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And now we need a little bit of astrology background. A heliacal rising, that special first reappearance of a planet, is what en te anatole referred to in ancient Greek astrology. In particular, the reappearance of a planet like Jupiter was thought by Greek astrologers to be symbolically significant for anyone born on that day.

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Was the star visible just briefly before dawn? It refers to a particular moment when a planet stops moving and changes apparent direction from westward to eastward motion. This occurs when the Earth, which orbits the Sun more quickly than Mars or Jupiter or Saturn, catches up with, or laps, the other planet. Together, a rare combination of astrological events the right planet rising before the Sun; the Sun being in the right constellation of the zodiac; plus a number of other combinations of planetary positions considered important by astrologers would have suggested to ancient Greek astrologers a regal horoscope and a royal birth.

Molnar believes that the wise men were, in fact, very wise and mathematically-adept astrologers. They also knew about the Old Testament prophecy that a new king would be born of the family of David. Most likely, they had been watching the heavens for years, waiting for alignments that would foretell the birth of this king. When they identified a powerful set of astrological portents, they decided the time was right to set out to find the prophesied leader. After all, the baby was already 8 months old by the time they decoded the astrological message they believed predicted the birth of a future king.

The portent began on April 17 of 6 B.

Astronomers' theory of the Star of Bethlehem

By the earliest time the men could have arrived in Bethlehem, the baby Jesus would likely have been at least a toddler. Matthew wrote to convince his readers that Jesus was the prophesied Messiah. Given the astrological clues embedded in his gospel, he must have believed the story of the Star of Bethlehem would be convincing evidence for many in his audience.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.

What was the Star of Bethlehem?

Read the original article. This website uses cookies to improve user experience. But what did they see? The Bible says they 'saw it in the east' and then when they were in Jerusalem that it 'went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was'.

A very accurate translation of 'saw it in the east' is 'in the first light of dawn', so not just in the East, but early in the morning.

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And when the Magi were in Jerusalem it would have been in the south, over Bethlehem. We also know that it must have been a sign for something very new and unusual; that it signified in their astrology there was a new King in Israel and that it was worth traveling to find him! It would have also had to happen over a period of time, from when the Magi were in Persia to when they've traveled to Israel and met with King Herod. It also had to happen before King Herod died! So knowing the astrology and signs that the Magi understood, people have tried to find the star.

Here are a few of the explanations:.

What the Bible Says:

Comets streaking across the sky have been seen as signs of forthcoming events for thousands of years. The big problem with a comet is that they are nearly always seen as the sign of a death of a King or something else bad happening. They never signify a birth or the start of something good! Comets can look they've stopped somewhere or 'stand', but they don't stay around for very long.

The idea of a Comet might well have become popular when the Italian Renaissance painter Giotto di Bondone painted the Nativity in about showing a star that looked like a comet. But the world's most famous comet, Haley's comet, had recently passed by the earth, so he was probably just painting that! A super nova happens when a star explodes at the end of its life. But it wasn't in the right part of the sky and, like comets, super novas normally meant the end of something, not the beginning! A super nova might have become popular after the great astronomer Johannes Kepler saw one in !

This is where things seem to start making more sense and there are three good theories using conjunctions when two or more items in the sky line up to look like one of planets and other objects in the night sky. Although planets normally move across the sky, they can 'stop' in the sky. This is know as retrograde movement and happens because the earth goes around the sun quicker than the outer plants, so we sort 'over take' them for a bit and it looks like they either stop or actually go backwards for up to about days!

There's an excellent free astronomy program called ' Stellarium ' which displays the sky like a planetarium. I've used this to make the images below click to see larger images. I viewed the stars from Baghdad, so seeing what the Magi would have done! Astronomical year numbering is a bit confusing, there's an extra year '0'! It was originally written about by the Astronomer Johannes Kepler in , but fell out of favor when Keppler had some rather unusual ideas later in his life!

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  • The constellation of Pisces the Fishes had a special meaning in ancient Persian astronomy and astrology. It was the sign of Israel and of Kings. Jupiter was the Royal planet and Saturn represented old rulers. So a new 'star' being made of Jupiter and Saturn in this constellation could have meant a great deal! There's also records in ancient writings from Babylon that the Magi, of that time, knew about the triple conjunction.

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    Dr Molnar collects coins and other historical objects with astronomical and astrological connections. He found, and purchased, a Roman coin from about the year 6 that had the symbol of Aries the Ram on it, looking back at a bright star. In Roman astrology which the Magi would have also known Aries is the symbol of Israel. Dr Molnar has found a new 'star' made of Jupiter and the moon in Aries.

    What was the Star of Bethlehem? •

    Jupiter was the Ruler planet in Roman astrology as in Persian astrology and the moon meant births especially of new kings. It's what's called an 'occultation' which is a special kind of eclipse which involves the earth, moon, sun and a planet. Because it was dawn, the glare of the sun would have made it quite hard to see, but the Magi would have known it was happening because they had studied the sky so well!

    Fairly recently, there has been a new theory by a lawyer from Texas. Rick Larson has done a lot of research and found a new contender. This gives us another three years to look for stars! Mr Larson found that there was a conjunction of Jupiter and Venus in Leo, followed by three conjunctions of Jupiter and the star Regulus which is in the constellation of Leo the Lion , followed by a second conjunction of Jupiter and Venus in Leo ninth months later.

    And then six months after that Jupiter 'stops' goes into retrograde in Virgo. Regulus is the brightest star in Leo and thought to be very special. I find the theory of Jupiter, Venus and Regulus interesting, but think Jupiter in Virgo might be a bit of a stretch as that's not that uncommon!