historical, but also from a scientific perspective. Many theories have been proposed, from an astronomical event to an astrological horoscope, but thanks to modern astronomy, scientists are getting closer and closer to an answer.
“If what’s in the New Testament is a historical record of something, then” The historical record requires explanation, “said David Weintraub, professor of physics and astronomy at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, in an email to All About space. As an astronomer, you want an astronomical explanation.
Star Of Bethlehem Was Not A Comet Or A Supernova
We know that Halley’s Comet was around 11 BC when they were advancing. the earth was spinning, so the comet would not have carried it in just one direction. In addition, comets were often considered bad omens in ancient times.
“Having a comet and a tail is a good picture for Christmas cards, but back then, comets in the sky heralded an impending catastrophe.” Grant Mathews, a professor of theoretical astrophysics and cosmology at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana.
Besides, if the wizards had followed one, they would probably have gone in circles. “You can’t follow a star from Baghdad to Jerusalem to Bethlehem,” said Weintraub. They rise and fall and are not sit in sky.
Others would certainly have seen such an event back then. Although novae are supposedly quite rare, you would still expect to find other historical accounts of a great bright event in the sky.
Other theories assume a supernova in the Andromeda galaxy as the cause, as described in a study published in the journal The Observatory in 2005. While it is possible to see the galaxy with the naked eye, it would not have been possible to see a star that becomes a supernova. and explode in it, even with the help of a telescope.
The “star” could have been a sky full of stars, which brings us to one of two possibilities. The first is that the magicians made an astrological interpretation of the sky. The fact that they had to ask Herod for directions upon arrival suggests that they were not guided to their final destination by a single luminous object.
Astrology was widespread at the time, and since the magicians came from Babylon, it is plausible that they were astrologers. And because of a particular arrangement of planets and stars, they may have read a hidden meaning between the stars that led them to King Herod. For example, the visualization of Jupiter could have been of great importance here, since astrology awarded the planet Jupiter a royal dignity, i.e. the moon that gave it to it on April 17th 6 BC Happened in the constellation Aries. could have foreseen the birth of Christ.
“Modern astronomers don’t believe in astrology, but ‘modern’ is important in this context,” said Weintraub. “What matters is what people thought 2000 years ago. Astrology was a big problem back then. I found the explanation.” It makes most sense that it was astrological.
Or The Star Could Have Been A Conjunction
The other, more astronomical, explanation is that there was actually a bright object in the sky, a conjunction between planets and stars. A conjunction occurs when two or more celestial bodies appear to meet in the night sky from our location on earth. These events can last every night in a similar location for days or weeks. If wizards followed the moment of conjunction, that’s possible.
Astronomer Michael Molnar suggested in his book “The Star of Bethlehem” (Rutgers University Press, 1999) that a theory of conjunction might be correct.If the “star” was the result of a conjunction (and that historical event actually took place) then there are several different orientations that could be responsible.
Perhaps the most promising and Mathews preferred alignment is an alignment of Jupiter, Saturn, Moon and Sun in the constellation Aries on April 17th, 6 BC. This conjunction fits the story for several reasons. This conjunction occurred in the early hours of the morning, which is consistent with the Gospel description of the star of Bethlehem as the rising morning star. Even the wise lost sight of the star before they saw it resting where the baby Jesus lay in the stable. This could have been the result of Jupiter’s retrograde motion, meaning that it appears to change direction in the night sky when Earth orbit reaches it.
“Usually the planets move east when you follow them in the sky.” Mathews said. “But when they go retrograde, they rotate and go in the direction that the stars rise and set at night [in the west].
Two other conjunctions at a similar time also look promising. , Venus and the star Regulus in the constellation Leo on June 17th 2 B.C Without the help of a telescope, the two planets would appear as a single “star”, brighter than Venus and Jupiter individually. Another conjunction occurred in 6 BC. Between Jupiter, Saturn and Mars in the constellation Pisces. But none of these last two conjunctions exactly match the description in the New Testament as the conjunction of April 17, 6 BC
Although scientists have ruled out several possibilities, we may never know for sure what the Star of Bethlehem was or if it really happened apart from some notable archaeological finds, but this question arises year after year and will continue to pique the interest of scientists and historians for many years.
“Nothing in science is a closed case, not even in history,” said Mathews. “We may never know whether the Star of Bethlehem was a conjunction, an astrological event, or a fable to advance Christianity. Maybe it was just a miracle.
- Learn about astronomers’ theories about the Star of Bethlehem on The Conversation.
- Learn how ancient Babylonian astronomers tracked Jupiter, on Space.
- Here are some interesting facts about the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in 2020.
This article was adapted from a previous version published in All About Space magazine, a Future Ltd. publication.