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Experts suggest 'The Star of Bethlehem' was a real astronomical event

Experts suggest 'The Star of Bethlehem' was a real astronomical event

Astronomers have discussed the possibility.

The story of the Three Wise Men at Christmas, who followed the Star of Bethlehem alerting them to the birth of Jesus, and bringing with them gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, is well-documented.

While it is often contested whether stories in the Bible actually happened, now experts have suggested the Star, sometimes referred to as the Christmas Star, was a real astronomical event.

Vintage illustration of the Three Wise Men.
GraphicaArtis/Getty Images

The Star, believed to have occurred around the year 85 CE, is mentioned only in four Gospels, which was originally written in Greek.

The scripture includes the word 'αστερα' translating as 'astra' meaning star, which may refer to other celestial objects like a planet or comet.

Speaking to IFLScience - a blog about the lighter side of science - Dr Greg Brown, astronomer at the Royal Observatory Greenwich in London, said: "An unusual event like a supernova would certainly be a possible candidate with one having occurred in the year 4 BCE.

"Alternatively, an event with a strong astrological association, like a comet or conjunction of a planet or the Moon with a star (especially Regulus, the little king) would also potentially have been noted as an event that may herald the birth of an important person."

The light is believed to have led the Wise Men to Jesus’ birthplace, but what if there was another scenario?

It is understood the Three Wise Men may have been led in the direction of a bright light due to there being a conjunction.

This happens when two or more celestial bodies appear to meet in the sky from our location on Earth.

It is said the Christmas Star, or RCW103, which exploded around 2,000 years ago, could have appeared at the same time as another supernova.

Some have wondered if the Christmas Star could have been a comet.
Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Many have questioned if the Star of Bethlehem was a comet, but others have been quick to point out that wouldn’t give the Three Wise Men a constant reference point to follow.

Dr Brown explained: "It suffers from the same problem as every other object in space does: The constant spin of the Earth means that any object that starts in one part of the sky will inevitably move across it over the course of a few hours.

“If you try and walk towards an object in the night sky you will be constantly changing direction over the course of the day and it won’t point at any specific place.”

Featured Image Credit: Credit: Rastan / Bashar Shglila / Getty