Bethlehem star may not be a star after all

Bethlehem star may not be a star after all
Grant Mathews believes the event that led the Magi — Zoroastrian priests of ancient Babylon and Mesopotamia — was an extremely rare planetary alignment occurring in 6 B.C., and the likes of which may never be seen again. Credit: University of Notre Dame

It is the nature of astronomers and astrophysicists to look up at the stars with wonder, searching for answers to the still-unsolved mysteries of the universe. The Star of Bethlehem, and its origin, has been one of those mysteries, pondered by scientists for centuries – and something Grant Mathews, professor of theoretical astrophysics and cosmology in the Department of Physics in the University of Notre Dame's College of Science, has studied for more than a decade.

"Astronomers, historians and theologians have pondered the question of the 'Christmas Star' for many years," said Mathews. "Where and when did it appear? What did it look like? Of the billions of stars out there, which among them shone bright on that day so long ago? Modern astrophysics is how we attempt to explain one of history's greatest astronomical events."

Spoiler alert: It may not have been a star at all.

Studying historical, astronomical and biblical records, Mathews believes the event that led the Magi—Zoroastrian priests of ancient Babylon and Mesopotamia—was an extremely rare planetary alignment occurring in 6 B.C., and the likes of which may never be seen again.

During this alignment, the sun, Jupiter, the moon and Saturn were all in Aries, while Venus was next door in Pisces, and Mercury and Mars were on the other side in Taurus. At the time, Aries was also the location of the vernal equinox.

The presence of Jupiter and the moon signified the birth of a ruler with a special destiny. Saturn was a symbol of the giving of life, as was the presence of Aries in the vernal equinox – also marking the start of spring. That the alignment occurred in Aries, Mathews said, signified a newborn ruler in Judea.

"The Magi would have seen this in the east and recognized that it symbolized a regal birth in Judea," ultimately leading them in search of the newborn ruler, Mathews said. Based on his calculations, it will be 16,000 years before a similar alignment is seen again—and even then, the vernal equinox would not be in Aries. Running calculations forward, Mathews couldn't find an alignment like the one known as the Bethlehem Star going out as far as 500,000 years.

"I feel a kindred connection to these ancient Magi," said Mathews, "who earnestly scanned the heavens for insight into the truth about the nature and evolution of the universe, just as we do today."

Mathews is at work on a book about his findings and gives an annual public lecture at the University of Notre Dame's Digital Visualization Theater, where he maps the history of the sky dating back to 6 B.C.


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Dec 02, 2016
Maybe if god was clever enough to create a human baby form of himself here on earth he could have also created a huge light bulb in space to illuminate the event.

Why would scientists look for real phenomena to confirm myths? Perhaps they're just as scared of dying as the rest of us.

Perhaps they have nothing better to do? After all, NORAD tracks Santy claus with govt funding.

Dec 02, 2016
Or maybe scientists understand that the ancients, although driven by superstition, also observed real astronomical phenomena.

Dec 02, 2016
Ghostof otto, a large amount of 'myths' have some basis in real things. This guy just confirmed an actual astrological event and you resort to mocking. How about just stick to the science part if religion bothers you so much. (jeez, just can't let people believe what they want)

Dec 02, 2016
Ghostof otto, a large amount of 'myths' have some basis in real things
So what? It goes without saying that real events and places do not make myths real. NYC is real but Spiderman does not live there and no one is insisting he exists because the city is there.

This is a common trick of religionists and of course I'm going to mock it.
This guy just confirmed an actual astrological event and you resort to mocking. How about just stick to the science part if religion bothers you so much
He didn't confirm anything. You realize that he was using pagan astrology to explain a Christian myth?

AGAIN, real events do not lend any credence whatsoever to myths. And I resent it when science is used to defend religion.
(jeez, just can't let people believe what they want)
Nope I can't let bigots say that unbelievers can't be good just because they don't believe in their gods. That's the basis of all religion and they can't get away with it without a fight.

Dec 02, 2016
You realize that he was using pagan astrology to explain a Christian myth?.

And? Were The Three Magi somehow Christian, or were they pagan?

Dec 02, 2016
Neil Young had a song about this:
http://phys.org/n...tar.html

Dec 02, 2016
And I suppose that the "three wise men from the east", where they had also just invented Chinese lanterns, came from was, just a coincidence.
And then Ezekiel said "You know; I could have sworn Ive seen one of those before. I think it was a bit bigger though."

Dec 02, 2016
And? Were The Three Magi somehow Christian, or were they pagan?
And were they still pagan after having seen god in the form of the baby jesus? Of course as xianity hadn't been invented yet.

But is this just another example of using known elements to confirm a myth? 'Even zoroastrians were getting messages from the one true god.' Like Balaam. Not enough genuine prophets to go around I guess.

But it is curious that the bible says that the magi used their astrology to discredit their own religion. Their gods had nothing to do with the god of abraham.

Dec 02, 2016
Where was next on the Romans shopping list?

Dec 02, 2016
Here's a good one for you.
What does a rolled up hot air balloon look like.
It wouldn't be a carpet would it.

Dec 02, 2016
The assumption throughout the scientific community that the stories of religion only trace back to religion -- and not the era of mythology and paganism which preceded it -- flies in the face of all of the remarkable similarities in the stories of religions.

This stuff is not that complicated: The religions came from mythology, so any academics who want to analyze those stories should be looking at the origin of those older mythological stories.

Why academics get so tripped up on this really simple point, it's really quite perplexing.

Dec 02, 2016
Using modern astrology to confirm ancient babylonian motives is a logical fallacy, however, I think that a planetary alignment would still be a special event for the zoroastrians in any case.

Dec 02, 2016
Wow, so many unscientific assertions about a made up event....

Dec 02, 2016
You realize that he was using pagan astrology to explain a Christian myth?.

And? Were The Three Magi somehow Christian, or were they pagan?


Zoroastrian

Dec 02, 2016
The one who was was born in the manger created the
Universe..Jesus Christ is God! Now we can put away
all these silly notions about the origin of everything.

Dec 02, 2016
Or it could have been a sign from God.

Dec 02, 2016
Many ancient events in both new and old world civilizations with some form of record keeping akin to writing have been accurately dated using records of solar eclipses.

While the story of the Magi is almost certainly a myth made up after the fact, it is not out of the question that such a rare astronomical event, if it indeed did occur at the time and place claimed in this article, very well could have had an impact on the construction of explanations linking points on a historical timeline (various types of Jewish opposition to Roman occupation) to coincidental "signs" in the "heavens".

To reject this possibility out of hand is not a scientific attitude at all, but an extreme over-correction indicative of an equal but inverted degree of blind faith on the part of the "believer".

Dec 02, 2016
There are so many different elements of the Biblical story each with its own odds of reality. There can be many crudely real elements to the religious story with the larger theme being completely bogus. Or any combination of real and fabrication. An astronomical conjunction that really happened roughly near the time a real eventual roaming preacher would have been born could be time shifted a few years in the tales. But the article references travels of magi as if it's known that that happened. My personal suspicion that a historical preacher left the teachings is best supported by the words so often contradicting those who claim to espouse them. Any modern fictional superhero agrees much more with his fans than this preacher agrees with his self proclaimed followers. But that has nothing to do with whether any of the magic happened. The magi may not even brought Mary a bomb.

Dec 02, 2016
Or it could have been a sign from God
all things considered, it could also have been a sign from the vogons

...or a message from Milliway's about my reservation

.

To reject this possibility out of hand is not a scientific attitude at all,
@dudester
true
however, the only thing required to refute the claim is to simply state it is false considering there is no real empirical evidence to support it other than a known fallacious book of myths

which is, i think, a certain posters point above

PS - i'm not rejecting it - i always liked a good comical story

Dec 03, 2016
Look, this is a finding which should be verified and replicated by other astronomers, but it's not inherently pro-Christian or anti-Christian. Catholics are free to interpret this finding as supporting their religion, but atheists could just as easily reason that "myths" like this being confirmed in fact are possible if not likely. For example, maybe a real "star of Bethlehem" really increased the chances of a Messiah myth catching on and propagating. Maybe it really increased the chances of any baby being born around then as being held up as some "chosen one" and the idea going viral?

Dec 03, 2016
Wow, so many unscientific assertions about a made up event....


Huh? How do you know there wasn't a planetary conjunction for the year the author of the paper did some serious backdating research & discovered there was.

It's beside the point as to who may have been born on that date, there were probably tens of thousands of births in the middle east on that day, pick one & declare whatever you want to believe about the future destiny of any single one of those births.

Dec 03, 2016
Nativity and the Passion, from Jupiter in oppositon alone in night
sky to Eclipse over Jerusalem 33 years later.
30 minute video, download of 12 hour event for no wifi occasions.
http://www.bigber...sion.zip

Dec 03, 2016
THIS is the best explanation of the whole son/sungod myth that I have seen.
https://youtu.be/bmjQ1566ql0

-Nothing new under the sun-

Dec 03, 2016
THIS is the best explanation of the whole son/sungod myth that I have seen.
https://youtu.be/bmjQ1566ql0
@Otto

this one is far, far, far more accurate though
https://www.youtu...t5ibfRzw

Dec 03, 2016
Nope I can't let bigots say that unbelievers can't be good just because they don't believe in their gods. That's the basis of all religion and they can't get away with it without a fight.


What religion are you talking about? It can't be Christianity. Christianity says all men are flawed, that only God (whatever that is) is perfect, and that God provided a way for the perfect divine and flawed mankind to coexist. Your wilful misinterpretation in light of the plain language of a historical document shows you have compromised yourself. Don't worry though, you are in good company. There are plenty of so called Christians that have no idea what is in the Bible either.

Dec 03, 2016
this one is far, far, far more accurate though
Well verily and foresooth, they were the true Magi. The holy constrictor hath explained it all.
https://youtu.be/yuu9YH7_-T8
Christianity says all men are flawed, that only God provided a way for the perfect divine and flawed mankind to coexist
Yes we're all responsible for the original sin and the death of god on the cross. Don't you feel guilty as hell? Bad doggy.

But some are more guilty than others.

"18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil." Jon3

-And if you were a really a good xian you would be doing exactly as your god instructed in his book, and shunning, persecuting, stoning, and burning them.

So what's stopping you?

Dec 03, 2016
You see that same thing in nursing homes with the EXACT same people having the EXACT same arguments on EVERY topic ALL DAY LONG and do NOTHING ELSE... those like Ghastly Otto that advocate for the opposite are just pitiful to feed it in kind
Geez so sorry to hear you're spending so much time in a home. Unless you belong there of course.

Dec 03, 2016
It was not a planet, it was a comet. Go check the Chinese records from 2000 years ago. They recorded the event.

Dec 03, 2016
Wow, so many unscientific assertions about a made up event

Huh? How do you know there wasn't a planetary conjunction for the year the author of the paper did some serious backdating research & discovered there was.


And then some just are afflicted by bone deep sophistry. She knew damned well that he meant that Jeebus' birth was a fiction, not the conjunction. I really do have the deepest sympathy for any SO that may have had the unfortunate luck to spend any time with that one. Absolutely zero intellectual integrity. Will take the opposite position of a previous point turning 180 degrees around simply to score a point every.last.opportunity. A born and bred anti-intelluctual narcissist, peer group validated git of the sort you encounter much too often in BC. Anyone with a real education is an indoctrinated cretin and they're deeply enlightened on all matters from their armchair throne-of-view.
but I can solve Differential Equations.


Dec 03, 2016
.......and hey there Jimbo, not only can I solve Differetial Equations, but I was kinda wondering.......what can you do other than go off on foul mouthed name calling rants on a regular basis?

Dec 03, 2016
but I can solve Differential Equations
you've never once been able to demonstrate that in any thread here on PO

you didn't even know what ODE's were: http://phys.org/n...ood.html

you proved you couldn't even do basic math or even look up basic information: http://phys.org/n...als.html

and you plagiarized as well
http://phys.org/n...dio.html

considering that is all demonstrated by your own posts, making a repeated claim that you can do differential equations is like repeatedly saying you're jabba the hut, except the latter would be far more probable

Dec 04, 2016
I really wish idiots like Prof. Matthews would stop treating the Bible as if it documented history - it doesn't. The only reference to a star is in Matthew Chapter 2, compiled at least 80 to 90 years after this supposed birth. The passage was probably added to fit with the imagined prophecies in Micah.

Dec 04, 2016
@Phys1 Please stop using the tired old excuses of bibliolaters. This long debunked claim originated from anthropology and folklore studies and in practice oral transmission is considerably less accurate than is claimed. For example, if oral transmission were so accurate how is it that the fantasy of the massacre of the innocents or the fiction of the "world wide" census made it into the Bible? A more recent example is given by the fiction of Machin's "The Archers" becoming the orally transmitted "history" of the Angel of Mons

Dec 04, 2016
I just ran a planetary alignment algorithm, there was a major planetary conjunction on the day President-Elect Donald Trump was born.

Dec 04, 2016
@Benni
Haha, you're such a clown.


I gave you a 5 for this. Do you think that was a joke?

Dec 04, 2016
That's non-ironically awesome, Interictal.

Dec 04, 2016
I should be surprised to find out that there was a great astronomical alignment in 6 B.C. (very likely near Jesus's actual birth year) because every 'god' at that time had a similar birth story (e.g. Mithras) since this was a common allegorical storytelling device to create a concept of divinity for those trying to believe in the god of a cult (another is virgin birth). However, this alignment is old hat and has been known for thousands of years, and in fact is used by some astrologers to mark the beginning of the Age of Pisces (note that we are entering the Age of Aquarius FYI). I actually believe there may be a relationship with the birth of Jesus, and if so, only proves that the story in the Bible is mostly allegorical and not an accurate source of knowledge in general (no magic star, story based on a coincidenc). Why on earth should an academician become upset at this story? IDK, because it doesn't help anyone religious.

Dec 04, 2016
Parthenogenesis is highly unlikely in humans but I'd definitely give it credence over abiogenesis. Who fuckin knows anythin?

Dec 05, 2016
@GhostOfOtto and Stumpy - part 1.
Nope I can't let bigots say that unbelievers can't be good just because they don't believe in their gods. That's the basis of all religion and they can't get away with it without a fight.

Interesting that you should use the phrase "can't be good" because Jesus himself said that there is NO ONE good except God. That means ALL human beings are NOT GOOD and the only difference between those who believe in Jesus and his atoning work and scoffers like yourself is that the believers have had their sins forgiven and are in a right standing with God - from GOD's point of view, not the human point of view. For the most part those who have been forgiven are striving to live their lives in accordance with the commandments given by Jesus but they'll never be perfect until He comes again.

But to address that other little comment about the bible being a book of myths....see part 2.

Dec 05, 2016
@GhostOfOtto and Stumpy - part 2.
To test whether the bible is a book of myths one can simply take what it says and see how it pans out in real life. So let's take one of the most concrete and verifiable examples known:

Once upon a time, in the modern era around 1800, no one knew that a place called Jericho existed - until Archaeologists decided to take the bible as pure history and go looking for it according to the location that could be determined from the text.

So they identified a tell with the following characteristics:
1. Other than the biblical story, there is/was no other recorded history of the existence of such a place.
2. Three excavation teams found that the city was surrounded by a wall that had fallen down, outwardly, allowing a rampart over the retaining wall on which the city was built.
3. One occupation level underneath had been completely razed by fire with everything intact.
4. The pottery corresponded with the times specified.
Part 3 follows.

Dec 05, 2016
Part 3:
5. There was lots of grain in the storage pots - burned to a crisp and meaning there wasn't any long siege. Plus, because the pots were still full, it must have been just after harvest time. Which implies it was in the spring time that the fire happened.
6. One section in the wall was fully intact whilst the rest was completely destroyed.

This bears out the story in the bible to a T - the Israelites attacked in spring time when the Jordan river was full and in flood - harvest time. Plus they described the wall as having fallen down so that the warriors could go up straight ahead of them. Plus they didn't take anything from the city - as the excavators discovered. Plus the harlot/woman who let the spies go free lived in the wall, so she most probably lived in the section which was NOT destroyed, otherwise she would have been killed.

The reason people reject THIS story is because Kathleen Kenyon refused to accept the existing pottery but looked for Cypriot p instead.

Dec 05, 2016
Part 4.
She reasoned from an absence of evidence [her own dictates, i might add] instead of accepting what others had found. She even ignored the copy of the Cypriot pottery found by an earlier excavation, and then she declared that the Israelites were never there at the time the bible claims. And as scoffers are wont to do, they'll jump on any bandwagon that they can use to reject the Word of the one true and living God. Nevermind the almost impossible odds of having a story with such remarkable accuracy being just a coincidence.

So go on, enjoy your mythical evolutionary lifestyle, but remember a day is coming, burning like an oven when the wicked will burn to stubble. By the way, check the bible carefully for the definition of the wicked before getting overly excited.

Dec 05, 2016
On the article itself - it just is so silly for anyone to go looking for an actual physical star as the representative of the Bethlehem one. The bible clearly indicates that the "star" MOVED around to LEAD the magi to the child:
"..and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.."
Please, for heaven's sake, why would people want to look for a physical star in this day and age when it is quite clear from the text that that is impossible?????????

Dec 05, 2016
Why are we debating superstition and stories from the Age of Ignorance?

Dec 05, 2016
It wasn't a star. It was a UFO!!! that guided the Mgicians just the same the Israel people was guided trough the desert by a "Column of fire". They all were were UFOs!!!!
It is necessary to read the entire Bible, not parts!!!

Dec 05, 2016
Interesting that you should use the phrase
@jonesdave the blind illiterate idiot
learn to f*cking read: i never made that claim above
the bible being a book of myths
it is a book of myths and allegorical stories meant to induce fear in the ignorant so that they're easier to control
the difference between your stories and, say... Zeus (or any other deity) is the names and age, with the latter being far, far older and more established
To test whether the bible is a book of myths
before you start teaching your bible - first you better learn about what it says: start with JER 31:27 - 37, as that directly tells you (and every other proselytizing idiot) that what you're doing is wrong, against your own deities wishes and promoting your own delusional arguments over that of even your own deity, especially the x-tian belief promoters!

so you're directly violating your own biblical book

Dec 05, 2016
@illiterate idiot blind fred cont'd
enjoy your mythical evolutionary lifestyle
1- evolution is based upon physical evidence, unlike your holy comic book

2- the reason your argument will always fail is because you can't comprehend the difference between a belief without evidence (faith) and a demonstrable argument from evidence that removes subjectivity (Science)

you can make a thousand posts and parts - none of that will add any credibility to your religion because there is no evidence at all whatsoever for your deity

more to the point: threatening someone with death and torture if they don't believe your way isn't going to make them believe any stronger, it only makes you look like an idiot who can't make a valid argument to support your claims


Dec 05, 2016
To test whether the bible is a book of myths one can simply take what it says and see how it pans out in real life
Right. So let's see how it pans out in real life.

"Tel Aviv University archaeologist Ze'ev Herzog wrote in the Haaretz newspaper:
This is what archaeologists have learned from their excavations in the Land of Israel: the Israelites were never in Egypt, did not wander in the desert, did not conquer the land in a military campaign and did not pass it on to the 12 tribes of Israel. Perhaps even harder to swallow is that the united monarchy of David and Solomon, which is described by the Bible as a regional power, was at most a small tribal kingdom. And it will come as an unpleasant shock to many that the God of Israel, YHWH, had a female consort and that the early Israelite religion adopted monotheism only in the waning period of the monarchy and not at Mount Sinai."

-So all your speculation re bible nuances is pointless.

Dec 05, 2016
BTW there IS no Mt sinai.

Dec 05, 2016
Just for shits and giggles
"..and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.."
Please, for heaven's sake, why would people want to look for a physical star in this day and age when it is quite clear from the text that that is impossible?????????
-So when god made the sun stand still so that Joshua could defeat the amorites this meant it wasn't really the sun?

You idiots interpret scripture like roadrunner cartoons interpret physics. Which is funny because scripture interprets physics like roadrunner cartoons interpret physics.

Which I guess is where you learned it from.

Dec 07, 2016
@Ghost and Stumpy:
The reactions speak for themselves.
Your comments are all over the show whilst I was pointing out the futility of misreading the TEXT!!!!
The text is clear - the "star" moved and LEAD the Magi to the child. So how on earth can anyone reasonably expect a physical, real star as we know it in THIS day and age to be able to do that at such close proximity to earth?
As to whether you believe what the bible says or not, the logic of my argument holds - people misinterpret the text for their own designs and come up with a lot of bull.

As for your unbelief - you'll know when you pass on from this life whether it's true or not.
You'll know where your life comes from - hint - it's not from some miraculous, mythical unaided random physical or chemical process.

Dec 07, 2016
I was pointing out the futility of misreading the TEXT!
@cult member fred
did you even watch the video Otto posted?
The text is clear
the text is also clear where, in GEN, your deity makes plants before it makes the sun - the requisite source of energy required to feed them!
but you don't seem to comprehend that part (or you gloss over it)

your holy comic is not an infallible source of any information - in fact, it's been proven false for millennia (which really is the point i've been trying to make)
people misinterpret the text for their own designs and come up with a lot of bull
this is absolutely true
you'll know ...whether it's true or not
been dead twice - still no deity *or* hellfire

look, it's simple:
if you want to talk about religion - logic dictates that the purest and oldest unmolested religion (unchanged) should be the most true
that means yall upstarts is just delusional babies crying for attention

Dec 07, 2016
@cult member fred cont'd
You'll know where your life comes from
i know where i came from... if you is a b-tard, that is on you

moreover, i know that it doesn't take some special psychotic bi-polar deity to create life: hell, we can see that comets or asteroids can create proteins when impacting the earth or through interactions with the Solar wind, so what makes you think your deity did anything?

Again-i know people who worship sub-deities that have far more evidence than yours - so that makes them far more likely to be "real" than yours
(see: Wakinyan Tanka)
it's not from some miraculous, mythical unaided random physical or chemical process
chemistry and physics is neither miraculous, mythical or anything else you "believe" it to be

just because you don't understand it doesn't mean it aint true, nor does it mean your sky faerie did anything to help it along
if that logic were true, we have more compelling evidence for Ra than your deity

Dec 09, 2016
The text is clear - the "star" moved and LEAD the Magi to the child. So how on earth can anyone reasonably expect a physical, real star as we know it in THIS day and age to be able to do that at such close proximity
So the sun stopped moving IOW it moved in sync with the earth's rotation. What's the difference?

And 'close proximity' - people had been using stars to guide them for millenia and they're not close. But what makes you think your god couldn't make a star do anything he wanted? I bet he could shrink proxima centauri down and set it right in your lap and if your faith was strong enough you could still beget.

"Reason is a whore" - Luther

Stop your consorting. You guys don't have the skills.

Dec 10, 2016
I fear that Dr. Matthew's theory may have arisen from the black hole near Uranus. There is a lot of hot Aries here.

Dec 14, 2016
"A star has stepped from Jacob" (Numbers 24:17).
The Bible then also NTestament, here Matthew 2:2 has been written by intelligent stars of that time to convey a message contrary to at that time present superstiscies or pagan mythologies. Any textbook on hermeneutics (here, biblical) teaches it. It seems the present Akademia has any knowledge on it like on most philosphers of the past like Aristotle,etc. Consequently, scientists ridicule itslef not only in debates on "Creator" but in their own quarells like ..twin paradox (Relativity Therory) or Schrodinger cat (QuantumMechanics) where the absurdity in interpretation (also in textbooks) reaches heaven! I am not kidding: E.Einstein only after 40 years admitted (to R.Schelgel, Time and Physcial World, 1962) his own foolishness started by P.Langevin in 1911,yet , the rest-almost allexcept Tolmann, C.Moller, Schlegel - repeat still 1911's idiocy! Calm down,pray to Holy Spirit and you will find the truth

Dec 21, 2016
That a Prof at Notre Dame found evidence supporting the Bronze Age Tribal Christian myth of a deity come to earth is SHOCKING! What did you expect?

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