‘Star of Bethlehem’: Miracle or Science?

News Feature

By Ma. Cristina Arayata

MANILA – The Bible says the three wise men followed a star to find where Jesus was born. People refer to that star as the “Christmas Star” or the “Star of Bethlehem”. Did that star come out of the blue to guide the “Magi”? Or did Jesus’ birth coincide with a celestial phenomenon?

“This is still debatable. Christians believe it was a miracle sign. Theologians believe it was prophetic and there is no explanation for the event. However, astronomers globally are trying to correlate the Star to celestial phenomena, particularly the conjunction of planets,” astronomer Mario Raymundo told the Philippine News Agency in a recent interview Friday.

Ratmundo said planet conjunctions actually happen. On December 21, 2020, for instance, planets Jupiter and Saturn would align so closely with each other, with only “.1% difference or distance.”

“We call ‘alignment’ as ‘conjunction’. This would not be the first time that Jupiter and Saturn would align. (The things is,) these planets had a really close distance from each other 800 years ago. It is only on December 21, 2020 that they would be too close from each other again,” he explained.

Raymundo, who works at the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), said astronomers use data that allows them to compute when celestial events, eclipse, would take place. The data also enable them to compute and analyze when past celestial events have occurred, even when it happened in the BC (Before Christ) era.

On December 21, he said, people all over the world may notice what seems to be two stars joined together, making them brighter. “Those would be two planets — Jupiter and Saturn,” he added.

People may notice the brightness of these “stars” even as early as December 11 but the peak would be on December 21 from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. The celestial event has no effect on weather, he said.

Because astronomers are correlating the “Christmas Star” to planet conjunction, Raymundo said there was a “grand conjunction” that happened in 1 BC, and a conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter, which happened on August 28, 6 BC.

“The great conjunction in 1 BC involved planets Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Mercury, and the moon. It took place before 5 a.m. Thus, it seems impossible that this was the one the ‘magi’ followed, since the sun would rise about 20 minutes after,” explained.

The conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in 6 BC lasted from early evening until before 6 a.m. “Thus this conjunction may probably the closest to what the ‘magi’ have followed  if in case there is really a scientific explanation for that,” he shared.

Raymundo said there is no study yet regarding this particular phenomenon. “There is no scientific data regarding this, and this is still debatable,” he pointed out.

“In my opinion, if ever there is really a scientific explanation behind this, then we could compare it to the conjunction that happened in 6 BC,” he said, adding that  the “Christmas Star” is also not related to the winter solstice.

“The winter solstice is a season that happens around December 21-22. It is when the earth is closest to the sun, and we consider this ‘the longest night and the shortest day’. This has no relation to the conjunction of planets,” Raymundo said. (PNA)

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