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Posts Tagged ‘Star of Bethlehem’

12/06/2018 – Ephemeris – Tomorrow I’m going to present a talk about the Star of Bethlehem

December 6, 2018 Comments off

Ephemeris for Thursday, December 6th. The Sun will rise at 8:05. It’ll be up for 8 hours and 57 minutes, setting at 5:02. The Moon, 1 day before new, will rise at 8:10 tomorrow morning.

Tomorrow evening at 8 p.m. I will be giving a talk investigating the origin of the Star of Bethlehem. This will be at Northwestern Michigan College’s Rogers Observatory located south of Traverse City on Birmley Road. The talk is a scientific treatment of the subject, rather than a religious one. We’ll look at the usual suspects for the star. We’ll see what the Gospel writers may have gotten right and possibly wrong. We’ll look at historical writings and oriental observations of the heavens around that time. This will be augmented by computer simulations of what might be important celestial events visible around that time. There is no admission charge. There will be viewing of the skies afterward if it’s clear.

The times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

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12/25/2017 – Ephemeris – The 3 and 2 BC “Star of Bethlehem” conjunctions were repeated 3 and 2 years ago

December 25, 2017 1 comment

Merry Christmas. This is Ephemeris for Christmas Day, Monday, December 25th. The Sun will rise at 8:18. It’ll be up for 8 hours and 49 minutes, setting at 5:07. The Moon, 1 day before first quarter, will set at 12:28 tomorrow morning.

August three years ago and June two years ago we had a near repeat of two very close conjunctions of Jupiter and Venus that occurred in 3 and 2 BC. These two conjunctions spaced by a month more than the human gestation period and seen against the constellation of Leo the lion, symbol of Judah could have brought the Magi, who were Persian astrologer-priests to Jerusalem, capital of Judea. The events could have signified the them the birth of a king of Judea. It was the interpretation of the scriptures by the scribes that actually sent them to Bethlehem. This version of the Star of Bethlehem seems to be the one that’s being accepted more and more by those who believe the Star had a physical reality.

The times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addendum

I dredged these up from the Ephemeris archives

June of 2 BC just after sunset Jupiter and Venus again cross paths.

June 16, 2 BC just after sunset Jupiter and Venus again cross paths, at one point too close to be separated with the naked eye. Created using Stellarium.

Jupiter-Venus animation

Jupiter-Venus approach animation June 11 to July 1, 2015 at 10:30 p.m. Created using Stellarium and GIMP. Click on image to enlarge.

A link to the 2015 posting is here.  I didn’t realize until later that this was a near repeat of the 3 ans 2 BC conjunctions.  Here’s a link to my posting of the August conjunction.

 

12/22/2017 – Ephemeris – The joining of a god and goddess, a second possibility of the Star of Bethlehem

December 22, 2017 1 comment

Ephemeris for Friday, December 22nd. The Sun will rise at 8:16. It’ll be up for 8 hours and 48 minutes, setting at 5:05. The Moon, half way from new to first quarter, will set at 9:21 this evening.

On Tuesday I talked about what I said was one of two possible physical explanations for the Star of Bethlehem. Here is the second. On August 13th of 3 BC Jupiter and Venus briefly merged in the pre-dawn skies against the constellation of Leo the lion. A month later Jupiter was in conjunction with Regulus the bright star in Leo, the little king star. Then 9 months later, after sunset on June 16th of 2 BC the two planets again joined as one in Leo. The king of the planets twice mating with Venus as Ishtar, the Babylonian goddess of fertility, against the constellation of the lion signifying Judah in Genesis? One might find meaning in all that, especially the Magi, who were Zoroastrian astrologer-priests from Persia.

The times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Jupiter-Venus conjunction of August 3, 3 BC.

Animation of the Jupiter-Venus conjunction of August 13, 3 BC. in the morning twilight. Created using Stellarium.

June of 2 BC just after sunset Jupiter and Venus again cross paths.

June 16, 2 BC just after sunset Jupiter and Venus again cross paths, at one point too close to be separated with the naked eye. Created using Stellarium.

 

12/19/2017 – Ephemeris – Were celestial events in 7 BC interpreted as the Star of Bethlehem?

December 19, 2017 1 comment

Ephemeris for Tuesday, December 19th. The Sun will rise at 8:15. It’ll be up for 8 hours and 49 minutes, setting at 5:04. The Moon, 1 day past new, will set at 6:34 this evening.

This year we have no bright evening Christmas star. But what about the one described in the Bible, in the gospel of Luke? We will look today at the first of two events that may have been recorded as the Star of Bethlehem. In 7 BC 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 new born King of the Jews? It was the scribe’s readings that then sent them to Bethlehem. It is thought that Pisces was associated with the Hebrews, Jupiter with the Messiah or world ruler, and Saturn with the peoples of Palestine.

The times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Triple conjunction

The Jupiter-Saturn triple conjunction of 7 BC. Click on the image to enlarge. Created using Cartes du Ciel.

The animation above shows the planets at 5 day intervals in 7 and a bit in 6 BC.  The normal or posigrade motion is toward the east or left.  When an outer planet approaches its opposition from the Sun, it seems to slow and reverse direction and head westward for a time, which is retrograde motion.  After a time it reverses and heads back eastward again.  That’s why the planets seem to see-saw back and forth.  Jupiter passes Saturn every 20 years.  The next time will be in 2020.  On my Wednesday planet charts Jupiter is seen sneaking up on Saturn week by week.  In order to have three conjunctions instead of one, the planets need to be near opposition from the Sun when they pass.  The last time that happened was in 1980, but it wasn’t against Pisces.  Triple conjunctions against a particular zodiacal constellation are much rarer.

The dates for key events in the animation above are:

  • First Conjunction May 29, 7 BC
  • Planets are Stationary July 6, and begin retrograde motion
  • Second Conjunction October 11
  • Planets are Stationary November 1 and resume posigrade motion
  • Third Conjunction on December 8
  • Mars joins February 26, 6 BC

Retrograde motion was difficult to explain when one thinks that the Earth is the center of the Universe and stationary, while the planets supposedly orbited in perfect uniform circular motion around it.  It’s easy when the Earth is a moving planet like the rest.  When an outer (superior) planet is at opposition from the Sun.  The Earth is between the Sun and planet and moving faster.  So we’re passing the outer planet.  When you are in a car passing another, the car being passed seems to move backward with respect to your car.  Since the planets orbits are like a race track, we get to lap the outer planets at regular intervals.

12/23/2016 – Ephemeris – Another possible set of events that could have been the Star of Bethlehem

December 23, 2016 Comments off

Ephemeris for Friday, December 23rd.  The Sun will rise at 8:18.  It’ll be up for 8 hours and 48 minutes, setting at 5:06.  The Moon, 3 days past last quarter, will rise at 3:43 tomorrow morning.

The brilliant planet Venus is out evening star now, and one could say that’s its our Christmas Star.  And perhaps it was, or was part of the Star of Bethlehem.  Back in August of  3 BC the planet Jupiter and Venus appeared to come very close to one another.  The term for such an apparent close approach is called a conjunction.  Astrologers make a big deal out of such a chance alignment.   It’s like a trick photo of someone in the foreground appearing to hold up or leaning on a more distant object.   Anyway, 10 months later in June of 2 BC Jupiter again appeared to join Venus, this time so close they could not be separated by the human eye.  This all occurred against the constellation of Leo the lion which in Genesis is the symbol of Judah.

Times are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Venus and Mars photograph

Venus and Mars in the twilight last night at 6 p.m., December 22, 2016. Photograph by Bob Moler.  Click on the image to enlarge.

I have more information on this set of conjunctions in my December 2 post announcing my program on the Star of Bethlehem:  https://bobmoler.wordpress.com/2016/12/02/12022016-ephemeris-my-talk-about-the-star-of-bethlehem-is-tonight/

 

12/22/2016 – Ephemeris – Could Jupiter and Saturn have combined to be the Star of Bethlehem?

December 22, 2016 Comments off

Ephemeris for Thursday, December 22nd.  The Sun will rise at 8:17.  It’ll be up for 8 hours and 48 minutes, setting at 5:05.  The Moon, 2 days past last quarter, will rise at 2:45 tomorrow morning.

This morning the planet Jupiter is seen right below the waning crescent Moon.  It reminds me of one of the possible answers to the questions to what the Star of Bethlehem was.  Back in 7 BC Jupiter passed Saturn three times in that year.  This is a reasonably rare occurrence especially against a particular constellation, which in this case was Pisces the fish, which would occur every 800 plus years.  Early in the run of this program there was another so-called triple conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn.  This time it was against the constellation of Virgo the virgin in 1980 and 81.  Jupiter passes Saturn every 20 years, but only when it does so when they are opposite the Sun in the sky is there a chance for a triple conjunction.  Tomorrow I’ll look at two really close conjunctions of Jupiter and Venus that also could have been seen by the Magi as the Star of Bethlehem.

Times are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Jupiter and the Moon

Jupiter and the Moon at 7 a.m. this morning, December 22, 2016. Created using Stellarium.

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.  Click image to enlarge.

12/02/2016 – Ephemeris – My talk about the Star of Bethlehem is tonight

December 2, 2016 Comments off

Ephemeris for Friday, December 2nd.  The Sun will rise at 8:01.  It’ll be up for 9 hours and 1 minute, setting at 5:03.  The Moon, 3 days past new, will set at 8:02 this evening.

This evening at 8 p.m. I will be giving a talk investigating the origin of the Star of Bethlehem.  This will be during the monthly meeting of the Grand Traverse Astronomical Society, at Northwestern Michigan College’s Rogers Observatory located south of Traverse City on Birmley Road.  The talk is a scientific treatment of the subject, rather than a religious one.  We’ll look at what the Gospel writers got right and possibly got wrong.  We’ll look at historical writings and oriental observations of the heavens around that time.  This will be augmented by computer simulations of what might be important celestial events visible around that time.  There is no admission charge.  There will be viewing of the skies afterward if it’s clear.

Times are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addendum

The Star of Bethlehem: The case for a 2 BC Nativity date

By Bob Moler

This is a 2016 rewriting of a Stellar Sentinel article from December 1997 as an introduction to my talk this month: In Search of the Star of Bethlehem.

At this month’s meeting of the society I will present again the two thousand 2,000 year old search for the Star of Bethlehem. After studying and dismissing, for a variety of reasons, other phenomena, the quest centers on two rare sets of conjunctions of planets. The first, the favorite of the last 400 years, involves a rare triple conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn over 6 months in 7 BC. It’s 2,000th anniversary was in 1994.

The triple conjunction fits if King Herod the Great died in 4 BC. Remember according to Matthew the Magi visited Herod in Jerusalem, and were directed to Bethlehem. According to the Jewish Historian Flavius Josephusi, a contemporary of the Gospel writers, Herod died between an eclipse of the Moon and the following Passover. Pretty much the accepted eclipse was a slight partial eclipse on the early morning of March 13, 4 BC. Passover followed the next lunar month later. It turns out that Josephus was a busy boy in his last dayes after the eclipse. A much better eclipse was that of January 10, 1 BC which was total and visible in the evening, and which allowed a span of 3 months for Herod to accomplish the requisite wickedness of his final days. It is this eclipse, and Herod’s death in 1 BC that the events of the 2 BC Nativity date was based.

The second solution involves the planets Jupiter and Venus, which had two nearly stellar conjunctions 10 month’s apart in 3 and 2 BC, 2,000 years ago from 1998 and 1999. If you’re a bit confused about the mathematics of the 2,000 year subtraction, remember there was no year zero, 1 BC was the year prior to AD 1. So mathematically year -1 was 2 BC. Of course the AD/BC calendar numbering wasn’t used back then. Our calendar wasn’t determined for another 500 plus years later. Back then, the Roman calendar (AUC) was in use in the that part of the world.

Adding to the information on the second solution I talked about 20 years ago are more ideas that were graciously sent me by George Petritz. It was an issue of Imprimis, a publication of Hillsdale College. In the December 1996 issue was an article The Star of Bethlehem by Dr. Craig Chesterii, who suggests the 1 BC date for Herod’s death.

It looks like the Star of Bethlehem was not the spectacular apparition we celebrate today in images and song. The importance of the apparition was definitely in the eye of the beholder. And the beholders were the Magi, astrologer priests of the Zoroastrian religion based in Persia. They have worked out the meaning of every planet, position and constellation in the visible heavens, and they were aware of the writings and religions of the nations that surrounded them. So let’s try to see what the Magi might have read into two planetary conjunctions occurring 10 months apart in 3 and 2 BC.

On August 12th of 3 BC. just before dawn. The two brightest planets Jupiter and Venus merge into a single dazzling star in the dawn twilight. This even occurred below the chin of the constellation of Leo the lion. In the twilight, on the lion’s bright star Regulus was visible.

So here’s the cast of characters. Jupiter then as now was the king of the gods. In Hebrew, it was Sedeq, which meant Righteousness. The Jews worshiped one God, the only God, who created everything, so they didn’t need to see Jupiter as a god.. Venus was the fertility goddess to all except the Jews. To the Babylonians it was Ishtar. However the in Second Kings and Jeremiah the prophets were distresses to find many Jews were indeed worshiping Ishtar. The lion was the king of beasts, and in Genesis 49:9 Jacob associated his son Judah with a young lion. King David was of the tribe of Judah, and so was the Messiah to be. The reference is again repeated in Revelation 5:5, which reveals the power of the association in the early Christian era. Regulus’ name means little king star, an allusion to its location in heart of the king of beasts. The ancients thought that this star ruled the affairs of the heavens.

Beside the conjunctions of Jupiter and Venus, each planet has their own conjunctions of Regulus. Chester also suggests a solution to the problem of the verse in Matthew 2:9, where the star came to a standstill over place where the child was. This seems to be impossible for an astronomical object. Chester’s explanation was that this is when Jupiter reached its stationary points at the beginning and end of its retrograde or westward motion. Well, let’s see the chronology of all these events, as modeled with the free app Cartes du Ciel:

  • August 12, 3 BC. – Venus and Jupiter are in their first conjunction, visible low in the eastern twilight before sunrise. Both are moving eastward against the stars.
  • August 17, 3 BC. – Venus and Regulus are in conjunction.
  • August 24, 3 BC – Venus and Mercury are in conjunction
  • September 14, 3 BC. – Jupiter and Regulus are in conjunction.
  • November 27, 3 BC. – Jupiter is stationary, and will begin to move in retrograde with respect to the stars, or to the west.
  • February 16, 2 BC. – Jupiter and Regulus are in conjunction for the second time, as Jupiter continues the retrograde motion.
  • March 29, 2 BC. – Jupiter is stationary, ending retrograde motion, and resuming its prograde or eastward motion.
  • May 9, 2 BC. – Jupiter and Regulus are in conjunction for the third time.
  • June 10, 2 BC. – Venus and Regulus are in conjunction.
  • June 17, 2 BC. – Venus and Jupiter are in conjunction. They appear to merge into a single star low in the west at sunset.

The first conjunction, on August 12th, 3 BC., apparently set the Magi on their journey. This is the first appearance of the star as recorded in Matthew 2:2. I expect that the knowledge of planetary motions allowed the Magi to predict the second conjunction 10 months later. They may have timed their journey to arrive around that second conjunction.

The Magi expecting a king, went to the capitol city of Judea, Jerusalem. It is a reading from the scriptures that sends them to King David’s birthplace, Bethlehem. As they left Jerusalem the Magi saw the star again. Was this the second conjunction on June 17th, 2 BC?

The problem of the star standing still over where the child was is still there. If the stationary point of Jupiter is that phenomenon, Jupiter would have reached its stationary or standstill point for the last time a month before the Magi ever got to Jerusalem. The stationary position of Jupiter, will be lost on all but keen watchers of the heavens. Jupiter would still share the stars daily motion through the sky. Another point: Jupiter isn’t the star but the combination of Jupiter and Venus is. I’m afraid the standstill problem is still unsolved.

Recently we have had a repeat of the above celestial events in our skies beginning with a close Venus-Jupiter conjunction on August 18, 2014 with a second conjunction on June 30, 2015. These were close conjunctions, though not as close as the ones in 3 and 2 BC, plus they were also seen against the stars of Leo.

Whether this is the Star, or not, we know it was the light of the star that drew the Magi. Today both Christians and Jews celebrate, in this season of darkness and the longest nights, holidays of light with Christmas and Hanukkah.


i Antiquities of the Jews – Book XVII Chapters 6-8

ii A condensed copy can be found on the Internet at http://www.theosophy-nw.org/theosnw/world/christ/xt-star.htm