The Star of Bethlehem: Will it be visible in 2021?
The Star of Bethlehem: Will it be visible in 2021?
Is this star actually a comet or a “Great Conjunction”?
Updated on December 22, 2021 18:07 PM by siva
There are approximately 200 billion trillion stars in the entire universe, and only a little percentage of that number of stars is actually visible to the unaided human eye. We have read about the different kinds of stars, probably in school, but have you heard about the Star of Bethlehem, also known as the Christmas Star? I am sure many of you must have heard it. But do you know what exactly it is? Maybe we can attempt a sort of scientific explanation to that sighting in history? Well, that’s what this article is all about. Read on to know about this rare star.
What is the Star of Bethlehem?
The birth date of Jesus is hard to pinpoint because there is no mention of the exact date in the gospels or historical sources. But many scholars believe that it was between 6 to 4 BC. Well, the Star of Bethlehem appears in the Nativity Story or the Christmas Story, which tells about the birth of Jesus. So, in this story of the Gospel of Matthew, three wise men travel from the East to Jerusalem, inspired by this rare star.
Why is it also called the Christmas Star?
Since Christmas is celebrated as the birth of Jesus Christ and this star led the Magi or the three wise men to Jerusalem where baby Jesus was born, so this is also called the Christmas Star. The Magi brought with them gifts of gold, myrrh, and frankincense.
What did it mean to the Magi?
According to the Book of Matthew, when Jesus was born, a bright star in the eastern sky appeared a group of wise men spotted that, also called the biblical 'Magi.' So, these wise men saw this new star as a sign. They believed that the star signalled the birth of the King of the Jews. So they set on a journey to Jerusalem, following the star to worship him.
Was it actually a comet?
Many people have wondered if such an event happened in history. Scholars have also come up with scientific theories to it. They have pondered about whether it was actually a comet. But if the Magi followed a comet, they would not go in a single direction because positions of comets change as the earth rotates. Furthermore, the comets were seen as harbingers of bad omen during that time. So, the Magi definitely would not have followed a comet.
Could it have been just astrology?
The Magi were a class of Persian wise men who could interpret special signs, like astrology. So it could be said that they were Persian astrologers. Also, they had to ask King Herod for directions which could that they might not have been led by a single star but rather a certain alignment of stars and planets. And as astrologers do, they might have interpreted a hidden meaning in that alignment that led them to King Herod. And since planets have meaning in astrology and Jupiter is associated with royalty, that could be it.
Could it have been the Great Conjunction?
Another possible explanation could be that it was a conjunction. A conjunction occurs when celestial bodies appear to meet in the night sky, and the Great Conjunction is the conjunction orreunion of Jupiter and Saturn. On 17 Apr, 6 BC, Jupiter, Saturn, the moon, and the sun were aligned in the Aries constellation. Moreover, this constellation occurred early in the morning, and the Star of Bethlehem is described as a rising morning star. So, this sort of fits the story. However, we can never be sure of it.
Sighting of the Star of Bethlehem or Christmas Star in 2020!
On December solstice of the year 2020, that is, 21 Dec, Jupiter, and Saturn appeared in the night sky, so closely aligned that from the earth, it appeared as though they almost collided. Such an alignment is considered extremely rare. This event has been termed The Great Conjunction, which happens almost every 19 to 20 years. The last one happened in 2000, but the one in 2020 was the closest ever since 1623 and the closest observable since 1226.
What does it look like?
Well, after the Middles Ages, it was in 2020 that these planets aligned so closely in the night sky. Jupiter was 5 astronomical units away from earth, and Saturn was ten astronomical units away. It appeared to be a very bright and radiant star visible from everywhere on earth.
How to see the Christmas Star and at what time?
The best way to see this rare star is to have an unobstructed sky view, and in the distance, there should be no low clouds. Binoculars or telescopes could be used to have an even clearer and distinct view. This might help in distinguishing the planets. Saturn’s rings might also be visible, along with both the planets’ brightest moons! The best time to look to the southwestern sky for this astronomical event would be just an hour after sunset.
Will the Star of Bethlehem be visible in 2021?
This rare event happens every 19 to 20 years. In 2020 December, the Great Conjunction happened after 20 years. The last one was in 2000. So this year, in 2021, the conjunction won't happen, so the Christmas Star or the Star of Bethlehem won't appear in the night sky.
When will the next Christmas Star appear?
The following Christmas Star will appear after 20 years from the year 2020. So, probably until 2 Nov 2040, you won't be seeing this miraculous event happening in our night sky.