Astronomers have focused on The Star of Bethlehem for centuries. What was it? Is there an independent historical reference, beyond the Biblical story of Jesus' birth in Matthew?

Scholars have been seriously searching for answers since the 13th Century. Some of the most prominent theories include that the "star" was a supernova, a comet, a solar flare, or an alignment of planets. Science will probably never know precisely.

Astronomers doubt it was a comet. Comets were seen as a bad omen.  The birth of a promised Messiah would NOT be a bad omen.

There is one fascinating explanation for The Star of Bethlehem. On August 12, 3 B.C. Jupiter and Venus would have sat at just about 1/10th of a degree apart in the dawn sky. According to, this is one-fifth the diameter of the Full Moon.

The Magi or Three Kings, according to the Biblical story, followed the Star of Bethlehem for months. This conjunction in 3 B.C. was an event that continued even after their approach on August 12. Venus and Jupiter continued their dance for nearly a year, finally appearing to merge as a single star in June of 2 B.C.

As convincing as this all is, there are reasons to believe that this was not the reported Star of Bethlehem. For one thing, people around that time knew the their planets well, so it would be strange that they would call a conjunction of multiple planets a "star".

Even so, Craig Chester at the Monterey Institute for Research in Astronomy says, there were three conjunctions of "the royal planet" Jupiter with the bright "royal star" Regulus.  This star has astrological significance as it is the star of kingship and was associated with the Lion of Judah.

Photo by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash
Photo by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash

Herod the Great who tried to destroy Jesus, would not have been moved by a regular conjunction of planets.  He would have seen them himself. Astronomers or "Magi" would have been more in a position to point out these conjunctions of Jupiter and Regulus.

For me, this seems most convincing.

Given that Chinese astronomers made meticulous records of events in the night sky during the period believed to be the time of Jesus' birth, there really are not any other good matches for The Star of Bethlehem.

Venus, Mercury, and the lightly illuminated moon are visible low on the horizon this year during the holiday season. If there is a break in the cloud cover you can see it starting on Christmas Eve at 6 pm. Gaze up and imagine the Star of Bethlehem. Who knows it might have been what the Wise Men observed.

Photo by Inbal Malca on Unsplash
Photo by Inbal Malca on Unsplash

Like the birth of Jesus itself, the Star of Bethlehem might be a miracle. Miracles have no explanation. The message of The Gospels and their ability to create miracles in lives needs no science.  That's the true miracle of Faith.

Given that this is true, perhaps the real answer to the question of whether or not you will see the Star of Bethlehem in San Angelo this holiday resides within you. That light is always there, it is up to you to open your eyes and see it.

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