On December 21st, Jupiter and Saturn will come within ten degrees of each other in the night sky – known as a “great conjunction,” they’ll be at their closest in nearly 400 years.
together they’ll appear in the night sky as one bright star, hence the nickname: the ‘Christmas star’.
Could this extra-ordinary display be connected to the Star of Bethlehem as some have speculated? Here’s what Director of the Vatican Observatory Father Guy Consolmagno said.
“Is this really what the Star of Bethlehem was? No one knows for sure what the star was, and until we have a time machine where we can go back and interview Matthew with a video recorder, no one ever will know for sure! The important thing to remember is that the Star of Bethlehem is just a small part of the infancy narrative in Matthew’s Gospel. The point of his story isn’t the star. It’s the baby. Whatever the Magi would have seen, it was something that nobody looking at the sky would have noticed, but they did. The shepherds in the fields where it was dark, where they didn’t have city lights, they knew the sky. What was it the Magi saw that everybody else didn’t see? The Magi are seeing something in the sky which is interpreted in terms of astrology. Now, astrology is specifically forbidden in the Hebrew Scriptures. It was being used as a reason to worship the stars rather than God, and as a way of denying human freedom. And our understanding of what the ancients thought of astrology is they thought this would be significant, but you could only know that it’s happening if you’ve calculated it, because the sun is there! You can’t actually see the planets. And this is a relatively rare event, it all fits. Is that really what Matthew was talking about? I don’t know. It’s fun to play with the idea.”