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Star of Bethlehem
Astronomers will offer a historical look at the Star of Bethlehem at 7 p.m. Dec. 12 at Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute.
PARI astronomers Michael Castelaz and Bob Hayward will discuss the biblical Star of Bethlehem from an astronomical perspective.

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About 2,000 years ago, St. Matthew recorded that something extraordinary appeared in the sky over Bethlehem of Judea that accompanied the birth of Jesus. For centuries, astronomers have wondered about the nature of this Star of Bethlehem. Was it a one-time supernatural event, never seen before and never seen since? Although that is a possibility, it seems unlikely that St. Matthew would have been the only person to record the appearance of an amazing event like that. Another possibility is that the Star of Bethlehem was a rare but natural celestial event that might have gone unnoticed by the masses but would have caught the attention of sky watchers, such as the Magi mentioned in St. Matthews gospel.
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The reason why the conjunction of planets is seen as the most likely occurrence is because when you look at the time frame from the Bible, the time frame relative to all the activities and events that led up to the birth of Jesus, historically it can be determined that Jesus was born somewhere between 7 B.C. and 4 B.C., and that the season of his birth was probably springtime, not December - Derrick Pitts, chief astronomer at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.

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As a theoretical astrophysicist, Grant Mathews had hoped the answer would be spectacular - something like a supernova.
But two years of research have led him to a more ordinary conclusion. The heavenly sign around the time of the birth of Jesus Christ was probably an unusual alignment of planets, the sun and the moon.

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It's long been a puzzle for Christian astronomers, and now a professor from the University of Notre Dame thinks he has it figured out -- almost, anyway.
His quest: discovering just what "the star in the East" was that led wise men to travel to Bethlehem 2,000 years ago.
As a theoretical astrophysicist, Grant Mathews had hoped the answer would be spectacular -- something like a supernova. But two years of research have led him to a more ordinary conclusion. The heavenly sign around the time of the birth of Jesus Christ was likely an unusual alignment of planets, the sun and the moon.

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Astronomers have recreated the night sky at the time when Christ was born using computer software.
Historical records and computer simulations point to a rare series of planetary groupings, known as conjunctions, during the years 3BC and 2BC
David Reneke, news editor of Sky and Space Magazine , says most scholars believe Jesus was born around this time and, as it turns out, this was one of the most remarkable celestial periods of the last 3000 years.

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Through the ages, astronomers have teamed with historians and Biblical scholars in searching for an astronomical explanation for the star the magi followed to Bethlehem so long ago.
Was it a supernova? A comet? A special arrangement of the planets?
The Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute will explore the mystery surrounding the Star of Bethlehem, or the Christmas Star, from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 21.

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According to the Bible, when Jesus was born three Magi saw a star in the East that signalled the birth of a new king. But just what was it, from an astronomical point or view, that the Magi actually saw?
Fred Grosse, a professor of physics and astronomy at Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, Pa., says there are several popular theories that may answer this question.

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The appearance of the Star of bethlehem most likely occurred sometime between the years 7 and 2 BC.

The Magi visited king Herod sometime between 4 BC and 1 BC, just before he died.
Leading up to this, the Magi would have seen, and predicted, rare astronomical events.

On the evening of Feb. 25, 6 BC a rare triple conjunction or "great conjunction" of Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, happened in the constellation of Pisces, the Fishes. Pisces, was astrologically associated with the land of Judea.
Jupiter and Saturn passed each other three times, between May and December in 7 BC. Jupiter appeared to pass one degree north of Saturn on May 29; practically the same on Sept. 30; then finally a third time on Dec. 5.

Jupiter and Saturn remained within three degrees of each other, from late April in 7 BC until early January, 6 BC.
To the early astronomers, Leo was a constellation of great astrological significance and associated with Kings.

A very close conjunction of Venus and Jupiter would have been visible at dawn on Aug. 12, 3 BC.

The conjunction of June 17 of 2 BC Jupiter and Venus appeared even closer together than they did in the dawn skies of the previous August, so close in fact that they would have appeared as one star. And it occurred near to the bright star Regulus, that had always been associated with royalty and kings.


Ancient chinese astronomers recorded a faint nova between the constellations Capricornus 5 BC. It is not known if they recorded any bright comets.
But this event along with a bright comet, to the ancients, would surely have signified that a new king was to be born.
I have run a few simulations, I have run a few simulations, and have found that there were a few comets in the sky... Although, the data isn`t very accurate due to the nature of comet out-gassings and perturbations.
I am confident that this was the case. There was a comet seen during March 10 and April 27 5 B.C. in Capricornus. In 4 B.C. a comet or nova was noted in April 24 in Aquila.


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Astronomers have calculated that in 7 B.C., Jupiter and Saturn appeared to come very close to one another, making the planets appear to merge (Saturn was, of course, millions of miles deeper in space). Mars moved in a year later and created a grouping of Jupiter-Saturn-Mars.

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6 BC:
Jan. 1: Jupiter & Saturn close in Pisces
Jan. 23: Saturn equidistant between Jupiter and Moon in Pisces
Feb. 20: Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and new Moon all within about 3 deg. radius
In Pisces at 7pm on western horizon
Mar. 4: Jupiter and Mars conjunction at sunset
Horizontal alignment with Saturn directly below
Mar. 24: Venus and Saturn conjunction at dawn in Pisces
Apr. 18: Annular Solar eclipse (not visible from Middle East)
Apr. 24: Saturn and Venus only 42 arcmin separation in Pisces
Seen only briefly around 4:30 am on horizon (4 deg alt.)
May 8: Conjunction of Jupiter and Venus (34 arcmin in Aries).
Visible only on horizon from 4 to 5:30 am
May 15: Lunar conjunction of Jupiter in Aries (< 6 arcminutes)
Visible about one and one-half hours before conjunction.
Venus-Jupiter-Moon-Saturn aligned (Aries region)
May 16: Venus and very thin crescent Moon proximity (3 deg) in Taurus
Seen only briefly about 4:30 am
Jul. 2: Venus & Mars conjunction at dusk
Jul. 10: Mercury & Venus conjunction at dusk (Mars nearby)
Jul. 22: Saturn begins retrograde between Cetus and Aries
Aug. 22: Jupiter begins retrograde back into Aries
Sep. 2: Mars visible within 50 arcminutes of Regulus at 4:30am in Leo
Nov. 7: Mars about 2 deg. from Moon when it rises in East (2 am in Virgo)


5 BC: [Most activity too close to Sun]
Mar. 11: Lunar conjunction of Venus with Jupiter and Pleiades very close
Region between Taurus and Aries asterisms.
Actual conjunction only 1 arcmin separation but well below horizon
Mar. 23: Total Lunar eclipse, 9:30 pm, 38 deg. alt., in Virgo
Sep. 15: Total Lunar eclipse, 11:20 pm, 50 deg. alt., in Pisces

4BC: [Most activity too close to Sun]
Jan. 30: Lunar conjunction with Mars in Pisces
30 arcminutes at 3pm, 1 deg. at 6 pm.
Mar. 6 & 7: Conjuction of Saturn and Mars (~ 2 deg)
Seen near western horizon around 7:30 pm, in Aries
Mar 13: Lunar eclipse (1/3 partial umbra passage), 3:30 am in Virgo (33 deg alt.)
May 9: Conjunction of Saturn and Mercury, dawn, in Taurus
May 17: Conjunction of Mars and Venus at dusk near horizon (Jupiter nearby)
May 23: Conjunction of Venus and Jupiter at dusk near horizon in Gemini

3BC
Apr. 2: Saturn, Venus, Mars grouping in Taurus
Jun 13: Saturn and Venus conjunction, seen rising at 3 am in Taurus
Aug 12: Jupiter and Venus close conjunction, seen rising at 5 am in Leo
Sep 14: Jupiter rises with Regulus in Leo
Oct. 3: Jupiter, Regulus, and crescent Moon within 3 deg. radius of Regulus (Leo)
Oct. 31: Close conjunction of Moon and Jupiter in Leo at 4 am,

2 BC
Mar 25: Saturn and Mars conjunction setting in Taurus (8:30 pm), Venus nearby
Apr 3: Saturn, Venus, Mars grouping (3 deg. radius from Venus) at setting
Apr 12: Moon, Regulus, Jupiter alignment
May 10: Moon, Regulus, Jupiter alignment seen at midnight at setting
Jun 17: Venus occulation of Jupiter (8 arcsec separation), 9:18pm in Leo
Oct 14: Jupiter and Venus conjunction rising at 3 am in Virgo
Oct 24: Jupiter, Venus, Spica, crescent Moon grouping in Virgo (5 am)
Dec 8: Venus and Mars conjunction rising at 4 am in Libra

1 BC
Jan. 10: Total Lunar eclipse at 2:30 am.
Nov 8: Alignment of Mercury, Venus, Jupiter and Mars (briefly visible at 6 am in East; in Libra)
Feb 20: Saturn and Moon close ( daytime, 4 pm, 2 deg.)
Mar 18: Lunar (4.9 day old) conjunction with Mars, 9:21 pm
Mar 20: Saturn and Moon close ( 1:30 am, 1 deg)
Apr 11: Lunar occulation of Venus (below horizon, 2:30 am)
May 13: Grouping of Saturn, Mercury and Moon (2 day old) in body of Gemini at sunset
Jul 8: Lunar occulation of Saturn, 4 am on eastern horizon. Mercury within 42 minutes of Saturn.
Aug 1: Conjunction of Saturn and Venus, eastern horizon, 3:50 am
Sep 1: Lunar conjunction with Saturn (daytime, 11 am, 42 min sep.)
Nov 10: Conjunction of Mars and Jupiter (~ 37 arcminutes at 6am)
Dec 29: Lunar eclipse beginning at 3 pm (daytime), umbral at 4:52 pm (Sun at - 2 deg alt, Moon at 1 deg. alt.); penumbral only at 6 pm (Sun at - 15 deg, Moon at 13 deg.)

1 AD
April 15: Saturn and Mars close in Gemini, along with waxing crescent Moon
Jun 10: Total Solar eclipse, 9 am. [Saturn and Mercury nearby]



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