Home > Astronomical History, Conjunction, Constellations, Ephemeris Program > 12/23/2022 – Ephemeris – Hunting for the Star of Bethlehem: Venus and Jupiter appear to merge… twice!

12/23/2022 – Ephemeris – Hunting for the Star of Bethlehem: Venus and Jupiter appear to merge… twice!

December 23, 2022

This is Ephemeris for Friday, December 23rd. Today the Sun will be up for 8 hours and 48 minutes, setting at 5:06, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:18. The Moon is new today, and won’t be visible.

My favorite astronomical solution to the puzzle of the Star of Bethlehem are two conjunctions of Jupiter and Venus that occurred against the stars of the constellation of Leo the lion 10 months apart on August 12th 3 BCE and June 16th 2 BCE. Leo at that time was associated with Jacob’s son Judah and the land of Judea. The first conjunction occurred in morning twilight. The second in the evening. The first conjunction was close, though someone with excellent eyesight might pick them apart, but the second, would be impossible to separate without a telescope, which wouldn’t be invented for another 16 centuries. And Jesus would have been born in the spring during lambing season when shepherds would have been out all night with their flocks, protecting them. The eclipse that Herod died after would have been on January 10th, 1 BCE, which occurred three months before Passover, enough time for all the palace intrigue* to happen between the lunar eclipse and Passover.

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.

* See yesterday’s post for more information here.


Babylonian depiction of Leo.

The Babylonian concept of the constellation Leo. They called it Urgulu, meaning lion. It represented their god Latarak. The star they called Sharru, meaning King we know as Regulus, which is the diminutive of king.

August 12, 3 BC conjunction

Here is an animation created using Stellarium of Jupiter and Venus, the brighter of the two seeming to coalesce on August 12, 3 BC in the early morning twilight. That ghost object that flashed on for one date was the Moon. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

The second appearance of the "Star"

On June 16th 2 BC, this time in the evening, Venus and Jupiter seem to coalesce as one, at least to the naked eye. Created using Stellarium and GIMP.

Telescopic Jupiter and Venus 6/17/-1 BC.

Venus appeared among Jupiter’s moons on June 16, 2 BC. Of course, no one had a telescope back then. The telescope wouldn’t be invented for another 16 centuries. Stellarium cannot create the real brightness difference between Jupiter and Venus. Venus would be simply dazzling compared to Jupiter, being 12 times brighter. Venus, being an inner planet, shows phases like the Moon. At this time, Venus would have been near its greatest eastern elongation or separation from the Sun, so it would appear as a tiny first quarter moon. Galileo discovered that Venus had phases and orbited the Sun, in the early 17th century. Created using Stellarium.

Merry Christmas!

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