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Jupiter, a comet or an exploding star... what did the three wise men really follow to find Jesus?
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12/14/2008 05:28 PM
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It is far more likely that the star was in fact Jupiter - one of the five planets visible with the naked eye. The Magi knew the planets well, but they classed them as stars, and Jupiter would have been familiar to them. It was regarded as the 'royal star', and what was notable about it was the way it behaved before Jesus's birth.
David Hughes, Professor of Astronomy at Sheffield University, has discovered that, three years before Herod's death, there was a rare series of meetings between Jupiter and Saturn in the night sky.
The two planets came together three times over the course of several months. Due to complicated orbital forces, the planets would have appeared to have been travelling backwards and, on specific days, to have actually stopped. All planets do this, but it is very rare when two do so at the same time.
Professor Hughes thinks that this is what the Magi saw. That is the astronomy. But what about the astrology? 'It does this in one specific constellation, Pisces,' he says.
'And so you then have to put your astrological hat on and ask why is Jupiter coming together with Saturn in the constellation of Pisces? And why is it important to a wise man of the East?
The answer is that you have Jupiter, the royal star, and Saturn coming together in Pisces - and Pisces is the constellation then associated with Israel.'
To the Magi, Jupiter represented a new king; Saturn the old. When the planets came together it signified a change of ruler. There is evidence that the Magi would have been able to predict this event, the triple conjunction, happening.
This would have given them time to prepare for the 500-mile journey from Babylon to Jerusalem. 'Jupiter and Saturn came together in May, September and November in 7BC,' says Professor Hughes.