One of the staples of the Christmas season is the display of nativity scenes, complete with baby Jesus, attendant livestock, and Myrrh-wielding Magi. Many nativity sets also include a representation of the Star of Bethlehem, which, in Christian tradition, guided the Magi to the manger where Jesus was cooling his heels, post-birth.
By Becky Ferreira|MOTHERBOARD
For centuries, the appearance of the star has been interpreted by theologians as a miraculous herald of Jesus Christ’s arrival on Earth. But a question remains: Was the Star of Bethlehem a mere literary flourish, or was there really a super-luminous object in sky around the time Jesus is thought to have been born?
One of the first people to investigate this question with any scientific rigor was the influential astronomer Johannes Kepler. After observing the increased luminosity resulting from a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in 1604, he wound back the ephemeride clock, calculating that very rare conjunctions of Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars occurred in 7 and 6 BCE.