In the early evening for the next few days, the stars will be joined by something remarkable, if not a little heavenly: a pairing of planets whose union in the night sky was dubbed The Star of Bethlehem around the time of Jesus’ birth.
When the planets — Venus and Jupiter — converge, they will form a double star that makes them look a lot closer than they really are, Sky & Telescope reported.
“To the eye they’ll look like a double star,” Kelly Beatty wrote. “Anyone who hasn’t glanced at the evening sky for a while will be surprised by how dramatically tight the pairing is.”
Convergences like the “Star of Bethlehem” are pretty common. They joined in 2014, and will meet again in October this year and August, 2016. In 2000, Venus and Jupiter were particularly tight, but too close to the sun to see, CBS News added.
Though the “Star of Bethlehem” has religious significance for Christians, S&T writer Alan MacRobert said the event doesn’t portend anything these days, but simply makes people pay more attention to the heavens.
“These planetary groupings in the sky have no effect on Earth or human affairs — except for one. They can lift our attention away from our own little world into the enormous things beyond. That’s what amateur astronomers do all the time.”
To catch the “Star of Bethlehem,” head outside right after the sun sets and look west-northwest, the Christian Science Monitor advised. It’ll be a cinch to spot, since both planets will the next brightest thing after the moon. Once you’ve spotted it, let your eyes travel to the upper left to find Regulus, the alpha star of the constellation Leo.
Jupiter and Venus have been inching closer to each other since early summer, Jupiter falling lower in the sky while Venus remained up high. This pattern and ultimate convergence — now on full display — also took place in 2 or 3 B.C., matching the date at which many believe Jesus was born. The Star of Bethlehem mentioned in the Bible may just be the same event.
So make sure to get outside just after dark — and be quick about it, because the “Star of Bethlehem” fades fast — from now until about July 7, to catch the historic astronomical event.
“You’ll be able to hide the pair not just behind the palm of your outstretched hand, but behind your little pinky finger,” NASA said.
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