The star over Bethlehem

Discussion in 'Religion' started by timojin, Dec 28, 2016.

  1. timojin Valued Senior Member

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    The incredible truth about the star that guided the three wise men
    By Grant Mathews

    Published December 27, 2016


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    FILE -- A crescent moon rises above a Christmas tree in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

    This is a unique time for humankind to look up at the heavens. For the first time in history telescopes are powerful and penetrating enough to in principle view almost every star that now shines in the entire visible universe.

    It is the nature of astronomers and astrophysicists to look up at the stars with wonder, searching for answers to the still-unsolved mysteries of the universe. At this time of year, we’re reminded of one of those mysteries that has been pondered by scientists, theologians, and historians for centuries – the origin of the Star of Bethlehem.

    Where and when did it appear? What did it look like? Of the billions of stars out there, which among them was the one shining bright on that day so long ago? Was it a star at all?

    Modern astrophysics is how we attempt to explain one of history’s greatest astronomical events.

    I and many others have studied historical, astronomical and biblical records, looking for clues to what led the Magi — Zoroastrian priests of ancient Babylon and Mesopotamia — on their journey.

    The astronomical archives have been scanned to identify possible known comets, novae, or supernovae that could be the event noted by the Chinese astronomers who kept careful records of events in the sky, going back more than 1000 years BC.

    Ultimately, however it was probably not a comet, a nova or supernova. It seems much more likely that the “Christmas Star” was an extremely rare planetary alignment occurring in 6 B.C., and the likes of which may never be seen again.

    During this alignment, the Sun, Jupiter, the Moon and Saturn were all in Aries. Venus was next door in Pisces. Mercury and Mars were on the other side in Taurus. And, at the time, Aries was the location of the Vernal Equinox. The presence of Jupiter and the Moon signified the birth of a ruler with a special destiny. Saturn was a symbol of the giving of life, as was the presence of Aries in the vernal equinox – also marking the start of spring. That the alignment occurred in Aries signified a newborn ruler in Judea because it was recorded that Aries was the constellation associated with that geographical region.

    The Magi would have seen this in the east (meaning a morning star) and recognized that it symbolized a regal birth in Judea ultimately leading them in search of the newborn ruler. Running my calculations forward, I estimate it will be more than 16,000 years before a similar alignment is seen again — and even then, the vernal equinox will not be in Aries. IN my calculations, another alignment like the one known as the Bethlehem Star was not seen going out as far as 500,000 years at which point I stopped because no longer could rely on the accuracy of the calculation

    At this time of year, I feel a kindred connection to the ancient Magi, who earnestly scanned the heavens for insight into the truth about the nature and evolution of the universe, just as we do today.

    In the end we must keep in mind, that the Magi were not really seeking star at all. They were seeking the light of the World. Even to this day that light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.


    Grant Mathews, professor of theoretical astrophysics and cosmology in the Department of Physics in the University of Notre Dame’s College of Science
     
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  3. origin Trump is the best argument against a democracy. Valued Senior Member

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    Seems like this should be in the religion section....
     
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  5. timojin Valued Senior Member

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    I really don't think so. Are going to dispute the event ?
     
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  7. paddoboy Valued Senior Member

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    Probably depends on your intentions.
     
  8. timojin Valued Senior Member

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    My intention are irrelevant, I read the article , the article says is an old puzzle, I think it would be interesting for you to since this is your bread & butter.
     
  9. paddoboy Valued Senior Member

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    Probably easy explained as are most UFO's....probably a planetary conjunction or alignment.
    http://www.observadores-cometas.com/Star_of_Bethlehem/English/Possible.htm

    Possible Explanations of the Star of Bethlehem



    The are many possible explanations of the Star of Bethlehem which have received wide support over the years. The most widely accepted are variations on comets, novae and conjunctions, although a new candidate, which has to be taken seriously, is the idea of a planetary occultation. What are these candidates and what are their strengths and weaknesses in each case?


    Planetary conjunctions

    The idea that a planetary conjunction might have been the Star of Bethlehem is usually credited, erroneously, to Johannes Kepler. In fact, the planetary conjunction theory only dates back to the middle of the 19th Century. Kepler only pointed out that a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn had occurred near the time of the Nativity whilst himself favouring the nova/supernova hypothesis. A planetary conjunction is when two (or more) planets approach each other in the sky, one passing due south of the other. Conjunctions can be quite spectacular and last for several nights although a really compact conjunction lasts for just a few hours.


    It was in 1968 when Roger Sinnott wrote a highly influential article in Sky and Telescope pointing to the June 17th 2 BC conjunction of Venus and Jupiter as having been particularly spectacular from Babylon that this theory took off. Sinnott’s work is still one of the finest ever carried out in this field and all the more laudable for having been done from planetary tables, without the assistance of a computer. Sinnott investigated conjunctions over a wide range of dates from 12 BC to 7 AD finding more than 200 conjunctions of the major planets. He also found no less than 20 compact groupings of three or four planets, of which only 4 would have been observable. After carefully filtering the events, Sinnott concluded that the 2 BC conjunction, in Leo, would have fitted the bill.


    On June 17th 2 BC, as seen from Babylon, Venus and Jupiter would have set 3 hours after sunset, with the two planets too close together to separate by eye, having closed considerably in the time since sunset. In fact, we now know that the disk of Venus actually passed in front of Jupiter, occulting it partially.


    The problem with conjunction though is that they are too common. When the Magi have been waiting several hundred years for the birth of the Messiah, they would have seen all kinds of occultations and it is hard to believe that a single occultation, however spectacular, could have been the Star of Bethlehem, quite apart from the fact that this one happened several years too late.



    A Triple Conjunction

    Any pair of superior planets (that is, planets outside the Earth’s orbit) can give rise to a triple conjunction whereby, instead of a single pass, the planets meet and separate three times over a period of a few months. The more exterior a pair of planets are, the more frequent are triple conjunctions relative to normal conjunctions, although the more infrequently a conjunction of any kind will occur.


    Jupiter and Saturn will enter conjunction about every 20 years. During the last millennium BC, however, no less than 7 triple conjunctions also took place – one every 140 years, on average – although the interval varied from 40 years (as between 861 and 821 BC and again between 563 and 523 BC) to 377 years (as between 523 BC and 146 BC). Over the millennium there were 43 “normal” conjunctions between the two planets and 7 “triple” conjunctions.


    In December 1603 Johannes Kepler observed a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn (a normal one), followed by a massing of Jupiter, Saturn and Mars, when all three planets were close together in the sky. He calculated that a similar set of circumstances would have occurred in 7 BC. In fact, the 7 BC conjunction was a triple conjunction, although Jupiter and Saturn were never much less than a degree apart.


    In 1976 David Hughes popularised this triple conjunction and suggested that it might explain the Star of Bethlehem, particularly as it happened in the constellation of Pisces, a constellation associated with the Jews. Sceptics point out that a far more spectacular triple conjunction (although in the constellation of Cancer) happened in 146/145 BC. Similarly, triple conjunctions were seen in Pisces in 861/860 BC and in 981/980 BC, during both of which the separation of Jupiter and Saturn was less than in 7 BC. Another important point is that the 7 BC triple conjunction was observed from Babylon, as was the massing of Jupiter, Saturn and Mars which followed, but the Babylonian records give no sign that they found the phenomenon of any special interest.


    An occultation

    A recent and interesting suggestion is that the Star of Bethlehem might have been an occultation. At first sight this seems unpromising. Between 20 BC and 1 AD the Moon passed in front of (occulted) the four main planets (Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn) 170 times. In other words, it is hardly a rare event. However, when we calculate which of them would have been visible from Babylon in a dark sky, the number reduces in to just 5 over the 20 years – somewhat better, although still hardly a rare event.


    Recently, however, Michael Molnar of Rutgars University has drawn attention to an occultation of Jupiter by the Moon in 6 BC. This took place in the constellation of Aries and was similar to a later occultation of Venus which may be referred to in a coin known as the Antioch coin. This coin shows a Ram (Aries?), the Moon and a bright star, and what appears to be the track of a planet.


    Molnar suggests that the 6 BC occultation was the Star of Bethlehem because of its astrological associations, Aries being the ruling star sign of Judea and Jupiter symbolising a king, with the occultation – the reappearance of the planet from behind the Moon – symbolising a royal birth.


    I am sceptical because the March 17th 6 BC occultation took place very close to the Sun and just after sunset. It is hard to believe that it would have been observable with the Sun just 3 degrees below the horizon and Jupiter 5 degrees above it. This theory though has been very well received by many astronomers and popular writers and may be more than just an interesting anecdote in the story of the Star of Bethlehem.


    Comet(s)


    A theory which has been popular for many years is that the Star of Bethlehem was a comet. There is no doubt that a bright comet is a very spectacular event and would be an impressive “star”, but scrutiny of the Chinese and Babylonian chronicles reveals no evidence of a bright comet. There is an event observed in 5 BC which may be an account of a comet, but there is no description of classical elements in Chinese reports such as the tail and the comet’s movement which make it doubtful that this was a comet. Similarly, the Chinese reports imply that the object was stationary – most uncometary in an object seen for two and a half months.


    Such doubts do not stop many “stars” from being depicted as comets – this practice is particularly widespread in Spain where stylised comets which show a large star with a flowing curved tail (thus getting the best of both worlds), adorn Christmas trees and buildings everywhere.


    Nova

    If the object seen by the Chinese in 5 BC was not a comet, then it can only have been a nova (we know, from the lack of a radio source and a visible remnant that it was not a supernova, despite its long duration of visibility). The position (southern Aquila) is consistent with having been a nova, although a little further south of the plane of the Milky Way than is normal.


    The date of its apparition (March 5 BC), coinciding with the best guess as to the date of the birth of Jesus, its position in the sky (in the east at dawn) and long duration of visibility (more than 70 days), make this a very plausible Star of Bethlehem. Again though, we would have to ask the question “why this nova?” given that the Magi must surely have observed dozens of novae over the centuries that the spent watching the sky. It is a little hard to see what would have made this event particularly significant to the Magi – apart from the fact that its date coincides, as far as we can guess, with the date of the Nativity.
     
  10. paddoboy Valued Senior Member

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    I think we can safely conclude that what is known as "The Star of Bethlehem" was a dinky di UFO.
     
  11. Xelasnave.1947 Valued Senior Member

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    What do the written records say or was this just something made up and written as truth many many years after the event.
    How long was the verbal account told and retold before it was written down.
    This is religion dressed up as astronomy.
    If this mythical star appeared one could ask why no one at the time recorded it, and recording star movement and astronomy events was common in many cultures.
    If such an event happened it would have been recorded and yet it was not.
    Let's not forget this was supposed to have happened only approx 2000 years ago so one could ask why is there so little (rather none) mention of the event.
    Another question akin to how many angels can dance upon the head of s pin.
    If this has not gone to religion yet is should.
    Alex
     
  12. timojin Valued Senior Member

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    What ever it was. It was. Your collection of wisdom it does not have an answer, so your answer is just as good, as the magi kings, they went west
     
  13. paddoboy Valued Senior Member

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    The Magi Kings from more then 2000 years ago!!! And you trust their totally non scientific account?
    My lists of possibilities were all scientific possibilities in comparison.
    C'mon Timojin, you can do better then that can't you.
    Oh and by the way, your intentions most certainly are relevant, particularly in your case

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  14. origin Trump is the best argument against a democracy. Valued Senior Member

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    Of course.
     
  15. Xelasnave.1947 Valued Senior Member

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    The only star that stays in one spot during the night in the Northern hemisphere is the Pole Star any other star move during the night so you could set off in one direction say North East and a couple of hours later find because the star has moved find your heading is now North West.
    Any "star" to be followed would have to be travelling exactly West and have to be past zenith after dark otherwise anyone following would be wandering all over.
    I have seen discussions on this before and it would seem the story tellers may have selected Sirius.
    The Egyptian astronomers used the appearance of Sirius to predict when the Nile would flood and so this star probably was regarded as important such that the Christians have seized upon its use in similar fashion to changing many customs to suit Christianity (solstice, easter).
    Its the brightest star, it rises in the East sets in the West perfect for the story.
    But it just did not appear nor do any stars appear to herald the birth of a king as the ancients believed and so this also suggests the story fitted superstitious beliefs that are exposed when one addresses the facts which in this modern era we can do.
    I notice my request for an estimate of the time this story was told and retold before being recorded goes unanswered because to do so will show there is little hope there is anything to the star story whatsoever.
    Alex
     
  16. Seattle Valued Senior Member

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    Even though I think the original author of the piece quoted by Timojin knows better it states that now due to powerful telescopes we can see most any start in the visible universe.

    This is certainly not true. We can't resolve individual stars at that distance. We are only seeing the relatively close ones. In the famous Hubble deep field image all of those points of light are galaxies.

    So, he is playing with the truth just from the beginning and he is a professor at a Catholic University posting at Christmastime.

    Anyone can go back to any point in time and find some astrological event. There isn't even more than 50/50 proof that a guy named Jesus was even actually born. In other words a guy who would grow up to be a local evangelical preacher isn't an established fact so more than likely there wasn't even an actual date for an event to occur on.
     
  17. Seattle Valued Senior Member

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    I know this is off point but there isn't always a Pole Star. Now it is Polaris but that changes due to the precision of the Earth's axis. Sometimes there isn't a star that appears to be right over our axis. In those times they use the brightest one that is closest but in that case it does appear to move slightly.
     
  18. Xelasnave.1947 Valued Senior Member

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    Yes you are correct.

    My hobby is astronomy and astrophotography I did not want to go too deep.

    The Pole Star is found approximately at the Celestial North Pole which is at point all other stars circulate and it is a projection of the Earths axis certainly.

    Finding the position of the celestial pole is very important in astrophotography and I have spent hour upon hour trying to get my mount to line up perfectly because if not perfect stars in your photos 'trail" showing as ovals rather than round dots, of course even with the mount perfect additional guidance is required during exposures.

    Alex
     
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  19. ForrestDean Registered Senior Member

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    Correct. There isn't even any record outside of the Holy Bible of Jesus ever existing.
     
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2016
  20. Xelasnave.1947 Valued Senior Member

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    Sorry I missed this post.
    However the only evidence is hear say.
    If one goes into it there is a case to suggest that Christianity was an attempt to make Sun worship personal.
    So the Sun is replaced with a Son, twelve constellations become twelve followers even death and resurrection is a parallel to the Sun at solstice, I can understand superstitious folk buying it but today with the facts available folk still indulge the superstition.
    Alex
     
  21. Seattle Valued Senior Member

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    You have more patience that I do (and a better set-up as well)

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    I have a telescope but it's not equipped for astrophotography nor am I patience-wise or location-wise (Seattle)

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    It is interesting however. I just wish there were darker skies around me.
     
  22. Michael 345 Valued Senior Member

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    Yes
     
  23. Seattle Valued Senior Member

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    I think they may also be indulging in the "get out of jail free" card and the chance of "life after death". These are the lottery players I assume.

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