In December 2020, the internet was abuzz with talk of a so-called "Christmas Star" – a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn. During the celestial event, the two planets appeared so close together they looked like a single, bright star to the naked eye. Does that description sound familiar? The Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, and its proximity to Christmas, understandably drew comparisons to the biblical Star of Bethlehem that guided the wise men to the place of Jesus's birth.
For centuries, experts and laymen alike have wondered: what was the Star of Bethlehem? Is the Star of Bethlehem the North Star? Are there astronomical explanations for the Star of Bethlehem? While it's unlikely the Star of Bethlehem was a comet like Halley's Comet, there are several theories for what the Star of Bethlehem actually was. The most convincing of these theories might just be a conjunction not unlike our "Christmas Star" of 2020.
There's A Historical Record Of A Comet That Could Have Been The Star Of Bethlehem, But It's Unlikely The Comet Would've Been Interpreted As Anything But A Bad Omen
There Were Actually Several Different Conjunctions Taking Place Around The Time Of Jesus's Reported Birth
The Idea The Star Of Bethlehem Was Actually A Great Conjunction Goes Back To At Least The 17th Century
I can't see the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction on this rainy night, but here's Johannes Kepler's observation of the 1603 conjunction from 'De stella nova' (1606), as well as his diagram of a series of Jupiter-Saturn conjunctions from 1583 to 1763, forming triangles across the zodiac. pic.twitter.com/sv16rflUXc— RAS Library (@astro_librarian) December 21, 2020
There Was A Conjunction Of Jupiter, Saturn, The Moon, And The Sun On April 17, 6 B.C. That Most Closely Matches The Biblical Description Of The Star Of Bethlehem