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Theories on the Christmas Star as biggest holiday of year draws near

(Public Domain Pictures)

As we inch closer to the winter solstice and Christmas, many wonder what are some of the theories as to just what the object that many viewed around the time of the birth of Christ!

With the close conjunction of both Jupiter and Saturn reaching a peak on the night of Dec. 21, so many are referring to this event as the “Christmas Star of 2020.”

Bright stars top Christmas trees and people sing songs about the “star of wonder,” which guided wise men to the manger in the town of Bethlehem, as described by the Matthew in the New Testament.

An analysis of the event from an astronomical and astrological perspective is in order.

With so many theories out there and the possibility of a true miracle, this is one story which has many leads.

The wise men were guided by the “star in the east” as they traveled to Jerusalem to tell the story of a new ruler of the people of Israel, which was to be born.

This story was told to King Herod.

The wise men then proceeded to Bethlehem, which was due south of Jerusalem. From there they noted that the star stood over the location of where the young child was.

Looking deeper into astronomy, we find that to the ancient Greeks, “in the east” is a translation of “en te anatole,” as the description of a planet which would rise in the east just before sunrise.

Greek astrology also referred to this as the “helical rising “of a planet.

We also look deeper into this story as to how a “star” can stand still over a location in the sky.

In Greek astrology and astronomy, it was known that planets like Mars and Jupiter can, from time to time, move to the west against the background stars (retrograde), then appear to “stand still” for a period of time and resume normal eastward motion.

The Greek word for this “stand still” was “epano.

The wise men were rich with knowledge of both astronomy and astrology and a combination of a planet in “helical rising” just before dawn in the east and the sun appearing in a certain zodiac sign and other conditions in the sky, made it the right time for the wise men to begin the journey to travel to Jerusalem with predictions of the birth of a king.

Many believe that the bright star did not guide them, but was one of the deciding factors on when to begin the journey.

More specifically, the message that the wise men predicted from the sky took place on April 17, 6 B.C., when Jupiter was in helical rising, and a unique occultation of the planet Jupiter by the moon in the zodiac sign of Aries.

Then Jupiter “stood still” in the sky and resumed its normal eastward motion on Dec. 19 of 6 B.C.

This is just one theory as to what really occurred, at least from the worlds of astronomy and astrology.

Others note a triple conjunction of the planets Jupiter and Saturn in the constellation of Pisces in 7 B.C., as a further lead to what may have encouraged the wise men to begin the long journey east.

If that is true, then the rare Jupiter and Saturn conjunction that we will experience on Dec. 21 is even more of a holiday treat for our eyes.

Other versions include the return of Halley’s Comet or a supernova in the sky.

No matter what the true details of this amazing event in history, let’s never forget that the possibility of a miracle is not out of the question too!

We end this column with a few of the classic depictions of the birth of the Christ child, found here and here.

May you and your family have a most joyous, healthy and happy holiday season and a Merry Christmas!

To print your own monthly star chart, click here.

To view satellites/dates/times of passage, click here.

Listen to the Dr. Sky Show on KTAR News 92.3 FM every Saturday at 3 a.m.

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