This week’s rare ‘Christmas Star’ on the solstice tells us about the ‘star of Bethlehem’

This week’s rare ‘Christmas Star’ on the solstice tells us about the ‘star of Bethlehem’

Every December, planetariums and astronauts around the world testify to the origins of the “Christmas Star” or the “Star of Bethlehem”. ”

As the story in the Gospel of Matthew goes, a bright star rose after the birth of Jesus Christ who then followed the wise men to find him.


Was it a comet? Supernova? Do you think it was two planets? Or is it just wasteful fictional details that shouldn’t matter so much.

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Either way, this week will be “great connection. ”This is the term used by astronomers to describe a situation in the Solar System when Jupiter and Saturn appear to overlap very closely (it seems to be the same). -link crosses two or more square groups while large link refers to Jupiter and Saturn only).

Jupiter and Saturn engage in good relations – as seen from Earth – every 19.85 years on Earth. It is a natural symbol of Jupiter taking 11.86 years to orbit the sun and Saturn 29.4 years, which naturally means that they are likely to overlap in the celestial sky. night from our point of view (despite the fact that they are millions of miles apart).

This week’s events occur seven weeks after the heliocentric connection of the two planets, when they align with each other and the Sun in the Solar System.

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Jupiter and Saturn have been known for thousands of years conjunct every 20 years and even the event takes place in the same part of the sky every 800 years or so.

Their next big consortium takes place on December 21, 2020 – on the date of the December Solstice and just four days before Christmas Day – when they appear to be only 0.1º apart. That is about the width of a toothed pin held at arm’s length accordingly Sky & Telescope iris.


This is the closest major connection from July 16, 1623 and the first to be easily seen from March 4, 1226. Could it be the origin of the story of the “Star of Bethlehem”?

Great friendships – and all alliances – and completely anticipated events. While they don’t always get as close as they appear this week – that will only happen around every 300 years – Jupiter’s previous big connections have been calculated. and Saturn around the same time as the birth of Jesus Christ.

One of the longest running theories goes all the way back to Johannes Kepler, a major figure in the scientific revolution of the 17th century and the first to properly explain the movement of the planets.


“Kepler believed that the star of Bethlehem was a tripartite connection of Jupiter and Saturn,” said Nigel Henbest, author of Philip’s Stargazing 2021 Monthly Guide to the Sky Sky in Britain & Ireland . “Here we are two thousand years later and a connection seems to be happening within four days of Christmas Day… maybe a new Messiah is about to be born! ”

According to Kepler’s calculations made in 1603 (during a year he saw a great connection), a triple connection of Jupiter and Saturn occurred in the year 7 BC. Why “triple?” As Jupiter laments Saturn in the Solar System the two planets align with the Sun for a moment, but from the perspective of our faster-moving planet the planets appear to be going back for a few weeks. It’s just about a scene, but this reversal movement can cause two or, in the case of the year 7 BC, three coincidences in the same year. The last one triple major connection it happened in 1980 and the next is in 2239.


Was Jupiter and Saturn mistaken for one star? Large connections may have been seen as omens, as comets. Either way, this week’s closest approach to Jupiter and Saturn in the telescopic age is a historical event you need to take a look at. All this week and next week – but especially on the evening of 21 December 2020 – cast your eyes to the south-west skies 45 minutes after sunset where you are and see two distant worlds grow like one.

Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.