With todays celebration of Epiphany (from Koine Greek ἐπιφάνεια, meaning "appearance", "manifestation"), the Christmas is officially concluding. This day commemorates the visitation of the Biblical Magi to the child Jesus.
In my culture, the 6th of January is called The day of the Three Kings and I recall that it meant the absolute end to the joyful Holiday time and a return to the routines of daily life.
All of us are familiar with the story of The Three Magi (Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar), carrying gifts (gold, frankincense, and myrrh) and following the Bethlehem Star, which finally lead The Kings to the infant.
I am intrigued by this tale. The spiritual me rejoices in this event; the scientific me likes to look back in history, searching for facts that would depict it in the heavens, those two thousand years ago.
Was there really a star, or a glowing, moving object in the skies around the birth of Christ?
I am not the only one asking this question. For centuries, the answers have been proposed by theologians, historians, astronomers and laymen.
The primary reference for the Star of Bethlehem is in the Gospel of Matthew, which was probably written around 80 A.D or slightly later. In modern times, astronomers have offered various explanations for the star. A nova, a planet, a comet, an occultation, and a conjunction have all been suggested.
In 1614, German astronomer Johannes Kepler determined that a series of three conjunctions of the planets Jupiter and Saturn occurred in the year 7 B.C; the nights sky of that event can be seen here.
Halley's Comet was visible in 12 B.C and another object, possibly a comet or nova, was seen by Chinese and Korean stargazers in about 5 B.C. A recent hypothesis states that the star of Bethlehem was a supernova or hypernova occurring in the nearby Andromeda Galaxy.
Of course, to those of faith, the Star Of Bethlehem is a magical event, that needs no explanation nor have to be supported by any facts. The magi seem to have been the only ones who saw the star— this further supports the notion that the star of Bethlehem was a supernatural manifestation from God rather than a common star, which would have been visible to all.
After searching for the facts myself, I eventually realized that facts matter very little in this subject. What matters is what we believe. Sometimes a belief is the ultimate proof.
After all; "There where science ends, faith begins."