Written by Karl Hricko on December 13, 2021
Hello! I’m Karl Hricko of the United Astronomy Clubs of NJ and the National Space Society bringing you the December Starwatch for WNTI.ORG
It appeared to be a brightly shining star in the East. It was what we now call the “Christmas Star”. The travelers following this “star” were said to be Magi, kings or astrologers. They were to have heard of the coming birth of someone of a kingly nature. So, they traveled with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Considering the nature of this “star” from an astronomic perspective, astronomers have ruled it out as a nova, supernova, comet or a meteor. Computer simulation of the skies at that time shows that Jupiter went through a series of conjunctions with planets and bright stars. Also, Jupiter in its motion, appears to stand still for a while because of its retrograde motion. This leads to the idea that Jupiter is the most likely candidate for the Christmas Star.
The regal planet Jupiter can be seen at sunset to the southwest in Aquarius. Lining up in a diagonal path downward to the right from Jupiter, we see Saturn in Capricornus, Venus in Sagittarius, and Mercury in Ophiuchus low to the horizon. At sunrise, Mars appears in Libra, then Scorpius, then Ophiuchus in the southeast as the month goes on.
So whatever is your “Christmas Star”, may you celebrate the season in good health with those you love.
Until our next Starwatch – Don’t forget to check out … What’s up in the night sky!