Can there be a scientific explanation for the Christmas Star of the East? Attempts have been made at solving the riddle of the Eastern Star, but, interesting as they are, nothing conclusive can be made of it. Recent discoveries in astronomy and in quantum physics have been awe inspiring in their enormity. The universe is what it is and it is the job of science to describe it. Science and God are not incompatible.
Unlike us, the three men, whether they were wise men, kings or magi, who found the baby Jesus in Bethlehem, did so without the benefit of a satellite operated navigation device mounted on their dashboard. But, of course, they did have a personal star dedicated solely to their task and provided by none other than God Himself.
Some of us commemorate that same Christmas star by placing a lighted star on top of our Christmas tree or on other decorations in our houses or yards.
Some relegate the Christmas star event to the realm of fiction, as part of a good story. Others believe it took place but as one of those miracles that remains outside of the realm of science. Still others look to science to solve the riddle of the Star of the East. Science, in turn, has obliged us with a search for a possible, naturally occurring, astronomical event that could be interpreted as the Christmas star.
One possible theory has it that the Eastern Star was the conjunction, or near conjunction, of the planets Venus and the much larger Jupiter. In human time this phenomenon seldom occurs. It occurred last just six years ago, on May 16, 2000. Unfortunately, nobody but astronomers saw it. As viewed from the earth the overlapping of these two planets took place so close to the sun that the sun’s light overpowered even the bright light of these two combined planets.
The latest occurrence before 2000 was in 1859, A little early for most of us. The next time will be in 2065. If you are under 40, drive carefully, don’t run with scissors and avoid germs, you might be around to see it then.
According to some pretty reliable calculations Venus and Jupiter did cross paths on June 17, 2 BC. That date may appear to be two years before the birth of Jesus but theologians have never settled just when Christ was born. A good estimate puts his birth somewhere from 6 BC to 3 BC. These dates are established by using the names of rulers and government officials, the dates they reigned, census years for given Roman territories, and so on.
If this phenomenon caused the Christmas star then it was not a “star” at all, but two planets. But that is a moot point since, even today, we look up into the heavens and point out “stars” that are really suns, planets, meteors and even space labs. The moon is about the only heavenly body that might escape that moniker.