The star plays an important role in Christian history, with the Bible describing how three wise men followed the star to find the birthplace of Jesus in Bethlehem.
The celestial show is created when Jupiter and Venus merge together into something of a super-star. The two have been coming together throughout the month of June, culminating with the sighting on Tuesday and early Wednesday. As Al.com explained, the Star of Bethlehem fits with phenomena described in the Bible as accompanying the birth of Jesus Christ.
“They will be a third of a degree apart, closer than the moon is wide,” said David Weigel, director of the Christenberry Planetarium at Samford University. “It will be close and certainly impressive in the night sky. It will be exciting.”
Astrologists aren’t exactly sure what caused the Star of Bethlehem seen around 2 or 3 A.D. Some believe it was a comet or supernova, but others believe it was the convergence of Jupiter and Venus.
In a 1991 article in The Planetarian journal, William Bidelman, former chairman of the astronomy department at Case Western Reserve University, put forth two conjunctions of Venus and Jupiter in 3 B.C. and 2 B.C. as the most plausible Christmas star.
In the October 1991 Omni magazine, astronomer Fred Schaff also pointed to the rare series of Venus and Jupiter conjunctions on Aug. 12, 3 B.C.; and June 17, Aug. 20 and Oct. 14 in 2 B.C.
The Star of Bethlehem is appearing in the western portion of the sky, and viewers won’t need special equipment to see it. Astronomers said the super-star will be visible to the naked eye.
“To the eye they’ll look like a double star,” said Kelly Beatty, a senior editor at Sky & Telescope magazine. “Anyone who hasn’t glanced at the evening sky for a while will be surprised by how dramatically tight the pairing is.”
Though the super-star is the brightest and clearest it’s been in about 2000 years, it’s not all that uncommon to see. The pairing appeared on August 18, 2014, and will be seen again about one degree apart on the morning of October 26. They’ll then be back in August of next year to anyone who misses out this time around.
Those who want to see the Star of Bethlehem this time around will have a few nights to do so. Though it will reach a peak on Tuesday, the two planets will remain two degrees apart each night until July 4.
[Image via YouTube]