This piece originally appeared in The Dublin Informer in the November/December issue.
A long time ago, astronomy and astrology were interlinked with each other, with religious clerics often studying the movements of stars and planets to link astronomy into prophecies and so forth. One such link between the two is the Star of Bethlehem, which led the Three Wise Men to the birthplace of Christ.So what was the Star of Bethlehem? One school of thought suggests that it was a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn (where they were both placed very close together in the sky) occurring in the constellation Pisces. Jupiter symbolised a king, Saturn was the star of the Jewish people, and Pisces symbolised the end of an age and the beginning of a new one. Indeed, in the year 7BC this conjunction took several times – something that occurs every 800 years. In this case, the two planets and Pisces were visible in the east just before sunrise, and before they were made invisible again by daylight. It has been suggested, as a result, that Jesus was born in November, 7BC.
Of course, there were other events around that time that may have been interpreted as the Star of Bethlehem. In 5BC, Chinese astronomers documented a new star that was visible for seventy days. This is consistent with a nova or supernova (massive stellar explosions). Comets can often look like ‘arrows’ pointing in a certain direction, possibly leading the Three Wise Men to Bethlehem. However, comets were considered bad omens, even though Halley’s Comet was visible in 12BC.
The Moon and Jupiter are in conjunction on November 28th and will look spectacular, but the best view will be on Christmas Day, when the Moon and Jupiter will for their own ‘Christmas Star’ in the night sky!
Clear skies and Happy Christmas!