1. The Christmas Star May Have Been A Planetary Conjunction
There are a number of fascinating features about the star that guided the wise men. It is said to have risen “in the east,” to have “appeared” at a specific time, to have gone “before them,” and to have “stopped” over Bethlehem.
Taken together, these characteristics cannot possibly describe a star, but they do describe planets, known as “wandering stars” to the ancients. They rise in the eastern sky, travel through the fixed field of stars, and are governed by the planetary laws of motion, which make them appear at certain times and not others. Moreover, they can even appear to stop when they enter their retrograde motion phase.
There is evidence that Herod the Great died in 1 BC, not 4 BC as previously thought. During the fall of 2 BC, an amazing planetary conjunction between Jupiter and the star Regulus would have resulted in one of the brightest objects that people at that time had ever seen. It’s interesting to note that Jupiter is named after the greatest god of Roman mythology, and Regulus means “regal” or “kingly.” This symbolism would not have been lost on the magi (aka astronomers) who decided to follow it.
By running computer simulations, we can discover the exact day that Jupiter went into its retrograde motion and appeared to stop. That day was December 25, 2 BC. To the wise men gazing at Jupiter from Jerusalem, it would have appeared to be over the little town of Bethlehem. So, December 25 may not have been the day Jesus was born, but rather the day that the wise men came to give him gifts.