Archive for December 20, 2021

12/20/2021 – Ephemeris – Could the Star of Bethlehem have been a triple conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in 7 BCE?

December 20, 2021 1 comment

This is Ephemeris for Monday, December 20th. Today the Sun will be up for 8 hours and 48 minutes, setting at 5:04, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:17. The Moon, 2 days past full, will rise at 6:12 this evening.

This year we have two bright evening Christmas stars, Venus and Jupiter. But what about the one described in the Bible, in the Gospel of Matthew? We will look today at the first of two events that may have been recorded as the Star of Bethlehem. In 7 BCE there was a rare event over 6 months when three times the planet Jupiter passed Saturn against the stars of the constellation Pisces. Could the Persian astrologer priests, called Magi, have read into the event enough significance to start the journey to Jerusalem in search of the newborn King of the Jews? It was the scribe’s readings that sent them to Bethlehem. Jupiter, Saturn and Pisces all may have had significance to the Magi.

The astronomical event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan (EST, UT – 5 hours). They may be different for your location.


Jupiter-Saturn Triple Conjunction

Jupiter and Saturn pass each other three times from May to December in 7 BC. Created using Cartes du Ciel (Sky Charts) and GIMP.

This timing of the Star is based on the Jewish historian Josephus, dating the death of Herod the Great just before a lunar eclipse. The eclipse most historians accept was the one on March 13, 4 BCE. So Jesus could have been born in 6 BCE.

I have been giving a presentation to the Grand Traverse Astronomical Society every other December since the 1980s on the Star of Bethlehem, tweaking it each time, and completely rewriting it a few times. Below is my script from my 2020 program In Search of the Star of Bethlehem for the Grand Traverse Astronomical Society. It has small thumbnails of the slides. The name says notes, but it evolved into a complete script, and is laid out to be read that way.

Star of Bethlehem 2020 Notes (PDF)

In the presentation, I cover another possibility for the “Star”, which I happen to like more. I’ll talk about that on Christmas Eve. If you can’t wait, check out the PDF, or a prior December program in the Archives.