December 3, 2016

The Christmas Star

Most of my life I have resided in areas that were well lit at night. Only the brightest stars were visible. So my first time camping was a revelation. My God, there are a pants load of stars.

The Ancients did not have to deal with halogen lights. Except for the moon and whatever you could burn, when the sun set, it got dark and stayed dark until the sun rose again in the morning. But the stars....

The Ancients watched the heavens as we watched the Game of Thrones, but they did it every night and they took notes, copious notes.

They used the stars to determine seasons, for navigation. The lunar  calendar was based on the phases of the moon as it circled the earth. They noticed that while almost all stars were stationary, some stars moved across the sky. The Greeks called them planets - "asteres planetai" (ἀστέρες πλανῆται) - wandering stars.

Astrological studies sought to assign significance to celestial bodies and the movement of certain stars and planets assumed great importance. This is why the story of the Star of Bethlehem is so important today.

The convergence of Jupiter, Regulus and Venus occurred in 2 B.C. and this is what the Magi were tracking. Jupiter and Venus appeared to be on a collision course. To the Ancients, this was astounding. To their naked eye the two "stars" appeared as one. And where this happened was also of great significance.

This convergence occurred in the constellation of Leo, which was considered a royal constellation. Within Leo is Regulus, the "King Star."

There was a lot going on within the Roman Empire during this time. For more on this phenomenon, go here.


LL said...

That's right. The Magi were astrologers, not "astronomers". The saw the convergence that would mark the birth of Jesus Christ and traveled to witness. It was quite something really.

sig94 said...

LL - I can only imagine the spectacular night time scenario where your new house will be located.

LL said...

The Discovery Channel Telescope is only a few miles away. It's perfectly dark there. I'm building a deck overlooking a canyon for the purpose of star gazing. Wheel out the Celestron and spend an evening looking for comets. I'd like the one that wipes out most life on Earth to be named for me - out of principle.

Kid said...

Sig, I've also read where the start may have been a supernova. This is a nice theory though.

Wouldn't it be great to be able to see the Milky Way every night?

At the bottom of that page is 'archive'. Click that and Control F and enter a search term for what you're looking for. Probably hundreds of images of Milky Way - and most other things of interest.

Euripides said...

I lived in South America for awhile. On the plains of the Bolivian Altiplano, at 12,500 feet ASL, you definitely get close to the heavens. Ever since then, and every night, I gaze up into the sky. It's a sacred moment for me every time.