Posts Tagged ‘Star of Bethlehem’

The Saturn/Jupiter Conjunction and the Star of Bethlehem

December 30, 2020

One of the interesting pieces of astronomical news this past month was that of a conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter. Conjunctions are when two planets appear next to each other in the sky. This conjunction was particularly interesting, not just because it’s a comparatively rare astronomical event, but also because a similar conjunction 2000 years ago may have been behind the appearance of the Star of Bethlehem. In the Bible, the wise men who came to honour Christ at His birth were led to Him by a star. One of the theories that people have devised to explain this is that it may have been another conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn, which occurred around 3 BC, which many scholars believe is the real date of Christ’s birth. The wise men, magi, were probably mobeds, Zoroastrian priests. Zoroastrianism is the ancient religion of Iran. It’s a dualist faith, holding that the universe was created by two gods, the good god Ahura Mazda or Ormuzd, and Ahriman, the evil god. However, they believe that at the End Time a saviour shall appear, the Saoshyant, who will overcome Ahriman and the forces of evil, Ormuzd will triumph, the Earth will be transformed and new age of eternal peace, justice and goodness will begin. The Zoroastrian priests were also astrologers, and in Babylonian astrology the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn represented the birth of a king. Hence it’s possible that the Persian priests, observing the celestial event, may well have gone westwards seeking the new king it heralded.

That’s one theory. There are others, but this story provided a bit of suitably seasonal material for the media. I don’t know which king’s birth has been announced by this latest conjunction. It certainly isn’t Joe Biden’s, and definitely not Trump, though I don’t doubt that the Orange Generalissimo would have claimed it was had it appeared four years earlier at the start of his term. But Trump is definitely on his way, assuming they can prise him our of the White House. Unfortunately, I see nothing in the stars or anywhere else that suggests we’re going to get a better set of politicians or government in this coming year. Rather the opposite. But still, we live in hope!

Patrick Moore on a Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn as the Star of Bethlehem

December 18, 2016

The Christmas season is definitely upon us, so I thought I’d post something seasonal. Patrick Moore was sceptical of some of the explanations offered for the Star of Bethlehem, which led the Magi to the infant Jesus. In the 1983 edition of the Yearbook of Astronomy, he dismisses the idea that it could have been an particularly bright appearance of Venus, noting that the planet was far too well known to appear new. He also noted that no new stars were recorded in the astronomical records of the time.

However, in the 1981 Yearbook of Astronomy, he speculated that an extremely rare triple conjunction of the planets Jupiter and Saturn occurred in 7 BC, and that this could be the basis of the Star of Bethelehem because of the immense significance this would have had for contemporary astrologers. He wrote

If we regard the periods [time taken for planet to complete one rotation around the Sun – Beastrabban] as 12 and 30 years approximately, we see that Jupiter covers about 30 degrees a year, while Saturn moves through 12 degrees. Thus, Jupiter gainis 18 degrees a year on Saturn, and conjunction of the two planets can only occur at an interval of 20 years. If both planets travelled in circular orbits it can be shown that only one in six of these conjunctions could possibly be triple, and we should then expect to have a triple conjunction every 120 years. However, both of these giant planets have accentric orbits, and both are subject to severe perturbations, so tyhat this average is never realized. the last three tiple conjunctions of Jupiter and Saturn occurred in 1452, 1683 and 1940, and the intervals here are more than double the 120 years. In all of these cases, the time between the two oppositions was of the order of a day or less.

One tripole conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn has received a great deal of attnetion. This is the conjunction of BC7 which, it was suggested, could be the explanation for the Star of Bethlehem. This old idea had been rejected in many quaarters because the two planets were well separated in latitude and were, in any case, familiar objects to the Magi. In recent times the subject has been revived, but now the astrological significance of the even has been emphasized. This seems a more reasonable suggestion, though it does not explain all the details of the story. Certainly the rarity of this triple conjunction (which the Magi would never have witnessed before) would give added significance to the event. (p. 83).