Did the star of Bethlehem really exist? These are the possible scientific explanations

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Some say that the Magi from the East were, in reality, Babylonian astronomers who were chasing the trace of a mysterious glow in the sky. But what exactly was it they were after? Did it really exist or was it just a literary device to illustrate the birth of Jesus? Is this the story of a shooting star, a comet or a supernova that dazzled the sky two millennia ago? This question has intrigued experts for decades and, over the years, many theories have been proposed to try to explain it. In the Vatican itself, in fact, there is a astronomical Observatory dedicated to the scientific study of these phenomena. So, without further ado, let’s begin to follow the trail of this curious story.

The so-called star of Bethlehem (the true protagonist of this story) appeared, according to the Gospel of Matthew, shortly after the birth of Jesus. That is to say, around December 25. It is said that his light was so bright that it caught the attention of Melchor, Gaspar and Baltasar and guided their steps for several days until, around January 6, they reached the place of the nativity. But what kind of astronomical phenomenon Can produce this kind of effect?

Some theories point to a curious conjunction of planets, others speak of a supernova and others even point to the passage of a comet like Halley’s. Of course, all the theories depend on the exact date on which the birth of Jesus is located. and yes, all different about the day, the year and even the season in which it occurred the event.

Conjunction of planets?

One of the first theories proposed to explain this phenomenon suggests that the star of Bethlehem was actually a conjunction of planets. In 1964, the German astronomer Billy Tatun pointed out that this could have been a Jupiter and Saturn conjunction which occurred in the year 7 BC (and which, in fact, had been observed by Kepler himself). There are also theories that relate the Nativity star to a brilliant alignment between Jupiter, Mercury, Venus (and probably Uranus) recorded between 3 and 2 BC (although, in this case, everything indicates that it occurred rather in summer).

There are also those who defend that the star of Bethlehem was probably a spectacular supernova observed around the year 5 BC by several teams of Chinese and Korean astronomers. According to accounts of the time, the star appeared out of nowhere and almost immediately turned into a very bright point in the sky that could be observed from all corners of the Far East.

The other great theory (much more spectacular although less reliable) is that it was neither more nor less than Halley’s comet, which around the year 12 BC passed through the Earth and illuminated the sky for months. The typical image of the star of Bethlehem as a bright star with a long tail It is more reminiscent of a phenomenon of this type than of the others described by other theories (although, of course, that does not add credibility to the hypothesis).

It wasn’t Halley’s Comet

In all this tangle of theories, astronomer Mark Kidger has tried to bring order to understand which approaches really make sense and qualities are mere speculation. «There are hypotheses that can be ruled out immediately«, comments the expert, from the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias, in an extensive article published on the issue. Kidger argues that It is impossible that it was a supernova, Halley’s Comet or a meteor. Regarding the latter, he recalls that «a meteor usually lasts a few seconds at most, but we need to believe that these seconds of visibility were enough to carry the Three Kings across hundreds of kilometers of inhospitable desert.»

Related news

So how do you explain the brightness that, according to the Bible, announced the birth of Jesus? «always assuming that the star really existedthe most credible accounts imply only two (or perhaps three) phenomena observed in the years prior to the death of King Herod», concludes the astronomer’s analysis. The expert considers that the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in 7 BC, the supernova observed in 5 BC and, perhaps, the curious occultation of jupiter behind the moon which gave prominence to aries constellation observed in the year 6 BC

According to several analyzes published to date, it is most likely that that mysterious glow that lit up the sky two millennia ago could have been a combination of various phenomena astronomical. An analysis by astrophysicist Grant Mathews of the University of Notre Dame suggests that it could even have been an alignment of the constellations Aries, Pisces and Taurus along with Jupiter, the Moon and Saturn that occurred some two millennia ago and that, according to their calculations, It will happen again in half a million years..

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