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Searching for the Star of Bethlehem (updated)

A popular explanation for the Star of Bethlehem is that it was actually a conjunction of Jupiter and Venus that presumably occurred on June 17, 2BC  (see bethlehemstar.net).  In other words, in the evening hours of that day, Jupiter and Venus appeared so close together in the sky to observers in the middle east that they were visually indistinguishable.  To a casual observer this object would look like a single object, brighter than both Venus and Jupiter separately.

Venus/Jupiter Conjunction in the year 2 BC
Venus/Jupiter Conjunction in the year 2 BC

By itself, Venus is a spectacularly bright celestial object—only the Sun and Moon shine brighter.  Jupiter is also bright, but it pales in comparison to Venus.  On the date in question, Venus was about six times brighter than Jupiter.  Hence, a Venus/Jupiter combo would be only a little bit (16%) brighter than Venus by itself.  Would Jupiter really brighten the pair up enough that this conjunction would stand out as a singular event in the early evening sky? I suspect not.

Also, would the Magi really have been confused by this conjunction.  In ancient times, people lived and slept under the stars.  They were very well aware of the planets and their unusual wanderings relative to the stars.  The conjunction of Venus and Jupiter comes up slowly over the course of a week or so.  Could the Magi, and everyone else, really have failed to notice Venus and Jupiter in the evenings leading up to the conjunction or, more obviously, in those following the conjunction?

Such conjunctions occur once every few years but, according to widely-available modern planetarium programs (e.g., The SkyX, Starry Night, Cartes du Ciel, etc.), this particular conjunction was an especially close encounter.  Specifically, these planetarium programs tell us that the separation between Venus and Jupiter appeared to be only about 38 arcseconds at the time of the conjunction.  This is a very small separation.  For comparison, the full Moon is about 1800 arcseconds in diameter and so the diameter of the full Moon is about 50 times the separation of Venus and Jupiter at this conjunction.  The average person cannot distinguish two points of light separated by less than about 100 arcseconds.

But, here are two important questions.  How rare is such a close conjunction and can we trust our planetarium programs when making queries thousands of years into the past (or future)?  For me, answering the first question is fairly easy because some years ago I wrote my own simulator of our Solar System.  My simulator takes as given, the positions and velocities of all the major bodies in our Solar System and uses Newton’s Law of Gravity to simulate the evolution of the entire system over time. It was easy for me to add some “closeness” tests, run time backwards in my simulator, and print out every close encounter event between Jupiter and Venus.

Using my software, it turns out that there were 849 Venus/Jupiter conjunctions between 100BC and now (Dec, 2011) in which the angular separation was less than 1800 arcseconds (the diameter of the full Moon).  Of these, 38 of them found Venus and Jupiter within 100 arcseconds of each other, i.e.,indistinguishable to the human eye.   On average, that’s one such indistinguishability event every 60 years or so—relatively rare but not profoundly, miraculously, rare.

All Venus/Jupiter Conjunctions from 100 BC to present
All Venus/Jupiter Conjunctions from 100 BC to present

But, what about the second question:  can we trust the planetarium programs?  Well, again, the fact that I’ve written my own simulator sheds some light on this question.  I compared the conjunctions produced by my simulator with the predictions made by one of my planetarium programs.  Looking back in time, the two methods give nearly identical results—at least for the first several hundred years.  But, as time moves further from the present epoch, the predictions begin to diverge from each other—not in big ways, just in the details.  For example, my simulator does predict the conjunction in 2BC but it, according to the simulator, was not an especially close encounter.

Okay, who’s wrong?  My simulator should be subject to the most suspicion because it was written by me and not tested or verified by anyone else.  That is true.  But, in my defense, I developed this code over a number of years taking great care to get it right.  But, still, it might be wrong.  What about the planetarium programs?  There are several popular ones.   I have at least two of them on my personal computer.  They give the same prediction.  Isn’t that strong evidence that they are right and my program is wrong?  Not necessarily.  Planetarium programs use the same formulas describing the orbits of the various celestial objects.  Hence, they should agree with each other.  But, these formulas are just approximations.

The real problem is hard.  The nine planets not only get tugged by the Sun, but they also interact with each other.  Jupiter, being the most massive, has a significant gravitational effect on the other planets, including Venus.  The formulas used in planetarium programs are very good, but they are not perfect.  My simulator, on the other hand, is not based on a simple formula.  To find out where things were 2000 years ago, I have to run the simulator from now back to then one small step at a time.  Using a very small time step, this computation takes several minutes.  But, the answer should be very precise.   I suspect it is better than the answer given by the planetarium programs.

So, it seems to me, that the Venus/Jupiter conjunction of 2BC was probably not a very spectacular event.  It’s hard to imagine that it would have triggered the dramatic events recorded in the Bible and attributed to the Star of Bethlehem.

Addendum (added 12/29/2011): Roger Sinnott contacted me and explained that he was the person who first suggested the June 17, 2BC, Venus-Jupiter conjunction as a possible explanation for the Star of Bethlehem in a Sky&Telescope article that appeared in December 1968 (pages 384-386).  At the time, his analysis was based on Keplerian orbits (with perturbations).  After he published a second article on the subject in 1986, James DeYoung and James Hilton at the U.S. Naval Observatory reported (S&T, April 1987, page 357) that they compared the state-of-the-art numerical integrator (JPL’s DE102) against Bretagnon’s state-of-the-art Keplerian analytical method (VSOP82) and got results consistent with each other and with Sinnott’s earlier report.

The modern version of JPL’s numerical integrator is known as DE406.  Tabulated and interpolated results are accessible via JPL’s Horizons website (http://ssd.jpl.nasa.gov/horizons.cgi).  DE406 is the ultimate modern tool for validating the earlier claims.  Using the web interface, I downloaded positional information for Venus and Jupiter on June 17, 2BC.  According to DE406, the conjunction on this date had a minimal separation of 26.2 arcseconds, which is further evidence that this was indeed a very close conjunction.  Of course, there is some uncertainty in any measurement and therefore in any prediction.  It would be interesting to determine error estimates.

Anyway, these developments suggest that there is some subtle issue with my integrator.  I am looking into it.



  1. Mark
    June 22, 10:46 pm

    Does anyone know if the prediction Kepler made about the 1980/81 Christmas star that appeared on Christmas day was photographed by anyone else?

  2. Phillip Swanepoel
    South Africa
    July 1, 2015, 3:47 pm

    rjvanderbei. Very interesting. Can you please let me know what the phase of the moon was during the 17 June 2bC conjunction as well as the name of the day of the week. If it is possible the time of new moon and full moon. Thanks.

  3. 行動電源
    June 30, 2013, 1:33 pm

    This web site really has all of the info I wanted concerning this subject and didn’t know who to ask.

  4. Luis Medina
    Miraflores, Lima-Peru
    December 25, 2012, 11:05 am

    Thank you very much,
    God BLESS YOU.

  5. […] via Searching for the Star of Bethlehem (updated) – News Watch. […]

  6. Larry Valin
    January 11, 2012, 12:25 pm

    I believe the Matthew 2.9 text has to be interpreted astrologically to be understood.

    “star went before magi astrology” googled this to find:



    “Did the Star sit above the infant Jesus?
    Not unless it was a miraculous star. Matthew reports that the star went before and stood over the child, which is how the Greek interprets into English. But this does not make any realistic sense for any normal object in the sky. However, if the message of this passage is astrological, (that is, Matthew did not understand Greek astrological terminology) the intended meaning of these Greek words describes retrograde motion and stationing, respectively. As it turns out, these were important secondary regal conditions that happened later in 6 BC. See p. 89-93 for a thorough discussion of these concepts.”

    These two different academic astronomers support E.W. Faulstich’s ideas about Star of Bethlehem and birth date of Jesus.

  7. casey_san
    January 8, 2012, 1:03 pm

    Perhaps a little late (after X-mas is also before X-mas anyway), but an extrapolation of our planets’ orbits revealed that in the year 7 BC, three (3) comjunctions occurred between Jupiter and Saturn, which is a more spectacular event than the one of Venus and Jupiter – and this 3 times in that very year (in spring, summer and late autumn).
    To note that our solar system is really a very stable one, which allows such exrapolations with a very close tolerance.
    In any case, no-one seriously considers any other stellar or even cosmic event; the probability of a planetary conjunction remains the highest one.

  8. Larry Valin
    January 6, 2012, 3:52 am

    Googled “Torah Star of Bethlehem”:




    Page 113 has sky chart pertaining to John the Baptist and Jesus’ birth dates and Star of Bethlehem. Chart mentions Mercury, but I assume he means Mars.

    I believe the “The Star of Bethlehem” DVD is in error.

  9. Larry Valin
    January 2, 2012, 9:13 am

    Thanks very much for the Star of Bethlehem focus. I consider this link, emailed to me, one of the best gifts I received.

    See “Divination” p. 281 Reformed Torah Commentary Gunther Plaut. This was part of Torah reading week before last.



    Has the Star of Bethlehem led you to find the One born to be King of the Jews?

    “Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information.” Eliot, T. S.

    Opening Stanza from Choruses from “The Rock”

    The Eagle soars in the summit of Heaven,
    The Hunter with his dogs pursues his circuit.

    O perpetual revolution of configured stars,

    O perpetual recurrence of determined seasons,

    O world of spring and autumn, birth and dying

    The endless cycle of idea and action,
    Endless invention, endless experiment,
    Brings knowledge of motion, but not of stillness;
    Knowledge of speech, but not of silence;
    Knowledge of words, and ignorance of the Word.
    All our knowledge brings us nearer to our ignorance,
    All our ignorance brings us nearer to death,
    But nearness to death no nearer to GOD.
    Where is the Life we have lost in living?
    Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
    Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
    The cycles of Heaven in twenty centuries
    Bring us farther from GOD and nearer to the Dust.

    T. S. Eliot (1888-1965),
    The Rock (1934)

  10. Larry Valin
    January 1, 2012, 11:22 am

    It seems your main approach is scientific and you give no credibility to the Christmas story of the Star of Bethlehem as factual.

    Why no consideration for conjunction addressed by Eugene Faulstich in 7-6 B.C. of Saturn, Jupiter and later Mars?

    Here is material addressing Balaam’s prophecy posted at this link.


    I googled “Torah Star of Bethlehem and got your link and this book. He discusses Balaam’s prophecy and Star of Bethlehem.



    Eugene Faulstich discusses this in Witnesses for Jesus The Messiah.

    “The return of Israel at the time of Mordecai must have raised anticipation that he star of Jacob was to come then. The apocryphal prayer of Mordecai reads (Esther 1.1 ff LXX)

    …Speculating about this, the sky was examined by computers for the first day of Nisan, in the second year of Asytages. Nisan 1, 3427 or April 1, 574 B.C.

    Planets and Moon close together; possible alarm to the nations Looking east below horizon sun rising.”

  11. Larry Valin
    January 1, 2012, 4:18 am

    December 30, 2011, 6:51 am

    My underlying interest is simply to resolve whether Keplerian-orbit formulas can reliably predict (if predict is the correct word when looking backward in time) close conjunctions and how do they compare to the presumably more precise results one gets by integrating Newton’s Laws of Motion.

    If you really want my opinion on this or that conjunction or other astronomical event, I would have to say that I’m skeptical about any and all of them. First, of all, if this “star” was supposed to point the way to a particular location, then it must have been fairly close by—maybe a few miles above ground level and lowering down closer as the Magi got nearer to the location. Secondly, I don’t see why God, the creator of everything, must be forced to follow the laws of physics. This is an important event. He can make a miracle. He can suspend this bright object I just mentioned.”

    What do you find about Saturn, Jupiter, and brief Mars conjunction of 7-6 BC?

    Why do you bring in Star of Bethlehem to the discussion?

    You are skeptical about conjunctions in what way?

    Do you take the account in Bible to be true?

    There is no suggestion of miracle in the story, that I see.

    Do you believe in concept of divination or prediction going forward?

    Divination was part of Torah sidrah/reading for a week ago.

    Genesis 44.5 [Is] not this [it] in which my lord drinketh, and whereby indeed he divineth?

    This week’s portion includes: “Genesis 45
    Joseph Deals Kindly with His Brothers
    1 Then Joseph could not control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried, “Have everyone go out from me.”

    Joseph predicted his elevation through dreams and was raised by his interpretation of dreams. His dreams came true or were predictive.

    Genesis 37.9 Now he [f]had still another dream, and related it to his brothers, and said, “Lo, I have [g]had still another dream; and behold, the sun and the moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” 10 He related it to his father and to his brothers; and his father rebuked him and said to him, “What is this dream that you have [h]had? Shall I and your mother and your brothers actually come to bow ourselves down before you to the ground?” 11 His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the saying in mind.

    The story of Wise Men also involves dreams and signs of direction from night sky.

    Googled “Daniel Star of Bethlehem” to get this link.


    “In Hellenistic astrology, Jupiter was the king planet and Regulus (in the constellation Leo) was the king star. As they traveled from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, the star “went before” the magi and then “stood over” the place where Jesus was. In astrological interpretations, these phrases are said to refer to retrograde motion and to stationing, i.e., Jupiter appeared to reverse course for a time, then stopped, and finally resumed its normal progression. ”

    Googled “Torah Star of Bethlehem”:



    • rjvanderbei
      January 1, 2012, 7:47 am

      I brought the Star of Bethlehem into the discussion because it was, let me think, um, Christmas.

      I’m skeptical about conjunctions, and astronomical events in general, having any say about events here on Earth (unless someone finds an asteroid coming straight at us).

      A light in the sky that leads a group of Magi something like a hundred miles to a particular location is a miracle whether the Bible used that word or not. And, a light in the sky that is about 500,000,000 miles away (like Jupiter is) cannot direct anyone on Earth to any particular location. If Jupiter is looming high in the southern sky say shortly after sunset, then it is directing everyone on Earth to head south. That is the correct path only for those due north of the destination. And, of course, anyone walking to follow a light must walk around various obstruction be they rivers, dense forests, etc. So, even a person starting out from due north would miss to target due to the diversions.

      Regarding the transition to retrograde motion, such a transition takes place slowly. With modern equipment we can pin it down with great precision. But, in biblical times, one would only be able to do this by comparing a planet’s proximity to a bright star. After the Jupiter/Venus conjunction in June of 02BC, Jupiter continued on its eastward path relative to the stars. Of course, the Sun also travels on a eastward path and so it passed Jupiter. By mid-August, Jupiter was behind the Sun and after that it was not seen in the evening sky again for another six months. Hence, followers of Jupiter must have been morning folks as that’s when it was visible in the fall of 02BC. In mid-November, it passed fairly close to a mag 4 star called Eta Vir (the fifth brightest star in Virgo). Five weeks later, in late December, Jupiter, now 3 degrees from Eta Vir, transitioned from prograde to retrograde motion. But, the Magi would not have noticed it until mid-January when it would have become clear that it is getting closer to Eta Vir again. So, to use this transition as a signal when to stop walking seems rather dubious to me when the uncertainty in the signal, at least to the Magi, was on the order of several weeks. Even on foot, one can cover a lot of ground in a month’s time.

  12. ccoker
    Washington, DC
    December 30, 2011, 11:35 am

    It is true that close conjunctions between Venus and Jupiter are not rare, but they are rarely seen from the surface of the Earth and also rarely observed by a particular location on the Earth. Take for example the more recent conjunction on 17 May 2000 (~40 arcseconds) observed by the wider of the two coronagraphs on SOHO. It was not visible to the naked eye because it occurred only 7 degrees from the Sun. It turns out that most (~85%) of the really close conjunctions (<100 arcseconds) occur too close to the Sun to be visible on Earth. Venus and Jupiter have slightly different orbit inclinations (angle from the Sun's equator), which makes close conjunctions more common near the Sun and not visible from Earth. The really close, visible conjunctions, when the two objects appear as one, happen over a relatively short time frame (one to a few hours). This means that only a fraction of timezones on Earth would be able to see the event (13%-25%) near dawn or dusk. So if really close conjunctions happen on average every 60 years, but only 15% are visible from Earth and only 13%-25% of those were visible from Mesopotamia, then the last time observers would have seen such a conjunction would have been 1600 to 3200 years previously. You may wish to examine the <100 arcseconds conjunctions in your simulation and estimate their frequency as a function of angle from the Sun.

    • rjvanderbei
      December 31, 2011, 4:39 pm

      But, we don’t know for certain that the conjunction in question took place just after sunset for observers in the middle east. As you point out, the odds are low. Furthermore, if the event did take place just at sunset to those observers, it’s important to note that Venus/Jupiter would have been in the west, not in the south. And Venus/Jupiter set just a little more than 2 hours after sunset. They set in the northwest. In fact, this is a problem for any conjunction with Venus. Venus is never seen in the south and it always sets shortly after sunset or rises shortly before sunrise. It is never high in the south in the evening. The orbital inclination does not put any universal constraint on things to favor conjunctions close to the Sun.

  13. Larry Valin
    December 30, 2011, 4:54 am

    Stepjen: “Overall I think this assesment (sic) makes perfect sense of what the Christmas star was, but, I’m no astrophysisist (sic) either. Humble in Reno, Nevada”

    What assessment? Any 2 B.C. alignment can’t be correct.

    Vanderbei: “Addendum (added 12/29/2011): Roger Sinnott contacted me and explained that he was the person who first suggested the June 17, 2BC, Venus-Jupiter conjunction as a possible explanation for the Star of Bethlehem in a Sky&Telescope article that appeared in December 1968 (pages 384-386). At the time, his analysis was based on Keplerian orbits (with perturbations)”

    What do you think of Saturn-Jupiter 14 month conjunction from March 7 B.C. to May 6 B.C.?.


    “Suslyga’s work was in turn used by Kepler to bolster Kepler’s theory that the Star of Bethlehem was in fact a great conjunction of the three planets: Jupiter, Saturn and Mars. According to Kepler’s calculations, this conjunction occurred around 7/6 BC. This was followed by Christ’s birth a year or two later (Herod ordered the killing of all newborn boys up to 2 years of age), which fits in with Suslyga’s reckoning [4].”

    I believe Wise Men visited between birth of 6 B.C. May 14, and 40 days later when He was brought to Temple by his parents following Mary’s purification according to Jewish law–June 23,06 BC in accordance with Witnesses for Jesus The Messiah by E.W. Faulstich.


    “The Supernova of 1604
    Remnant of Kepler’s Supernova SN 1604

    In October 1604, a bright new evening star (SN 1604) appeared, but Kepler did not believe the rumors until he saw it himself. Kepler began systematically observing the star. Astrologically, the end of 1603 marked the beginning of a fiery trigon, the start of the ca. 800-year cycle of great conjunctions; astrologers associated the two previous such periods with the rise of Charlemagne (ca. 800 years earlier) and the birth of Christ (ca. 1600 years earlier), and thus expected events of great portent, especially regarding the emperor. It was in this context, as the imperial mathematician and astrologer to the emperor, that Kepler described the new star two years later in his De Stella Nova. In it, Kepler addressed the star’s astronomical properties while taking a skeptical approach to the many astrological interpretations then circulating. He noted its fading luminosity, speculated about its origin, and used the lack of observed parallax to argue that it was in the sphere of fixed stars, further undermining the doctrine of the immutability of the heavens (the idea accepted since Aristotle that the celestial spheres were perfect and unchanging). The birth of a new star implied the variability of the heavens. In an appendix, Kepler also discussed the recent chronology work of the Polish historian Laurentius Suslyga; he calculated that, if Suslyga was correct that accepted timelines were four years behind, then the Star of Bethlehem—analogous to the present new star—would have coincided with the first great conjunction of the earlier 800-year cycle.[32]”

    • rjvanderbei
      December 30, 2011, 6:51 am

      My underlying interest is simply to resolve whether Keplerian-orbit formulas can reliably predict (if predict is the correct word when looking backward in time) close conjunctions and how do they compare to the presumably more precise results one gets by integrating Newton’s Laws of Motion.

      If you really want my opinion on this or that conjunction or other astronomical event, I would have to say that I’m skeptical about any and all of them. First, of all, if this “star” was supposed to point the way to a particular location, then it must have been fairly close by—maybe a few miles above ground level and lowering down closer as the Magi got nearer to the location. Secondly, I don’t see why God, the creator of everything, must be forced to follow the laws of physics. This is an important event. He can make a miracle. He can suspend this bright object I just mentioned.

  14. Stepjen
    U.S.A.- Reno Nevada
    December 29, 2011, 7:12 pm

    For no one lights a lamp and then covers it with a vessle. No rather he sets it upon a stand that the whole of the house may see. Take heed then in how you HEAR. (Are we NOW NOT using our eyes to see; but rather, our ears to hear) – He who has – more will be given to him. He who thinks he has but does not, even what little he thinks he has shall be taken away. Its a blessing that Jesus Christ promised to us: that HE will stop the madness when we are being driven in the wrong direction. Also, He’s not going to take your understanding away and give it to the guy who actually has something -ie. in “The parable of the talents”. NO, God will take it away because the truth is no where to be found there. – I know that I wouldn’t want some other guys peice of crap to do something with. Truly, we must be humble so that we can allow God to set us straight. Because, He wants us to know Him. It’s a blessing when God reduces our hypothetical ideas to ash. Like Edison – it’s just another filliment that doesn’t cut the cake. Overall I think this assesment makes perfect sense of what the Christmas star was, but, I’m no astrophysisist either. Humble in Reno, Nevada

  15. Robert Vose
    Melbourne, Australia
    December 29, 2011, 2:36 pm

    So why would the Three Magi travel from the east to Jerusalem of all places to gain a better view of the star Alpha Crucis?
    Simple – Jerusalem is in a mountain range. The best place to see a star that is only just above the horizon is from a mountaintop vantage point overlooking a plain.
    They would have travelled between towns and cities to avoid bandits, and they would have valuable gifts for the rulers and kings in the lands they were traveling through so as to gain safe passage.
    The story of the Magi was mythogolised in the 70 or 80 years since the event.
    For more on this perspective and to see an animation of the early morning sky looking south from Jerusalem see

  16. Larry Valin
    December 29, 2011, 2:15 pm

    icstars: “I don’t think you should discount the perceived significance of conjunctions. ”

    What do you think of Saturn-Jupiter conjunction from March 7 B.C. TO May 6 B.C.?

    An underlying part of story is that Wise Men interpreted an astronomical event which led them to Israel to seek new King, whom they worshiped.

    I don’t believe science is able to address that anything like that could happen.

    Kirk Nixon: “I cant believe you are trying to force the bible to fit science”

    Who me? How is that?

    You can have faith without completely abandoning reason.

    Man computes Biblical Truth was 1984 Des Moines Register story about work of Eugene Faulstich.

    Computer has same root as



  17. Robert Vose
    Melbourne, Australia
    December 29, 2011, 1:50 pm

    Your point is valid and perhaps when the Magi were in Herod’s Court everyone expected the Three Wise Men to say they were following the wanderers, or planets, in their usual dance across the sky. What if the Magi were actually looking for a star that was nowhere near the elliptical? The people in Jerusalem would have been confused and thinking that there was something dodgy about the supposed Astrologers/Astronomers. They must have some other motive!
    By pointing out Bethlehem to the south, the people in Herod’s Court thought that the Magi knew about the history and significance of Bethlehem in Hebrew culture. The Magi may have been looking, as they said, for a star but this was unexpected. If the Magi were following conjunctions everyone would have clearly understood what the Magi were looking for, and there would be no mystery about the visit – nothing worth retelling in the Gospels.

    The magi may have known nothing about the Hebrew customs and beliefs.

  18. icstars
    December 29, 2011, 12:37 pm

    I don’t think you should discount the perceived significance of conjunctions. There is an element of truth to every story; that learned astronomers would be able to predict a sequence of important conjunctions that would escape the notice of everyday people, including Herod if I remember the legend correctly, is the second most believable part of the Star of Bethlehem story. The most believable part is that, in retrospect, people interpret real events to give credence to a Biblical story.

  19. Larry Valin
    December 29, 2011, 1:40 am

    Douglas R.A. Hare in his commentary on Matthew states here:


    “Matthew’s sublime story of the adoration of the Magi has often been better understood by poets and artists than by scholars, whose microscopic analysis has missed its essence. Our task as Christian scholars, preachers, and teachers is to seek a deeper understanding of the story through study of its narrative details without losing our wonderment at the story as a whole.”


    The Cover
    JAMA. 2000;284(24):3099. doi: 10.1001/jama.284.24.3099
    The Adoration of the Magi

    M. Therese Southgate, MD

    Fra Angelico and Fra Filippo Lippi (c 1400-1455) and (c 1406-1469), The Adoration of the Magi, c 1445, Florentine.

    Note JAMA in red letters at top. or is it Ja Ma.

    2 Corinthians 1:20

    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

    For as many as are the promises of God, in Him they are yes; therefore also through Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us.

    Gene had his well-marked Bible open to Psalm 8 across his chest in his casket.

    Psalm 8

    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

    Psalm 8
    The LORD’S Glory and Man’s Dignity.
    For the choir director; on the Gittith. A Psalm of David.

    1 O LORD, our Lord,
    How majestic is Your name in all the earth,
    Who have [a]displayed Your splendor above the heavens!
    2 From the mouth of infants and nursing babes You have established [b]strength
    Because of Your adversaries,
    To make the enemy and the revengeful cease.

    3 When I [c]consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
    The moon and the stars, which You have [d]ordained;
    4 What is man that You [e]take thought of him,
    And the son of man that You care for him?
    5 Yet You have made him a little lower than [f]God,
    And You crown him with glory and majesty!
    6 You make him to rule over the works of Your hands;
    You have put all things under his feet,
    7 All sheep and oxen,
    And also the [g]beasts of the field,
    8 The birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea,
    Whatever passes through the paths of the seas.

    9 O LORD, our Lord,
    How majestic is Your name in all the earth!

  20. Kirk Nixon
    December 29, 2011, 1:37 am

    I cant believe you are trying to force the bible to fit science….shut up and have faith… then tell me how humanity genetically bottle necked down to two people and their offspring not once but twice

  21. Larry Valin
    December 28, 2011, 5:08 pm

    Herod died 4 B.C. Today is commemoration of his slaughter of the innocents of Bethlehem. Also last day of Hanukkah and possibly date of John’s circumcision and naming.

    Holy Innocents, Martyrs
    December 28

    Matthew 2:13-23

    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

    The Flight to Egypt
    13 Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord *appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.”

    14 So [a]Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt. 15 He [b]remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “OUT OF EGYPT I CALLED MY SON.”
    Herod Slaughters Babies
    16 Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi. 17 Then what had been spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled:


    19 But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord *appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, and said, 20 “Get up, take the Child and His mother, and go into the land of Israel; for those who sought the Child’s life are dead.” 21 So [c]Joseph got up, took the Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Then after being warned by God in a dream, he left for the regions of Galilee, 23 and came and lived in a city called Nazareth. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophets: “He shall be called a Nazarene.”

  22. Larry Valin
    December 28, 2011, 4:45 pm

    Robert Vose: “How would people explain the idea that a celestial object could stop above a particular location, while at the same time guiding the Three Wise Men to travel for an extended period of months?”

    The planetary alignment suggested a King in Israel.

    Faulstich’ Witnesses for Jesus the Messiah states: “A unique morning star at the conception of John (3/20/07 B.C.) consisted of an alignment of Mercury, Jupiter ans Saturn. This conception and first alignment took place on the vernal equinox, Saturn and Jupiter continued in a very unusual, close proximity for over fourteen months….A month after Zechariah’s vision, on afternoon of April 27, at the end of the first Jewish month, and eclipse of the sun took place.

    After this Mary conceived (8/27/07 B.C.) This news (Elizabeth’s pregnancy) confirmed Zechariah’s vision, and the news went out… Nine months later, the wise men came to see John, who they thought was the Messiah, and found Jesus in his place.

    A second solar eclipse took place over one spot on the earth within one year (Oct 23, 07 B.C.) Saturn and Jupiter remained in their relative spot together in the sky as the wise men traveled. The arrived in Jerusalem in May, 06 (6 B.C.) When they inquired about the birth of this king, Herod….”

    See previous comment about how Gene thought the alignment might have led them directly to house with Mary and Jesus. She was waiting there 40 days for purification before going to temple.

    Hopefully more later about wise men. Faulstich: “Cyrus was taken into the house of Astyages (King of Esther book in Bible) at the age of twelve when Daniel and Esther lived there.” Was Mordecai Zoroaster?

    Robert Vose: “As mentioned before on this comment thread, a planetary conjunction lasts for only a few days – even if the planets turn retrograde and then direct so as to form a series of conjunctions.”

    Gene explains the stop because of the sun rise as wise men arrived at house where infant Jesus and Mary were staying.

  23. […] to catch the celestial display. …Moon & Venus to put on post-Christmas sky showmsnbc.comSearching for the Star of BethlehemNational GeographicVenus, moon to put on twilight sky showCBS NewsClarksville […]

  24. Larry Valin
    December 28, 2011, 9:27 am

    rjvanderbei: “Pointing at the house from who’s perspective?”

    Matthew 2.9 After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was.

    They had to get directions from Biblical scholars to find location of prophesied birth of King.

    Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the [b]Messiah was to be born. 5 They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written [c]by the prophet:


    Gene has been in Bethlehem. If house, way from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, and time of day were known, one could confirm perspective of wise men when they were directed by “star”.

  25. Robert Vose
    Melbourne, Australia
    December 28, 2011, 7:52 am

    How would people explain the idea that a celestial object could stop above a particular location, while at the same time guiding the Three Wise Men to travel for an extended period of months?

    As mentioned before on this comment thread, a planetary conjunction lasts for only a few days – even if the planets turn retrograde and then direct so as to form a series of conjunctions.

    Planets on the elliptical can be seen from just about anywhere – there use no reason to travel to Jerusalem and no reason to use Bethlehem (due south) as a landmark or point of reference for planets. Astrology can be used for any purpose one fancies…

    The nativity scene describes the location of Acrux 2000 years ago looking south from Jerusalem in late November or early December. That the Southern Cross is no longer visible from Israel/Palestine is precisely the point of the journey by the Magi

  26. Larry Valin
    December 28, 2011, 3:04 am

    Gene’s use of astronomy to “witness” to the creation day 4 of sun,moon, and stars. This was a prophecy of time of “sun of righteousness” birth on the fourth day (1000 year period) of creation. This relates to Judah prophecy. Fourth son of Jacob/Israel. “D” is fourth letter in his Hebrew name and fourth letter in Hebrew alphabet. Ruling son of Judah, son of David would come on “fourth” day.

    Genesis 49.10 “The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
    Nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
    [k]Until Shiloh comes,
    And to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.


    ” Before he had purchased any astronomy programs, he asked two different observatories to give him the position of the planets on the vernal equinox of 4001 B.C. They scoffed at him and would not give him the answer, because he told them up front that he was doing a study on biblical chronology. Then, without mentioning his biblical study, he approached Harvard’s Center for Astrophysics with his request. His letter was dated November 14,1980.

    He received a wonderful Christmas present that year! He received a letter dated December 9, 1980 from Dr. Owen Gingerich, professor of Astronomy and the History of Science at Harvard University. He wrote:

    It is, of course, difficult to calculate accurate planetary positions as early as 4000 B.C. because there are no observations to control accuracy; nevertheless, it is easy to get them within a degree from a straightforward computer program we have here. According to these calculations for the year 4001 B.C., the conjunction of the moon and sun did not occur until the third day after the vernal equinox; and, of course, the first visibility of the crescent would be a couple of days later than that I find the following rough geocentric longitudes:

    Sun 2

    Moon 355

    Saturn 85

    Jupiter 28

    Mars 344

    Venus 343

    Mercury 344

    Sincerely yours,

    Owen Gingerich”

    Gene takes this to be special planetary alignment of creation week.

    Balaam’s prophecy of 1421 B.C.

    17 “I see him, but not now;
    I behold him, but not near;
    A star shall come forth from Jacob,
    A scepter shall rise from Israel,
    And shall crush through the [s]forehead of Moab,
    And [t]tear down all the sons of [u]Sheth.
    18 “Edom shall be a possession,
    Seir, its enemies, also will be a possession,
    While Israel performs valiantly.
    19 “One from Jacob shall have dominion,
    And will destroy the remnant from the city.”

  27. Larry Valin
    December 27, 2011, 9:13 pm

    Witnesses for Jesus the Messiah by Eugene Faulstich pp 8-13

    “Saturn, Jupiter, and Venus formed a straight line with the old moon in the eastern sky as they traveled in the early morning hours. It is possible that the stars Venus, Jupiter Saturn and the moon were actually pointing to a house where Jesus was living. ….After the birth of Jesus, the planets moved out of this unique proximity.” Iyyar 28 or May 14, 06 B.C.

    There were two solar eclipses in 7 B.C.

  28. Don Olson
    San Marcos, TX
    December 27, 2011, 9:05 pm

    What is the Venus-Jupiter angular separation as calculated by your simulator for the 2BC event? I see the statement that the 2BC event was “not an especially close encounter,” but I don’t see your value for the angular separation ((though the number may be in the article or comments, and I may have missed it).

    • rjvanderbei
      December 27, 2011, 9:12 pm

      Good question. I get 779 arcseconds for that event.

  29. Larry Valin
    December 27, 2011, 6:46 pm

    Witnesses for Jesus the Messiah by Eugene Faulstich pp 8-13

    “Saturn, Jupiter, and Venus formed a straight line with the old moon in the eastern sky as they traveled in the early morning hours. It is possible that the stars Venus, Jupiter Saturn and the moon were actually pointing to a house where Jesus was living. ….After the birth of Jesus, the planets moved out of this unique proximity.” Iyyar 28 or May 14, 06 B.C.

    • rjvanderbei
      December 27, 2011, 9:01 pm

      Pointing at the house from who’s perspective?

  30. Larry Valin
    December 27, 2011, 6:32 pm

    The new moon is out for start of last/eighth day of Hanukkah.

    There is a new sun after solstice.


    “The dating of Christ’s birth is arbitrary, in any case. There’s virtually no evidence that Dec. 25 is the actual birth date of Jesus of Nazareth. (The New Testament, for example, makes no mention of a date.) It’s more likely that the 25th was chosen because it coincides with the Roman winter solstice, the day when winter begins to recede and the full light of day begins its return journey.

    In other words, it’s a festival of lights, and that’s the way I choose to celebrate it. If some choose to celebrate something else, so be it.”

    Catholic Church set calendar for Jesus’ circumcision on eighth day according to Jewish law to occur Jan. 1, 1 A.D.
    He was born according to this, December 25, 1 B.C.

    Hanukkah is festival of lights. Gene Faulstich–Man Computes Biblical Truth, DMR Dec.1984–thought John the Baptist was born on first day of Hanukkah and circumcised on eighth day.


    The Witness John
    6 There [c]came a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 [d]He came [e]as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. 8 [f]He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light.

    9 There was the true Light [g]which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His [h]own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were [i]born, not of [j]blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
    The Word Made Flesh


    email to Israeli Jewish friend pertaining to his essay about American Jews assimilating Hanukkah into Jewish “Christmas”. In light of Handel’s Judas Maccabeus I thought of traditional Easter hymn as being appropriate to sing today in celebration of Hanukkah/Christmas/solstice.


    9:29 AM (11 hours ago)

    to Moshe
    Re-read Hijacking Hanukkah early this a.m.



    Judas Maccabeus by Handel has become Thine Be the Glory Risen Conquering Son/Sun.


    Happy Hanukkah.

    See lcvalin at Register blog.

  31. Larry Valin
    December 27, 2011, 5:51 pm

    Jesus was born 5/14/06 B.C. Herod died 4 B.C.

    The astronomy is meaningless without knowledge of history and Bible chronology.

  32. Robert Vose
    Melbourne, Australia
    December 27, 2011, 1:37 pm

    The reason why the Magi were looking for Acrux as the Star of Bethlehem is that the star was gradually disappearing below the horizon due to axial precession. If you were in Jerusalem about 2000 years ago and looking south around the beginning if December, you would see Acrux rise in the east, then move west until it was Stopped being Visible above the town of Bethlehem at dawn. The star would have been just above the horizon si that Bethlehem was used as a landmark. Bethlehem is directly south of Jerusalem amd Herod’s court.

    I used Sky View and Stellarium to test this.

    There is an animation of the Jerusalem southern sky before dawn

  33. thomas
    United States
    December 27, 2011, 1:22 pm

    Who cares? Jesus failed. The religion he founded is just as mean and hateful as the one he despised.

  34. Rabbi McMoe
    Sonoma, Ca.
    December 27, 2011, 12:51 pm

    The Magi were Persians and where much closer to being astrologers then astronomers. Magi is the origin of the word magician. Always good to keep in mind.
    There is no magic in the world only illusion. Everything has an answer, whether humans comprehend it or not. But to think that a specific star pointed to a specific place on ground; bares a thought process that has no reality in the understandings of our stars and courses they follow.
    There is no doubt in my mind that Jesus existed but the stories surrounding him are hard to believe.
    To me, it sounds like this light they followed has all the earmarks of an ET’s spaceship.We have been visited in the past and we are currently being visited. The ancient aliens have left so many signs of their knowledge,it’s hard not to see.
    Remember, in all the ancient texts and tribes; there is both verbal and written information talking about them as Gods.
    The Mahabhata has

  35. iamhe
    December 27, 2011, 11:15 am

    Regardless of what mouths have spoken, and what pens have inked, the Red Letters tell a perfect message that has won the hearts of billions of those persons who have listened… it is “The Message”, how ever gotten here that speaks the perfect truth of Love.

    Red letters = the words of christ in the new testament..

  36. iamhe
    December 27, 2011, 11:05 am

    if you calculate backwards from the last appearance of Haley’s Comet 1986, who’s period has varied over the millennia -use 76.37 average years- the Comet arrives right on time for The Birth of Christ.

  37. Machsnix
    December 27, 2011, 9:56 am

    This late Bronze age myth was written by men who thought the earth was flat. It was also scientifically ignorant men who decided what “God” really said in their choosing what writings of the era were “holy” or not. Have another koolaid. Try the lemon lime this time.

  38. ajax
    December 27, 2011, 9:40 am

    The story of Jesus in a manger,the star and 3 wise men is from the story of the birth of Mithras. The new testament does not number the Magi . The legend is over 4 thousand yrs old but was adopted by the Roman soldiers as they were posted in the East and then brought as a religion to Rome upon returning home.Mithras, in the religious ceremony slew a perfect bull upon an elevated altarThe people passed under the scaffold and blood dripped upon them thus insuring good fortune. The religion was replaced and entwined to become the Christianity of today. This is history if anyone cares to spend a few months on research.

  39. BF
    December 27, 2011, 9:30 am
  40. J. de Vries
    December 27, 2011, 8:07 am

    I’m not an (amateur) astronomer but just looking around and using your common sense it is obvious that the Star of Bethlehem is not a phenomenon of a star or any other object of astronomy. As told in the Bible the “star’ stood above the place where Jesus could be found. Then the magi entered the right house. How low does a “star” have to be to clearly indicate a certain house and not the neighbor’s house? So low that it impossibly could be an astronomic object. The Creator who sent angels to the shephers, served the Magi, probably much later, with a light phenomenon that indicated the house where Jesus was. Impossible for whatever science to explain that light. It was a pur miracle. Certainly not a star or planet. It is like the whole Bible a matter of faith and not of science.

  41. Frederick
    December 27, 2011, 7:55 am

    Science or rather some Scientist, have made several attempts to discredit the TRUTH.
    Written in the Holy Bible.
    It tried to disprove the Birth of Jesus and it failed.
    It tried to disprove The Life of Jesus and it failed.
    It tried to disprove the many miracles Jesus performed and it failed.
    It tried to disprove the death of Jesus and it failed.
    It tried to disprove the resurrection and has failed.
    My nana had this saying if you’ve had more than three strikes then its game over. Time to find a new game.
    To think science does nothing to feed the millions of starving children, nor stop pollution and greed.
    But yet we have thousands of dollars to give to idle minds to waste on Personal hypothesis.
    What’s next, why no waste a couple of Trillion trying to create and mass produce sea water.

  42. Robert Vose
    Melbourne, Australia
    December 27, 2011, 7:43 am


    Mystery of the Bethlehem Star

    One question about the Star of Bethlehem is why the Magi were able to see the star but no one else did. This is really one of the main points about the story and the reason why the star of Bethlehem is so mysterious.

    The story of the three Magi and the Star of Bethlehem as it is described in the Bible can be explained as being the result of a miscommunication:

    1. We can assume that the three Magi did see a star when they were in Jerusalem.

    2. We know that the Court of Herod was interested to find out what the Magi were looking for.

    3. The Magi tried to give an explanation of the particular star they were observing.

    4. However, this explanation by the Magi was misunderstood by the people in Herod’s court and they did not identify the star that the Magi were talking about. The star that the Magi were trying to point out was an ordinary star for the people in Jerusalem. so they overlooked it trying to see something extra-ordinary.

    5. From the story we can gather that having failed to convey the identity of the star (Alpha Crucis) the Magi tried to point out the star’s identity in many different ways:

    i. Empirically by stating that the star rose in the east and moved west till it was no longer visible,

    ii. In relation to a landmark (just above Bethlehem looking south from Jerusalem),

    iii. By the constellation near the star (the legs of the Centaur or horse in Centaurus)

    iv. And perhaps by the shape of the neighbouring stars within Crux. The Southern Cross is a small but distinctive constellation. (This is conjecture, but the main stars of the Southern Cross could be imagined as a baby lying on its back).

    v. The Magi and the people in Herod’s court would have had little culturally in common to communicate through. They would have had different names for the stars and constellations, different languages, different cosmologies, a different understanding of stars and the sky, etc.

    6. The people in Herod’s Court were uneasy after not correctly identifying the star that the Magi were trying to point out, and they continued to try to think and discuss the meaning of the star that they failed to recognise by the descriptions that the Magi had provided.

    7. The various descriptions by the Magi of the star was put together into a narrative story meaningful to the Court. They imagined a star above Bethlehem, near where there was a baby lying on its back, next to the legs of a horse (Centaurus), and all of this in the one location – like in a stable.

    8. The star played on the mind of Herod and he associated the unidentified star with the birth of the Messiah, leading to the murder of the innocents.

    9. A few generations later when the Gospels were being written, the story of the Star of Bethlehem had taken on mythical elements and was included into the story of the birth of Jesus. (For a description of this mythologising process see Mircea Eliade, The sacred and the Profane: The nature of Religion, Harcourt, New York, 1959).

    One other thing to remember is that according to the Hebrew worldview in the Old Testament, the sky was a solid dome – much like in the movie The Truman Story. The thought that angels could winch a star down from heaven deux ex machina so that the star dangled above a particular shed in a small village would have been considered rational and reasonable to the people who initially wrote and read the Gospels.

    All up, the story of the Star of Bethlehem can be interpreted as the result of a cultural misunderstanding. Yet, it can still be said that the story persisted for over 2000 years by the will of God. Even with this interpretation of the star, the story of the Bethlehem Star still has power and meaning. It is still a mystery.

    The people in Herod’s could have seen the star that the Magi were describing; they failed, however, to recognise the star that the Magi were trying to point out to them. The cultural story of the Bethlehem star can be understood from this context.

    For more on the Star of Bethlehem as Alpha Crucis of the Southern Cross please see:



  43. Ima Ryma
    December 27, 2011, 6:25 am

    The Star of Bethlehem, so bright,
    Oft explained as a conjunction
    Of Jupiter and Venus light –
    Scientic explanation.
    ‘Cause inquiring minds want to know,
    To shed more light on Jesus’ birth.
    What the Bible says is not so,
    Until science does prove its worth.
    The only way to truly prove
    Is to go back in time to see.
    There are those around today who’ve
    Been there, done that – ah yes they be!

    When asked to explain that bright star,
    Time trippers say some things just are.

  44. rjvanderbei
    December 27, 2011, 6:25 am

    I have been asked via private email to post the source code for my simulator. It consists of several files of Java code. I bundled them as a ‘tar’ file and put the bundle at: http://www.princeton.edu/~rvdb/JAVA/SolarSystem.tar

    To unpack the bundle on a Unix-like (i.e., Linux or MacOS) computer, simply type “tar -xvf SolarSystem.tar” in a terminal window.

    Then, follow the instructions in the file README.txt.

    BTW, this simulator was used to generate some of the charts in my Nat Geo book “Sizing Up The Universe”: http://www.princeton.edu/~rvdb/SUTU/lookinslideshow.html

  45. hi imreal
    December 27, 2011, 5:05 am

    I have seen U.F.O.’s.
    (along with thousands of other people that night, who called the FAA)
    I was with my grandmother. We watched them move and they were laser-point detailed. They moved independently and intelligently.
    The big thing is: They looked like stars.

    Also, since we are talking about the bible:
    Remember that during the Jewish exodus a pillar of cloud guided them by day, and a light in the sky by night.

    Many athiests have seen U.F.O.’s and they are supposedly very reliable sources. Most people who have seen them are people who are in the sky alot.
    Also consider the recent “Phoenix Lights” on youtube.

    One last thing, now that I think of it. My sighting (along with my whole big city) ended with two Chinook class helicopters coming from two different bases North and South. They beamed a headlight at the things. That’s when all three of them split up and went out into space for about an hour until they became as small as real stars, then disappeared. My grandmother and I watched lying on our backs trading binoculars. The military was interested!

    Anyway, we will just have to start explaining how dead people came out of heaven and then ascended again as well.

    I am a believer, I love confirmation of what I already know though– you know what I mean? It’s really deep.

  46. ruin
    December 27, 2011, 4:48 am

    What’s everyone think about this simulation:


    …does it hold up well compared to everyone’s fav planetarium prog? I plugged in the said date, June 17, 2 BC by moving pluto backwards because it’s not possible to enter the date manually..but didnt see conjunction. Jupiter rose around 2am while Venus at 9pm so maybe not so accurate?

  47. Jim
    December 27, 2011, 4:45 am

    This is the type of backwards pseudo-science that makes the rest of the world laugh at us. Keep religion as religion and allow people to have their faith. Trying to justify religious belief through science creates dangerous ignorance of both.

  48. Dmitri Beyonsense
    san francisco, ca
    December 27, 2011, 4:32 am

    I’ve read really similar article in 2008 at dailymail.co.uk:
    “It may not be too late to send the presents back, as astronomers have calculated that Christmas should not be celebrated on December 25 – but on June 17 instead.
    Researchers tracked the appearance of the ‘Christmas star’, which the Bible states three wise men followed to find Jesus.
    Australian stargazer Dave Reneke used complex computer software to chart the exact positions of all celestial bodies and map the night sky as it would have appeared over the Holy Land more than 2,000 years ago.
    He discovered that a bright star really did appear over Bethlehem 2,000 years ago – but pinpointed the date of Christ’s birth as June 17, and not December 25.
    Scientists claim the Christmas star was most likely a magnificent conjunction of the planets Venus and Jupiter, which were so close together they would have shone unusually brightly as a single ‘beacon of light’ which appeared suddenly.
    Mr Reneke says the wise men probably interpreted it as the sign they had been waiting for, and they followed the ‘star’ to Christ’s birthplace in a stable in Bethlehem, as described in the Bible.
    Generally accepted research has placed the nativity to somewhere between 3BC and 1AD.

    Using the St Matthew’s Gospel as a reference point, Mr Reneke pinpointed the planetary conjunction, which appeared in the constellation of Leo, to the exact date of June 17 in the year 2BC.

    Mr Reneke, who is editor of Sky and Space magazine, said: ‘We have software that can recreate the night sky exactly as it was at any point in the last several thousand years.

    ‘Venus and Jupiter became very close in the the year 2BC and they would have appeared to be one bright beacon of light.

    ‘We are not saying this was definitely the Christmas star – but it is the strongest explanation for it of any I have seen so far.

    ‘Astronomy is such a precise science, we can plot exactly where the planets were, and it certainly seems this is the fabled Christmas star. There’s no other explanation that so closely matches the facts we have from the time.

    ‘This could well have been what the three wise men interpreted as a sign. They could easily have mistaken it for one bright star.’

    He added: ‘December is an arbitrary date we have accepted but it doesn’t really mean that is when it happened.

    ‘This is not an attempt to decry religion. It’s really backing it up as it shows there really was a bright object appearing in the East at the right time.

    ‘Often when we mix science with religion in this kind of forum, it can upset people. In this case, I think this could serve to reinforce people’s faith.’

    Previous theories have speculated that the star was a supernova (exploding star) or even a comet.

    But Mr Reneke says that by narrowing the date down, the technology has provided the most compelling explanation yet.”

  49. Dmitri Beyonsense
    san francisco, ca
    December 27, 2011, 4:26 am
  50. Christopher Charles
    December 27, 2011, 4:05 am

    The most important thing was the reason for the star.
    ‘Luke 2:11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”
    a Saviour God the Son was born to die for our sins so we would not go to hell when we died. Interesting Jesus is called the “Morning Star” and the “Day Star.” He was the true star that night.

  51. Alex
    December 27, 2011, 3:22 am

    Interesting read, but even if it was Jupiter/Venus, it further proves all the historically-factual information in the Bible.

    As for the ones criticizing Christianity, knock it off. You people (yes, I said “YOU PEOPLE”) have nothing better to do than to antagonize and get your two cents’ in. No one wants to hear the psychobabble except the the birds in your own flock. Stay on topic if you want to discuss your opinions/facts.

  52. […] Searching for the Star of BethlehemNational GeographicA popular explanation for the Star of Bethlehem is that it was actually a conjunction of Jupiter and Venus that presumably occurred on June 17, 2BC (see bethlehemstar.net). In other words, in the evening hours of that day, Jupiter and Venus appeared so …Moon & Venus to put on post-Christmas sky showmsnbc.comVenus, moon put on twilight sky showKXLH Helena NewsVenus, moon to put on twilight sky showCBS NewsMedical Daily -SignOnSanDiego.com -MLive.comall 28 news articles » […]

  53. Jon
    December 27, 2011, 2:52 am

    When you say:
    “My simulator, on the other hand, is not based on a simple formula. To find out where things were 2000 years ago, I have to run the simulator from now back to then one small step at a time.”

    Are you making the claim that this formula minimizes the unaviodable compounding iterative nature of statistical error that would result from one query alone?? Could you explain further?

    • rjvanderbei
      December 27, 2011, 5:52 am

      Ah, you have raised a very good question. My simulator uses an “integrator” which belongs to a family called “simplectic” integrators. These are very good—they don’t make systematic errors. To check that my code is indeed simplectic, I monitor the total energy of the system over time. Energy is a conserved quantity and so this number should not change. In my simulation, the total energy only changed in the twelfth decimal place and it displayed no systematic trend. So, after 2000 simulated years, the total energy was still about the same as when the simulation started (to 12 decimal places). Nonetheless, I do worry about round-off errors and discretization errors accumulating. But, integrating the laws of motion is fundamentally more accurate than the approximate formulas used by planetarium programs. Both will be less believable as they try to predict events further from the current epoch, but at any epoch the integrator/simulation algorithm should be more accurate than the approximate formulas.

  54. […] the original post: Searching for the Star of Bethlehem – National Geographic :bethlehem, daily, evening, geographic, helena-news, jupiter, medical-daily, news-articles, […]

  55. Jon
    December 27, 2011, 2:46 am

    Great article.

    So from what I can gather, you are summarily making a case for a Jupiter/Venus Conjunction not being the fabled star of Bethlehem. You are NOT presenting your own interpretation of the event, in any way.

    I’m OK with that and don’t see the need for others to read any more into the post.

    YET, I am interested in the possibility of your model’s ability to actually produce semi-empirical evidence to explain the account rather than debunk a seemingly common misconception? Have you taken these lengths in your analyses?

    • rjvanderbei
      December 27, 2011, 5:38 am

      Thanks Jon. You are right. I was simply critiquing Rick Larson’s analysis for a friend and thought I’d share that critique here. I’m not a historian so I’m probably not well qualified to go much beyond what I’ve already posted but, since you ask, I guess I would say that if it is true that there was an event in the sky that was produced by an all-powerful God I think he/she would not feel bound to rely on predictable celestial events. Rather, this God could have put a light up there and moved it anyway he/she wanted. It would make more sense to put that light close by, say tens of miles above the ground, than to put it far out in space, although an all-powerful God could have done either. Anyway, that’s my opinion.

  56. SLB
    December 27, 2011, 2:40 am

    Haven’t any of you people been properly educated by the history channel? The star was ancient aliens, obviously…

  57. Liann
    Bay area, California
    December 27, 2011, 2:32 am

    Really? Using science to investigate a fairy tale? Oh, I forgot, that you are using CREATION-SCIENCE, that proves that man co-existed with dinosaurs.

  58. featherknife
    December 27, 2011, 2:26 am

    My theory, and I am almost totally positive it’s correct, is that the star of Bethlehem was, and is, a large lump od bullshit blazing away in the weakened minds of religious delusionals. Sorry, but, just because it is believed by some, that is not proof of the accuracy of an obviously flawed belief system. I know, I know, you are gonna say…..”But we get to live forever if we say the magic words.” I’m not buying it, and neither should you.

  59. GeraldD D. Sain
    December 27, 2011, 2:25 am

    The way I understand it is, for days, the star never moved… This was so because the three kings would not have found Baby Jesus in the cradle…In other words, this one bright star was stationary, it did not rotate from east too west…
    So, quit wasting your money…
    The star was stationary over Jesus for days, possable weeks…

  60. Kevin Penner
    December 27, 2011, 2:24 am

    As an amateur Astronomy for 30 years I have followed the different ideas posted at various times on the Star of B. I have never found anything that spoke to the issue conclusively. That is until I saw the video produced by the Author of http://www.bethlehemstar.net/ I think Rick Larson truly did find the breadcrumbs that lead to the truth of this matter.

  61. Sonny
    December 27, 2011, 2:17 am

    Thank you Fatesrider. Everyone seems to be assuming that such an event actually caused the “wise men” to travel from somewhere (it’s not stated from where) because they saw a star in the east and just had to investigate. In the first place if they were from Babylon to be over Bethlehem the “star” would have been in the west, which a glance at a map of the area would confirm. And this is all assuming that any of the events described actually happened. There’s no historic evidence that any of it occurred. And whoever it was that suggested that the Book of Mormon was written concurrently with the events described is really stretching credulity.

  62. Stacia
    United States
    December 27, 2011, 2:13 am

    1) NatGeo Google = I’m sad this is considered news. This is fsr from news.
    2) NatGeo or writer, whomever: Don’t be too cheap to pay for an editor’s review on something you’re willing to publish. For example, “Also, would the Magi really have been confused by this conjunction.” would be a question and end with a (?) question mark. Either your coding isn’t prepared to be read in multiple browsers OR you’ve neglected to have a ‘second pair of eyes’ review and catch things like missing spaces and incorrect punctuation; whatever the selection, the disappointing statement to credibility with attention to detail is noted.
    3) If I were trying to capture God’s thoughts and recount my own story while trying to survive, I might use bullet points too. No hard feelings Matthew.

    If you’re looking for a reason to doubt, you’ll find one. If you’re looking for reasons to believe, you’ll find those too. That’s where the faith comes into play – perspective. Believe what you will; question everything. Save our comments; I won’ return to read them.

    • rjvanderbei
      December 27, 2011, 9:02 am

      Dear Sictaa. Thank you for pnintiog out the typo. In the frutue, I wlil try to be mcuh mroe creaful. 🙂

  63. Jeff
    December 27, 2011, 2:08 am

    Other than the obvious, the problem with your search is that you’re looking at the wrong time of year. An objective look at that questionable Christian book points toward a different season than winter. Dec. 25 is the Solar New Year, and the nativity was moved to date so as to supplant other religious celebrations. The Bethleham Star is BS.

  64. Chauffeur
    December 27, 2011, 2:07 am

    I’m continually amused when I read articles that suggest the creator of the universe (and science) is constrained by some laws of physics or astronomy.

  65. Naahmah G
    December 27, 2011, 1:48 am

    Seems to me that if the Bible said this was a new star then there is no need for supposition. Why for once can’t we just accept the Bible for what it said and says and stop trying to figure something else out that cannot be 100% prove within our own human shortcomings? Without controversy great is the mystery of Godliness, we will never fully understand or be able to explain all the vast wondrousness of God. After all, we will understand it better by and by!! Just saying!

  66. eric
    December 27, 2011, 1:41 am

    It is distressing that people in a 21st century industrial democracy are discussing a folkloric account as though it were history.

  67. d. m. urquidi
    austin, texas
    December 27, 2011, 1:38 am

    Why are natural events confused with the Bible?

    If there had been a great star that would have been a star, more likely a nova, A nova would have been recorded in all astronomical records, not just the Bible.
    To say that Jupiter and Venus had a major conjunction and thus became so super bright that no one but the shepherds and the Magi (or Magian) saw it. Really? That is like saying that Mars. the planet and Venus, a planet separated by the Earth’s orbit once had such a conjunction. And if Velikovsky was wrong about that conjunctive orbital event how could another Venus conjunction have occurred with the Earth still between Venus and, now another planet still further away on the other side of, not only the Earth but also of Mars. Yes, Jupiter is a large planet and maybe has the appearance of a bright star,but Venus is a brighter star because it is closer to the Earth. And with all of its impressive size, Jupiter cannot compare with Venus at all. It is too distant from the orbit of Venus to even be impressive alone if one does not use the Super Telescopes to see it. What about Julius Caesar
    s “year of confusion”? Why did he need a 445-day year to adjust a calendar? What did the Christmas Star have to do with such an event anyway?

  68. A.Smith
    December 27, 2011, 1:33 am

    Iraqi Museums containing great antique Babylonian artefacts were targeted and destroyed during US Op Desert Storm. For a short period, a Air Force official stated a specific bombing raid on the largest museum had been ordered directly from the Vatican. Many have openly wondered ‘why’ a museum in Iraq containing ancient Babylonian artefacts was deliberately targeted and bombed. The museum security staff that survived the bombs of course fled leaving the museum open for thieves to plunder and steal without regard nor worry.

    While Babylonian religious theurgy is much earlier than the Hebrews, it has near identical titles for the infant savour of the world, it has near identical theurgy for transformation of the wine and bread into the blood and flesh of that being.

    Such strongly suggests latter day ‘Christian’ bible writers plagiarised and cherry picked parts of the Babylonian theurgical practices as well as amply pointed out by other pre-existing religious their practices as well, then destroy as much evidence as they could thru burnings of parchments, documents, temples. The ‘Bible’ tates Jesus was born from spring thru summer when lambs generally give birth, not at the Winter Solstice which a Pope nefariously deliberately chose to erase the extremely popular Roman Saturnalia celebration of 7 days. That Pope died shortly after doing that and locking up the Saturnalia priests.

  69. Bob
    December 27, 2011, 1:28 am

    So the ‘word of god’ doesn’t know the difference between stars and planets. Divine my ass. This isn’t science it is fables. It’s like trying to study Apollo’s pull on the sun.

  70. robert
    December 27, 2011, 1:21 am

    The “STAR” was something God put up there for just that time.
    If he wants a STAR to stand still and not move it will do just that.

  71. James Snapp, Jr.
    December 27, 2011, 1:20 am

    RJ – To simplify: how often has there been a planetary conjunction of Venus and Jupiter in Leo?

  72. Woundedwarrior
    December 27, 2011, 1:16 am

    Uhhh you need to check your facts. The book of Mormon was written in 1827.


    Oregon USA
    December 26, 11:31 pm
    Fatesrider, you may want to revisit your statement that no other historical evidence exists for the star of Bethlehem than the New Testament. The Book of Mormon talks about it at length, and it was recorded therein, not 70 years after the fact, but concurrent with it.

  73. James Snapp, Jr.
    December 27, 2011, 1:15 am

    Well, RJ, weren’t the magi more like astrologers than modern-day astronomers? Of course they were. It seems fair to figure that the zodiac-sign in which the star, or planetary conjunction, occurred would have been significant to them, and it would have been noticed by them. I encourage you, before you try to draw any further conclusions, to reconfigure the program to search for planetary conjunctions in Leo or Pisces, and see how unique such a thing was. I look forward to the results.

  74. Peter Pi
    Denver CO
    December 27, 2011, 12:54 am

    This would be out of your realm, I acknowledge, but,
    What if the Star was simply allegorical? To emphasize from the beginning Jesus’ uniqueness and greatness?
    Both Nativity stories, Matthew and Luke, as I understand it, were “tacked on” to the Matthew and Luke gospel narratives some time after they were originally written. Mark makes no mention of any spectacular birth whatsoever. John makes theological assertions about Jesus’ origins, but likewise, skips the birth.
    One of the Nativity narratives has Herod slaughtering all three-year-old males in a deliberate comparison to the Moses narrative (Jesus = the New Moses).
    A friend of mine tells me that during the reign of a great ruler in ancient times, it was not uncommon for flattering narratives about the ruler to mention great natural signs and wonders auspiciously announcing the ruler’s birth.
    And, when Jesus finally embarks on his ministry, no one remembers any of the Nativity events. Oh, sure, they were all told to keep quiet about it. Riiiight.

  75. Chirs A.
    December 27, 2011, 12:47 am

    It seems to me you have reinvented the wheel. An article in the December, 1986 issue of Sky & Telescope details how Jean Meeus, using a supercomputer running a code similar to the one you describe having written, determined that the June 17, 2 BC conjunction of Jupiter and Venus would have appeared as a single object to the unaided eye from the Holy Land.

  76. Cronin
    New York
    December 27, 2011, 12:43 am

    As is often the case, the simplest answer is the truth, and it requires no astronomical analysis. The Matthew nativity story — the only gospel that contains the aspect of the star — contains no reference to a great or bright or unusual celestial event. That is a version of the story that centuries of the faithful, who came later, turned into legend — manger scenes on church lawns often have a star hovering above, out of all proportion, and chronology, to the scene below; carols have been written to the bright star. Matthew tells us only that wise men travelled by star to find Jesus, and likely found him months after he was born — the wise men as part of the nativity scene is also contradicted by Matthew’s text. In fact, Matthew did not even say there were “three.” The number of wise men is another part of the legend that was constructed later. Over time the wise men came to be known as the “magi,” the plural of “magus,” a reader or follower of the stars, an astrologer, if you will. One can assume they came to be called magi because of the simple fact that in the original Matthew story the wise men were able to interpret the importance of the star and its relevance to their destination. Indeed, a straightforward reading of the text indicates that the wise men, or magi, followed a certain star they believed had astrological significance related to the birth of the “King of the Jews.” According to Matthew, they arrived in Jerusalem “after Jesus was born,” apparently lost, and inquiring about the baby king’s whereabouts. Their story was related to Herod who asked the magi to go find the boy and spy for him. They again followed the star until it led them to Bethlehem. The Matthew story held little mystery to the readers in the era in which the gospel was written. In fact, it lends credence. If the wise men were magi, the stars were their stock and trade. Nor is there a great mystery as to why the wise men followed a star to a destination. The stars as an Earth road map is a concept of which gospel readers of today are largely ignorant. But even now, a celestial navigating sailor can find her or his way home from the other side of the planet by studying the position of the stars — an ancient science — without need of an unusual celestial convergence, an unusually bright star, or a brighter than usual planet. Unfortunately, rjvanderbel, the original text of the Matthew gospel is clearly written. Whatever significant celestial event you or others find is interesting but has no bearing on the simple story of desert astrologers navigating by a commonplace star, at an undisclosed time after the birth of Jesus.

  77. jlcotton
    Dallas, TX
    December 27, 2011, 12:28 am

    I’ve been in planetarium work for over 40 years and have produced my share of Christmas Star programs, all involving conjunctions. Made the same mistakes everybody else did. Then I got a lead to the work of Michael R. Molnar and his book “The Star of Bethlehem: The Legacy of the Magi” which came out in 1999. Mike did what no else has done: spend 3 years reading the ancient astrologers like Vettius Valens, Firmicus Maternus, Ptolemy and others. His reasoning was that, if you are going to understand how they interpreted goings-on in the sky, you had better first learn how they thought. It was likely an astrologically interesting sign, no matter what its visual appearance was. He found that supernovae and comets were not significant, as they were not predictable. Configurations and relations of Sun, Moon and planets in the Zodiacal signs were the heart of the matter. After three years of studying ancient astrology, it took him about 5 minutes to find the sign. The key discovery appears to have been a note in Ptolemy that the sign governing Judea was Aries. Anything we might think about Pisces or Leo was just wrong. Ptolemy, in the Tetrabiblos, said Aries. Jupiter was also extremely important and was in Aries in 6 B.C. In his words, “…it is evident that the sky on April 17, 6 B.C., would have been thought to signal not just the birth of a Judean king but the anticipated birth of the Messiah.” (Molnar p101) The sign was astrologically spectacular and visually not observable; the Sun was right in the middle of it. Our Digistar system reproduces it nicely. There’s far too much for me to go into here. Best recommendation is to get a copy of the book and study it. It will make a lot of sense. The lesson for me was that what WE think is spectacular or important is completely irrelevant. We must understand how ancient astrologers thought; Molnar did that. He provides lots of references for those who wish to dig deeper. Happyb reading.

  78. Robert Vose
    Melbourne, Australia
    December 27, 2011, 12:26 am

    I don’t think the Star of Bethlehem could have been a conjunction of plants. The planets on the elliptic could be seen from anywhere and there is no reason to go to Jerusalem to see such a conjunction.

    I think the Star of Bethlehem could have been the star Alpha Crucis (Acrux) from the Southern Cross. There are many reason why this is a good candidate for the Bethlehem Star, so they can not all be listed here in the comments…

    These reasons are listed in a couple of posts on my blog:

  79. krishna
    December 27, 2011, 12:19 am

    according to Hindu astrology whenever jupiter is in exaltation a great spiritual being is born on earth. That explains the birth of Jesus Christ.

  80. macjohnnv
    December 26, 2011, 11:51 pm

    I thought that the Book of Mormon was only written less than 200 years ago.


    Oregon USA
    December 26, 11:31 pm
    Fatesrider, you may want to revisit your statement that no other historical evidence exists for the star of Bethlehem than the New Testament. The Book of Mormon talks about it at length, and it was recorded therein, not 70 years after the fact, but concurrent with it.

  81. Stephan Pickering / Chofetz Chayim ben-Avraham
    United States
    December 26, 2011, 11:48 pm

    Shalom & Erev tov…all quite interesting…and irrelevant. ‘Yeshua benMiriam’ was the fabrication of a 2nd century CE, Graeco-Roman-Egyptian, revelatory death cult. There is NO evidence of: parthenogensis, ‘wise men’ following a star, no Yosef and Miriam, no disciples, no crucifiction, etc etc. There are, to be sure, numerous koine Greek forged codices (the so-called ‘gospels’), and ‘Paul’ was invented by Marcion or one of his acolytes. The smoke of Auschwitz hangs over the mythical ’empty tomb’. Why you, an astronomer, would be propogating apologetics for exterminationist crucifictionism is baffling. STEPHAN PICKERING / Chofetz Chayim ben-Avraham

  82. ARL
    Cambridge, Mass.
    December 26, 2011, 11:45 pm

    Why would astronomers travel to “follow” a star? How could a star “come to rest” over a specific point on earth?

    Anyone who has known the illusion of the moon following them knows that using the biblical story of the “star” to look for a literal astronomical body makes no sense.

  83. James Snapp, Jr.
    December 26, 2011, 11:40 pm

    Dear R J Vanderbei:
    If I recall correctly, the Bethlehem-Star-as-planetary-conjunction theory found some of its appeal not merely in the notion that a conjunction occurred at about the right time, but that it occurred in a particular location relative to the zodiac — in or near, let’s see; I can’t recall it off the top of my head, but I think it was Pisces, or Leo, or perhaps both somehow. Could you perhaps run a program adjusted to see how often a conjunction of Jupiter and Venus occurred in whatever zodiac-location (if any) it occurred in in 2 (or was it 6) B.C?

    • rjvanderbei
      December 26, 2011, 11:54 pm

      True, the story has lots of components including the fact that Regulus, which is in Leo, is nearby. To me, attaching significance to constellation or zodiacal considerations is closer to astrology than to astronomy. So, yes, I could do such investigations but I’m not particularly inclined to. I think it could become a never-ending quest.

  84. Aaron
    December 26, 2011, 11:38 pm

    “The real problem is hard. The nine planets not only get tugged by the Sun, but they also interact with each other.”

    Nine??… Nein, eight.

    • rjvanderbei
      December 26, 2011, 11:47 pm

      Aha, you got me! 🙂

  85. michael z
    December 26, 2011, 11:36 pm

    So if it wasn’t this event does your simulation point to anything that may have been the event?

  86. myqric
    Oregon USA
    December 26, 2011, 11:31 pm

    Fatesrider, you may want to revisit your statement that no other historical evidence exists for the star of Bethlehem than the New Testament. The Book of Mormon talks about it at length, and it was recorded therein, not 70 years after the fact, but concurrent with it.

  87. Patrick Daniel
    New Orleans
    December 26, 2011, 11:29 pm

    Enlightening but please give additional info.

    First you say:

    ” Specifically, these planetarium programs tell us that the separation between Venus and Jupiter appeared to be only about 38 arcseconds at the time of the conjunction. This is a very small separation.”

    Then you say:

    “Of these, 38 of them found Venus and Jupiter within 100 arcseconds of each other, i.e.,indistinguishable to the human eye. On average, that’s one such indistinguishability event every 60 years or so—relatively rare but not profoundly, miraculously, rare.”

    Okay, so, I get that this planetary conjunction with separation less than 100 arcseconds is not profoundly rare, but how rare is one that is only 38 arcseconds? Can you tell us how many times that has occurred since 100BC and how often there been a smaller separation?


    • rjvanderbei
      December 26, 2011, 11:43 pm

      According to my simulator, there were 19 conjunctions in which the separation was less than 38 arcseconds. Here are the separations (given with too much precision!)…
      2.3484, 2.7086, 4.5586, 6.2913, 7.6139, 9.6881, 11.2855, 12.5985, 15.0016, 16.8599, 18.6757, 20.1160, 21.9028, 22.1877, 24.4871, 26.6378, 30.0089, 33.9968, and 34.8246.
      It is possible to get a sense of the dates by looking at the chart in my original blog posting.

  88. Chuck Griffin
    United States
    December 26, 2011, 11:14 pm

    I think your article has a flaw rooted not in someone’s computer calculations, but in how careful a reading of the Bible you’re using as you attempt to connect Matthew’s account of Jesus’ birth with astronomical events.

    You seem to be assuming that the brightness of the star was somehow a factor in the wise men’s desire to travel to Bethlehem. I call such an assumption “The Little Drummer Boy Effect.” Traditional Christmas nativity scenes, television shows and songs make much ado about the brilliance of the star over Bethlehem, but the Bible in no way suggests the “star” was particularly bright. In fact, it indicates otherwise.

    When the wise men arrive in Jerusalem and announce they came because they had observed a star, no one seems to know what they’re talking about. King Herod has to ask them when they saw the “star.” And what they’re following is still visible in the night sky–the wise men see it move and then stop moving over Bethlehem. (Planetary retrograde motion explains how this odd movement of the “star” recorded in the Bible is possible.) Clearly, there’s nothing spectacular in the sky causing everyone to look upward.

    Yes, these wise men were attuned to the sky, but in this case magnitude of brightness wasn’t their concern. They were Babylonian astrologers, reading messages from the planets and stars they were observing, all of which were associated with ideas like birth, kingship, and the Israelites with whom they had become familiar after the Babylonian conquest of Israel.

    The Griffith Observatory brought all this out nearly 10 years ago, doing a very good job of relating astrologically important conjunctions of Jupiter, Venus and Regulus to what the Bible actually says about the events in the sky at the time of Jesus’ birth. A presentation still is available online at http://www.askelm.com/video/v020301.htm.

    Chuck Griffin
    Pastor, Cassidy United Methodist Church
    Kingsport, Tenn.

  89. billy wingartenson
    December 26, 2011, 10:59 pm

    REligion is based on ignorance in the past and the churches never want to change

    For lest one crack in the dike and the people wake up to what they have been paying for – a feel good drug delivered by words rather then needles or snorting

    And when delivered from an early age becomes with some an Obsessive – Compulsive disorder

    Which explains why you cannot reason with the religious extremist people. Christian, catholic, Jewish Orthodox, Islamic etc

  90. Fred
    Charleston, Bible Belt
    December 26, 2011, 10:58 pm

    So, we are all supposed to be ignorant of all the OTHER solar massiahs, a long list dating back thousands of years with the same sun god myth? The story is based on the ancient pagan measuring system of the “Three Kings” in Orion’s belt lining up with Sirius, the brightest star in the sky, so the starving, cold masses could see the Sun changing directions North promising it was coming back to save them all from the evil darkness to grow the crops again for another year, a very important measurement, indeed!

    Lots of ancient gods had this same myth….not just YOURS!

  91. Dale Dietzman
    North Lauderdale FL
    December 26, 2011, 10:48 pm

    The claim that the Magi followed this “new star” for at least some months, or several years, kills the conjunction theory deader than Scrooge’s partner Marley. Conjunctions don’t last more than a day or two, so no matter HOW spectacular one might have been it’s ruled out for the Star of Bethleham. Now a Supernova, or possibly a comet, might fill the bill, though each has it’s own set of problems as an explanation.

  92. Edgar Chiriff
    December 26, 2011, 10:36 pm

    We should also ask ourselves if there is any other account of this astronomical event other than the Bible. There many other civilizations that were very good at astronomy. Something like this should be recorded by someone else. I wouldn’t give too much weigh to an an event that only appears on the Bible that was transmitted verbally and could be suffering of a “little” exaggeration.

  93. MP Coyale
    December 26, 2011, 10:24 pm

    Problem is the star of B was observed many nights so as to allowed the “Three Wise Men” to travel to B”

    Most likely as been given a hit with Halleys. What is rjv of Princeton really after.

  94. George Breuer
    Mason, Ohio
    December 26, 2011, 10:23 pm

    Mr. Larson’s Web site and DVD suggest that the triple conjunction of Jupiter and Regulus starting about nine months earlier and various astrological aspects of these plus the conjunction you mention triggered the magi’s journey, not just the conjunction itself.

  95. Fatesrider
    Planet Earth
    December 26, 2011, 10:23 pm

    In order to determine what celestial phenomenon may have caused the Star of Bethlehem, one must first determine whether the Star of Bethlehem existed at all.

    Historical evidence for such an unexpected and unexplained phenomenon at that time outside of the Bible does not exist. What does exist is the credulity of man, and the fact the New Testament was written approximately 70 years after the phenomenon would have been expected to have occurred. In short, after that length of time, with the lack of centralized records and relying only on memory, it would have been easy to lie (or exaggerate) about it and be believed.

  96. Eddie
    Stillwater, Ok
    December 26, 2011, 10:20 pm

    Nice article. Can you point me to a reference for your simulation data or other data that shows month and year data for planet convergence?
    I am 52. While I am agnostic, I remember seeing a typical Christmas star near Christmas time as a child sometime between 1965 and 1975. While I understand convergence is not rare and has occurred millions of years before B.C I was struck by the resemblance to religious depictions of a four pointed star with a long lower tail.
    Thanks again,

  97. Cam
    December 26, 2011, 10:16 pm

    This posting talks about June 17, 2BC. i just saw another one that talks about Feb 25, 6BC. (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/45778305/ns/technology_and_science-space/#.Tvk14laYvTc). This one has a triple conjunction of Jupiter, Venus, and Mars. How bright was Jupiter during this one.

    • rjvanderbei
      December 26, 2011, 11:18 pm

      According to my favorite planetarium program (Cartes du Ciel), for this approximate triple conjunction Jupiter was magnitude -2.0, Saturn was magnitude 0.3, and Mars was magnitude 1.4. Jupiter and Saturn were separated by 7 degrees with Mars halfway between them. All three were low in the west at sunset. Again, doesn’t seem like a very credible explanation.

  98. mike mclaughlin
    t town
    December 26, 2011, 10:11 pm

    It was an “Angel”……Angels are called “Stars” often….Angels are ALWAYS are associated with the Jewish nation….. never a Gentile nation. Do not be dumb, read your bible before you speak, they gave the law to Moses do you really think they would not be associated with the “King of the Jews”

  99. Lee Jemkins
    December 26, 2011, 10:05 pm

    As an amateur astronomer I’ve read many theories about the star of Bethlehem, none of which really impressed me as particularly convincing. That is, until last year a friend loaned me Fredrick Larson’s DVD entitled “The Star of Bethlehem”. Larson has done a fantastic job researching both biblical and non-biblical ancient texts in addition to planetary astronomy. You can read the substance of his case at his web site without buying the DVD. The site is http://www.bethlehemstar.net/

  100. robert chow
    December 26, 2011, 10:04 pm

    How could this author writes ‘probbably not a very spectacular even’ when in fact the wisemen from the east followed this star for nearly two years. According to the Bible, Matthew 2:9 …the star which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. God hath his power over all his creation. He called each star by name.

    • rjvanderbei
      December 26, 2011, 11:07 pm

      This is exactly my point. The conjunction of Venus and Jupiter was not a very spectacular nor a rare event. That is why I don’t think it is a credible explanation for the Star of Bethlehem.

  101. John
    New York, NY
    December 26, 2011, 9:50 pm

    In a presentation at the planetarium here in NYC, some years ago, there was also the introduction of a star in that lineup to explain the Star of Bethlehem

    So the combination of two planets, and a star lined up, one behind the other, made their light in space stand out more, and seem to appear as one large star.

    • rjvanderbei
      December 26, 2011, 11:00 pm

      If it was the same theory, the star was probably Regulus. Regulus was 6 degrees away from Venus/Jupiter and Venus was 100 times brighter than Regulus. So, while it’s interesting that Regulus was nearby, I don’t think it added much to the event.

  102. […] the original article here: Searching for the Star of Bethlehem – National Geographic […]

  103. Steve Gallagher
    Papua New Guinea
    December 26, 2011, 9:35 pm

    In order to dubunk the claims of Rick Larson at Bethlehemstar.net one who investigates these things and writes astronomical computer programs needs to account for not only the conjunction of Jupiter and Venus, but also of these two with the star Regulus. Would not the conjunction of Regulus with these two planets have made the bright appearance more extraordinary than simply the normal (38 times in 2000 years) conjunction of Jupiter and Venus? rjvanderbei, in this post, has not taken Regulus into account. Therefore, I say, either the jury is still out, or we admit that Rick Larson has actually discovered something significant.

    • rjvanderbei
      December 26, 2011, 10:52 pm

      I didn’t mention Regulus because it was 6 degrees away from Venus/Jupiter at the time of conjunction. That’s twelve Moon diameters.

  104. Harold Oemig
    Milwaukee Wi
    December 26, 2011, 9:03 pm

    Hi, Try looking 14 BC during the Roman census that the governor of Syria took for the star of Bethlehem. The Romans took a census every seven (7) years. Pope Gregory started our current calendar on a Roman census. The census would have been 14 BC, 7 BC and 1 AD.

  105. Michael F.Dougherty
    13 miles nw of Iowa City, Ia
    December 26, 2011, 8:59 pm

    Most likely the Star of Bethiehem was a Super Nova or a Comet. Which occur sometime before 2 BC. Most likely in the previous 50 years. It was used by the author of that New testament text to stress the point that they belevied the the infant Jesus to be the Son of God.

  106. Doug
    December 26, 2011, 7:53 pm

    I believe that you are correct. Not because of my being an astronomer, but based upon study of the Bible. That text suggests that the Magian, (a more correct term), knew to expect a sign. Remember, Daniel was their leader for over 70 years. Being astronomers they knew about the things you mentioned in much detail. I suggest that it was the Shekina Glory of the Lord that shown down upon Bethlem. It had to be a God thing, shining out to spiritual eyes, otherwise King Herod knew how to track it down using his wise guys.
    Thanks for your research. Sometimes we don’t know what we don’t know until something else shows up.