What is the Christmas Star?


Christmas Star

The Christmas Star is also known as the Star of Bethlehem.  It is a star that, in the Christian tradition, shown brightly for a short period of time and heralded the birth of Christ.  We like to stick to the science of the universe here at Outerspace Universe, so let’s explore what may have actually happened 2,000 years ago.  

The only reference to the Christmas Star is made in the Gospel of Matthew in Chapter 2:2.  Three astrologers or Magi traveled from the east and met King Herod, who was king of Judea at the time and asked him “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?  For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”

This reference seems to indicate that the Magi observed some kind of astronomical object.  In 1614, Johannes Kepler speculated that the conjunction of the planets Jupiter and Saturn occurred in the year 7 BC which could be attributed to the Christmas Star.  Modern calculations, however, indicate that the two planets would have have been separated by at least 1 degree, which would not have been impressive to ancient observers.

Others speculate that the Christmas Star was actually Halley’s Comet which was visible in 12 BC.  As you know, comets appear somewhat stationary in the sky for several weeks and could explain why ancient observers may have linked this event to a star hovering over the town of Bethlehem.

A more likely candidate would be that the Christmas Star was actually a supernova that occurred in the nearby Andromeda Galaxy.  This theory will be hard to prove  because a 2,000 year old supernova remnant in a neighboring galaxy would be extremely difficult to detect.

So, what do you think?  Do we take Matthew’s word for the Christmas Star’s existence or should we keep looking for a scientific explanation?



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