PDA

View Full Version : Observatory of Lisbon: Star of Bethlehem a scientific fact



mateus1987
2011-Mar-28, 10:21 PM
http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-rN2lF_V52gA/TZD-9PZmXuI/AAAAAAAAAtM/z3Amw8x1Z9w/s1600/Star%2Bof%2BBethlehem.jpg


http://www.oal.ul.pt/imagens/fcul.png


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0L4OuPg2xNo&nofeather=True

grapes
2011-Mar-28, 10:42 PM
The video starts off by claiming to be an enactment of a close approach of Saturn and Jupiter in the sky on Dec 24, year 0. That is certainly false--their close approach in 7BC has often been claimed to the Star, they are nowhere near close in year 0, or year 1 BC, or year 1AD. It takes another twenty years or so for them to get together again.

agingjb
2011-Mar-29, 12:46 AM
Year 0? The conventional (retrospective) calendar has 1AD following 1BC immediately.

grapes
2011-Mar-29, 12:57 AM
I took year zero to be the year before 1AD, but regardless there is not a close appearance of Saturn and Jupiter in any of the years near that date, unless they are counting 7BC as year zero. Makes sense, I guess.

ETA: upon further review, the relationship of Saturn to Jupiter, and of they to the moon, is almost exactly the same as shown in the video, according to my ephemeris for 24 Dec 7BC. So, that is what they're doing.

The end of the video also invites us to an astronomical event at Fatima 11 June 2011, not sure what that's about. O yeah, Saturn sets with the nearly full moon early in the morning, Pluto and Neptune overhead, Uranus rising, followed by Jupiter, Mars, and Venus. Mercury rises with the Sun. That's all of them, I think.

mateus1987
2011-Mar-29, 12:59 AM
if you see the date of the event is year 7 BC , but remember that there was a correction to the calendar of 7 years so this is actually year 0 december 24th

Tensor
2011-Mar-29, 01:03 AM
There's also the little problem of Herod the Great dying in 4 BCE.

grapes
2011-Mar-29, 01:16 AM
if you see the date of the event is year 7 BC , but remember that there was a correction to the calendar of 7 years so this is actually year 0 december 24thThere was no 7 year correction that I know of...

Swift
2011-Mar-29, 01:18 AM
OK, so let's say there was some bright object/light over the sky of the City of Bethlehem in some year... so what?

grapes
2011-Mar-29, 01:28 AM
...so what?Just an attempt to ascertain the validity of certain historical accounts or legends that we've accumulated, sorta like the existence of Troy, or the sinking of Atlantis, or the lost colony of Roanoke, except this has an astronomical bent. :)

Centaur
2011-Mar-29, 07:31 PM
This really is a “so what”. What astronomers call the year 0 is what historians call 1 BC. The following year was +1 or AD 1. There never has been a seven-year correction made by astronomers, historians or the pope. There was a ten-day adjustment to dates during 1582, but that did not affect the actual or retrospective dating of events for prior years.

There was no conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn in the astronomical year 0 (1 BC). There were three conjunctions between those two planets in the astronomical year -6 (7 BC) on May 29, September 30 and December 5, all with separations of approximately 1°. On December 24 of that year they were separated by 1.6°. The next conjunction came in the year AD 14 on December 26 with a separation also close to 1°, and was similarly the case on December 24.

Matthew made one brief mention of a special star in his gospel. None of the other gospel writers made any mention at all of such an apparition. One would think that if the star actually existed and were of any importance that there would have been some corroboration. During those times astrology was quite popular. It was common practice to claim that a king was born during the apparition of a particular star or conjunction of planets. Many modern scholars consider the star to which the OP is referring to be a pious fiction created by Matthew. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_of_bethlehem . It’s a shame the way modern planetariums cater to popular fancies by devoting their December star shows to conjectures regarding this tale.

I believe our OP has a professor who initiated two threads at the astronomy.com message board to claim that the conjunction of the Moon and Venus on 2011 JUN 30 will be of importance to Fatima, Portugal: http://cs.astronomy.com/asycs/forums/t/50571.aspx and http://cs.astronomy.com/asycs/forums/t/50613.aspx . A locked BAUT thread seems to connect the professor with his student: http://www.bautforum.com/showthread.php/113491-Extra!!-Venus-moon-conjunction-and-massive-planetary-alignment-June-30-2011 . The coming June conjunction will be a daytime occultation across a strip from North Africa east to Indonesia. For most of Europe including Portugal it will be a daytime conjunction and not an occultation.

In 1917 a miracle is alleged to have occurred in Fatima. In Fatima on 2011 JUN 30 it will be daylight at the time of closest conjunction, while the Moon and Venus will be only 13° from the Sun. That will be near the time that the professor hopes to see the pair appearing to pass over a church steeple while he watches from the plaza below. The professor seems to be expectant of another miracle. Sorry, but he and his students will likely be disappointed, if they hope to view the pair during full daylight. With luck they may be able to view Venus near the very slim crescent Moon before sunrise.

The attempt by the OP of this thread to connect astronomy with astrology and the theological mythology of an alleged "Star of Bethlehem" does not really belong in a forum for serious astronomical discussions.

amensae
2011-Mar-30, 11:11 AM
The nativity stories are mythological, not historical. Only Matthew mentions the star, the magi and the massacre of the innocents; only Luke mentions the shepherds, the manger and the census (for which there is no historical record).
That is not a denigration of the Gospel narratives. Myth was intended to be not objective history but a cultural framework for religious experience and expression.

Ara Pacis
2011-Mar-30, 02:06 PM
Actually, the evidence seems quite clear that the star was due to a nova appearing in the vicinity of Sirius based on the interpretation of a verse here (http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CBkQtwIwAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3D_wY 0z6KuA6w&ei=fzeTTfmVDYWT0QGLq-TMBw&usg=AFQjCNHGFuiT-m2Mg2OVyr_nq2skWvH6pg). The yellow butterfly description certainly sounds like it could refer to an exploding nova, as would the ring-shape referenced by a hollow log (which itself might be an ancient reference to sighting sticks or even the not-yet-invented telescope! Sirius is referenced by the dog strap and the two shiny stones are obvious references to the companions of Sirius, which weren't even detected by astronomers until a few decades ago!

:)

amensae
2011-Mar-30, 03:10 PM
Re: Sirius
Companions - plural? A second companion was once reported but has been refuted.
As for Sirius B, there is no evidence of a nova, nor is there any possibility that it become a white dwarf in historical times.
My favourite explanation for the Star of Bethlehem is to be found in Arthur c. Clarke's poignant The Star. However, all the speculation is based on the assumption that the star was a real, historical phenomenon and not a "pious fiction."

Centaur
2011-Mar-30, 05:10 PM
Re: Sirius
Companions - plural? A second companion was once reported but has been refuted.
As for Sirius B, there is no evidence of a nova, nor is there any possibility that it become a white dwarf in historical times.


It appeared to me that Ara Pacis was speaking with tongue in cheek.

kamaz
2011-Mar-30, 10:25 PM
The video starts off by claiming to be an enactment of a close approach of Saturn and Jupiter in the sky on Dec 24, year 0.

I have an annotated edition of the Bible, published by the Catholic Church. It explicitly says (in the annotations) that the likely date of Jesus' birth is 7-6 BC (most estimates point at 5 BC or thereabouts (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chronology_of_Jesus#Year_of_birth)). The idea of celebrating Christmas on 24th December originated in 5th century AD, so that day is likely unrelated to the actual event.

In short, whoever did this is working exactly backwards. All other treatments of the subject matter I have seen try to derive the date of Jesus' birth from an astronomical event, and not the other way around.

ETA: Here is good overview of candidate events: http://www.astronomynotes.com/history/bethlehem-star.html

amensae
2011-Mar-31, 02:36 AM
It appeared to me that Ara Pacis was speaking with tongue in cheek.

Ahhh.. yes, got it. These days it's hard to tell. (I was kinda wondering about that link.)

grapes
2011-Mar-31, 02:56 AM
I have an annotated edition of the Bible, published by the Catholic Church. It explicitly says (in the annotations) that the likely date of Jesus' birth is 7-6 BC (most estimates point at 5 BC or thereabouts (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chronology_of_Jesus#Year_of_birth)). The idea of celebrating Christmas on 24th December originated in 5th century AD, so that day is likely unrelated to the actual event. Fifth? That link says "At least as early as 354 AD, Jesus' birth was celebrated on December 25 in Rome" and mentions a possibly even earlier date, over a hundred years before.


In short, whoever did this is working exactly backwards. All other treatments of the subject matter I have seen try to derive the date of Jesus' birth from an astronomical event, and not the other way around.It seems like that is what they're doing, though:
So, that is what they're doing.


ETA: Here is good overview of candidate events: http://www.astronomynotes.com/history/bethlehem-star.htmlI assume you mean the astronomical candidates (I'd be careful of that particular webpage, it seems deficient in arithmetic! It says ... nevermind, I'll explain later. :) )

amensae
2011-Mar-31, 04:17 AM
Sorry to keep pushing the point but...
All this analysis and speculation is built on the presumption that the Star of Bethlehem was not a pious fiction, which is surely the most likely explanation.

I was disappointed that the linked article* ended on a weasel-word note: “Those who would dismiss the birth story because it cannot be proved historically accurate are also missing the real point of the story. While both extremes will worship at the altar of literal-factual truth, the vast majority of Christians understand that there is a deeper truth worthy of worship.”
Then why even bother with the pretence of a scientific analysis and just call it a miracle?
(Interestingly, the article links to a page which in turn links to “intelligent design” resources.)

* http://www.astronomynotes.com/history/bethlehem-star.html

Robert Tulip
2011-Mar-31, 08:44 AM
Actually, the evidence seems quite clear that the star was due to a nova appearing in the vicinity of Sirius based on the interpretation of a verse here (http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CBkQtwIwAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3D_wY 0z6KuA6w&ei=fzeTTfmVDYWT0QGLq-TMBw&usg=AFQjCNHGFuiT-m2Mg2OVyr_nq2skWvH6pg). The yellow butterfly description certainly sounds like it could refer to an exploding nova, as would the ring-shape referenced by a hollow log (which itself might be an ancient reference to sighting sticks or even the not-yet-invented telescope! Sirius is referenced by the dog strap and the two shiny stones are obvious references to the companions of Sirius, which weren't even detected by astronomers until a few decades ago!

:)My opinion is that the Star of Bethlehem is Sirius. (http://www.bautforum.com/showthread.php/87994-Argo?p=1831375#post1831375)

Jamotron
2011-Mar-31, 08:52 AM
Even if it appeared exactly as Mathew mentioned it (it was him right?) then it would still be of no significance.
Astrology is bunk. We know this for a fact. It might be nice for Christians to have some solid evidence that one aspect of their bible is undoubtedly true, but that's what faith is for, right?

tnjrp
2011-Mar-31, 09:14 AM
Just read a short bit on this by the Finnish astronomer Esko Valtaoja from the recent collection of his various articles Kosmoksen siruja. According to him, there doesn't seem to have been any historical celestial event significant enough per se to entice the sky-watching Magi to set out on a long and ardurous trip to see some newborn someplace associated with any year in the immediate vicinity of Jesus's assumed birthdate.

grapes
2011-Mar-31, 03:36 PM
Just read a short bit on this by the Finnish astronomer Esko Valtaoja from the recent collection of his various articles Kosmoksen siruja. According to him, there doesn't seem to have been any historical celestial event significant enough per se to entice the sky-watching Magi to set out on a long and ardurous trip to see some newborn someplace associated with any year in the immediate vicinity of Jesus's assumed birthdate.Right. They all knew about the planets, conjunctions come and go, etc.

Like Robert I have my own favorite theory. But the same can be said about Sirius, the brightest star--what would it do that it hadn't done before?

So, we have three options: 1) A bright apparition that appeared only to them, that moved magically before them. That obviously has nothing to do with astronomy, so we won't even consider it here on BAUT; 2) A bright astronomical event, but as you say, all the possibilities have been rejected by someone; 3) A dim astronomical event, which has the advantage of not being seen by the world universally--it would not appear in other records, which, as has been mentioned, it doesn't! :)

Strange
2011-Mar-31, 03:47 PM
So, we have three options:

You are just trying to wind up amensae, aren't you :)
4) A "pious fiction".

mike alexander
2011-Mar-31, 04:12 PM
My favorite explanation is that the star was an incarnation of Elvis, glittering in the entertainment firmament. I note that in the story the Fourth King, who brought Jesus a pair of blue suede shoes, is not mentioned in the final accounts.

grapes
2011-Mar-31, 06:02 PM
You are just trying to wind up amensae, aren't you :)No.

See this post (http://www.bautforum.com/showthread.php/108-The-Star-of-Bethlehem?p=1484#post1484). :)

4) A "pious fiction".More or less subsumed under my category 1). As I said, we don't have to discuss it here on BAUT, for obvious reasons.

Ara Pacis
2011-Mar-31, 07:30 PM
I have an annotated edition of the Bible, published by the Catholic Church. It explicitly says (in the annotations) that the likely date of Jesus' birth is 7-6 BC (most estimates point at 5 BC or thereabouts (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chronology_of_Jesus#Year_of_birth)). The idea of celebrating Christmas on 24th December originated in 5th century AD, so that day is likely unrelated to the actual event. Perhaps not entirely unrelated. Some have expressed the opinion that the original Greek wording in the Christmas story in John indicate that Jesus might have been born on a Jewish feast day, The Feast of Tabernacles. This might be correlated with the census. If one were to work backwards from a birthday on 15 Tishri (September/October in our calendar) then the conception (immaculate or otherwise) could have occurred on or about December 25th. Of course, how close may depend on which year you use, since the Jewish calendar was lunar based and changed in relation to our current solar calendar and its predecessors.


In short, whoever did this is working exactly backwards. All other treatments of the subject matter I have seen try to derive the date of Jesus' birth from an astronomical event, and not the other way around.There's also the astronomical event of an eclipse that might be used to help determine the year.

kamaz
2011-Mar-31, 09:28 PM
Fifth? That link says "At least as early as 354 AD, Jesus' birth was celebrated on December 25 in Rome" and mentions a possibly even earlier date, over a hundred years before.

Sorry, my error.

My point is that there is no record of birth date in the Gospel, only some references to surrounding events. So assuming any date for granted (like these guys are doing) is erroneous.

kamaz
2011-Mar-31, 09:49 PM
There's also the astronomical event of an eclipse that might be used to help determine the year.

Eclipse at Jesus' birth? Haven't heard of that. I'd appreciate a source.

If you mean the Crucifixion eclipse, then in principle you could start from that (e.g. a lunar eclipse on 3 APR 33 is a good candidate (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crucifixion_darkness_and_eclipse#Lunar_eclipse)) and work backwards. However, there is another problem, because if you traditionally assume that Jesus was 33 at the time of Crucifixion, you get a birth date around 1 AD which is after Herod's death. On the other hand, the 33 years of age claim is as (un)reliable as everything else here, and I actually read some articles which argued that it makes more sense to assume Jesus was closer to 40 when crucified. This theory argues that someone around 30 would be too young to be accepted as a rabbi in Jewish society.

That would give us 5BC - 33AD, which at least has supporting astronomical evidence.

kamaz
2011-Mar-31, 10:06 PM
So, we have three options: 1) A bright apparition that appeared only to them, that moved magically before them. That obviously has nothing to do with astronomy, so we won't even consider it here on BAUT; 2) A bright astronomical event, but as you say, all the possibilities have been rejected by someone; 3) A dim astronomical event, which has the advantage of not being seen by the world universally--it would not appear in other records, which, as has been mentioned, it doesn't! :)

There is a fourth possibility: an astrological event, i.e. a planetary configuration which was seen as significant, despite not being spectacular on the sky.

Personally, I vote for the planetary theory (either conjunction or astrology). The reason is that the magi arrived in Bethlehem on the day of Jesus's birth (or soon after). If so, they had to start the journey in advance. That obviously required predicting the event, and of all theories advanced here, only planetary events are predictable.

The real mystery however is how they would determine not time, but the location. Astronomical events are rarely localized enough.

grapes
2011-Mar-31, 10:26 PM
If you mean the Crucifixion eclipse, then in principle you could start from that (e.g. a lunar eclipse on 3 APR 33 is a good candidate (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crucifixion_darkness_and_eclipse#Lunar_eclipse)) and work backwards. However, there is another problem, because if you traditionally assume that Jesus was 33 at the time of Crucifixion, you get a birth date around 1 AD which is after Herod's death. "Around 1 AD" is correct, but it'd have to be 1BC or even possibly 2BC. :)

Someone who is 33 in year 33 AD would be born in 1BC or 2 BC, not 1 AD.


There is a fourth possibility: an astrological event, i.e. a planetary configuration which was seen as significant, despite not being spectacular on the sky. That comes under my possibility 2), that was addressed by tnjrp's post, I thought.


Personally, I vote for the planetary theory (either conjunction or astrology). The reason is that the magi arrived in Bethlehem on the day of Jesus's birth (or soon after). If so, they had to start the journey in advance. That obviously required predicting the event, and of all theories advanced here, only planetary events are predictable. Not necessarily. :)

My link above to an old BABB post has the details.


The real mystery however is how they would determine not time, but the location. Astronomical events are rarely localized enough.They didn't exactly have the location, did they?

Hornblower
2011-Mar-31, 10:33 PM
I thought the crucifixion date had been pinned down to about A.D. 29. With a reputed eclipse on the eve of Passover, I would be interested in eclipse information from someone like Jan Meeus.

Ara Pacis
2011-Mar-31, 10:56 PM
Eclipse at Jesus' birth? Haven't heard of that. I'd appreciate a source.

No, not the death of Jesus, but a lunar eclipse visible in Jerusalem in the same year as the death of Herod, According to Flavius Josephus.

kamaz
2011-Mar-31, 11:22 PM
No, not the death of Jesus, but a lunar eclipse visible in Jerusalem in the same year as the death of Herod, According to Flavius Josephus.

Ah, thanks. That would be 23 MAR 5 BC (http://www.astrosurf.com/comets/cometas/Star/Passover.html).

Ara Pacis
2011-Apr-02, 12:15 AM
Ah, thanks. That would be 23 MAR 5 BC (http://www.astrosurf.com/comets/cometas/Star/Passover.html).

The source I have suggested the 1BC eclipse. I don't recall if it had to be within a month, is that from Josephus?

grapes
2011-Apr-02, 12:29 AM
Josephus doesn't specify which eclipse, if any. There is a lot of speculation, still

Ara Pacis
2011-Apr-02, 04:09 AM
I found an article that suggests it explicitly should not be within a month of passover, due to various considerations of timing and contemporary politics. link (http://www.biblicalchronology.com/herod.htm)

Josephus describes a lunar eclipse occuring on the night after Herod killed some of the teachers and students at the Temple. He places this event after the fast day (Yom Kippur) on Tishri 10. Now, lunar eclipses occur when the moon is full, about the middle of the Jewish month (because the Jewish calendar is based on the phases of the moon). But Herod could not have put to death teachers and students of the Temple in the middle of Tishri. At that time, millions of Jews would gather in Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles. So, this lunar eclipse must have occurred after the month of Tishri (and before the month of Nisan, when Passover occurs).
....
The most often cited lunar eclipse, which many consider to be the eclipse before Herod’s death, is the lunar eclipse of March 13, in 4 B.C. However, this eclipse occurred only one lunar month before the Passover of April 11 that year. It is inconceivable that so many events as are described by Josephus could possibly be fit into one month.
They try to fix a start date for Herod's reign and so assume it can only be years 9, 8 or 1 BC, but rule out 1 BC due to comets and a couple solar eclipses reported for important events in Roman history. Based on Herod's reported Massacre of the Holy Innocents (2 1/2 year old boys), they claim the birth could not have been later than 10 BC.

Jerry
2011-Apr-05, 12:49 AM
I once took a cruise on the Star of Bethleham...or was it a cruise on The Star, with a drink called the Betheham?

Centaur
2011-Jul-01, 02:22 AM
Mateus1987, on 2011 MAR 10 you initiated a thread in this forum with the following headline:

Extra!! Venus-moon conjunction and massive planetary alignment June 30 2011

You replied to one of your responders with the following comment:

Yes sir, it has a real importance because my teacher at the university of Lisbon told us that this is going to be a great event in Portugal there is great expectation in Portugal, because the astronomical event will be aligned with the basilica of fatima and he has discovered that the basilica was built as an astronomic observatory.

That thread has been locked, but here is a link: http://www.bautforum.com/showthread.php/113491-Extra!!-Venus-moon-conjunction-and-massive-planetary-alignment-June-30-2011?highlight=fatima

Since this is the only other BAUT thread in which you have participated, and the two are somewhat related, I’ll ask you to report here on the event you expected would occur earlier today.

Nowhere Man
2011-Jul-01, 11:41 AM
Good luck with that. Mateus1987 hasn't been here since the end of March.

Fred

Strange
2011-Jul-01, 12:50 PM
So maybe the Rapture happened after all, but it was just him.

George
2011-Jul-01, 10:52 PM
The following is what [I]astronomy I could find by using Starry Night Pro+ 6. It has nothing to do with Lisbon, really.

I chose the Baghdad region hoping to get an idea of what the Persians might have observed that got them willing to saddle-up their camels. The evidence that Herod died in 4BC is fairly strong, so something prior to that date would be highly favored.

[trinitree, a few years back, suggested the idea of a possible supernova given the discovery of some close neutron stars. Thanks to 1987a, we have a better idea on the rate of speed the gases travel, thus we have a better idea when the exploded. Of course, the margin of error is still too big to tell anything for certain.]



Baghdad region

6 BC:
Jan. 1: Jupiter & Saturn close in Pisces
Jan. 23: Saturn equidistant between Jupiter and Moon in Pisces (pointing to Aries?)
Feb. 20: Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and new Moon all within about 3 deg. radius
In Pisces at 7pm on western horizon
Mar. 4: Jupiter and Mars conjunction at sunset
Horizontal alignment with Saturn directly below
Mar. 19: Lunar occulation of Saturn (not visible, too close to Sun and below horizon)
Mar. 24: Venus and Saturn conjunction at dawn in Pisces
Apr. 16: Lunar occulation of Saturn, 12:50 pm in Pisces. (not visible, daytime)
Apr. 17: Lunar occulation of Jupiter, about 12:45 pm (daytime)
Apr. 18: Annular Solar eclipse (not visible from Middle East)
Apr. 24: Saturn and Venus only 42 arcmin separation in Pisces
Seen only briefly around 4:30 am on horizon (4 deg alt.)
May 8: Conjunction of Jupiter and Venus (34 arcmin in Aries).
Visible only on horizon from 4 to 5:30 am
May 13: Lunar occulation of Saturn in Pisces (not visible from Middle East)
11 pm but 46 deg below horizon. Venus and Jupiter reasonably close by.
May 15: Lunar conjunction of Jupiter in Aries (< 6 arcminutes)
Visible about one and one-half hours before conjunction.
Venus-Jupiter-Moon-Saturn aligned (Aries region)
May 16: Venus and very thin crescent Moon proximity (3 deg) in Taurus
Seen only briefly about 4:30 am
Jul. 2: Venus & Mars conjunction at dusk
Jul. 10: Mercury & Venus conjunction at dusk (Mars nearby)
Jul. 22: Saturn begins retrograde between Cetus and Aries
Aug. 22: Jupiter begins retrograde back into Aries
Sep. 2: Mars visible within 50 arcminutes of Regulus at 4:30am in Leo
Sep 14: Lunar occulation of Venus (far below horizon, not visible)
Nov. 7: Mars about 2 deg. from Moon when it rises in East (2 am in Virgo)

5 BC: [Most activity too close to Sun]
Mar. 11: Lunar conjunction of Venus with Jupiter and Pleiades very close
Region between Taurus and Aries asterisms.
Actual conjunction only 1 arcmin separation but well below horizon
Mar. 23: Total Lunar eclipse, 9:30 pm, 38 deg. alt., in Virgo
Sep. 15: Total Lunar eclipse, 11:20 pm, 50 deg. alt., in Pisces

4BC: [Most activity too close to Sun]
Jan. 30: Lunar conjunction with Mars in Pisces
30 arcminutes at 3pm, 1 deg. at 6 pm.
Mar. 6 & 7: Conjuction of Saturn and Mars (~ 2 deg)
Seen near western horizon around 7:30 pm, in Aries
Mar 13: Lunar eclipse (1/3 partial umbra passage), 3:30 am in Virgo (33 deg alt.)
May 9: Conjunction of Saturn and Mercury, dawn, in Taurus
May 17: Conjunction of Mars and Venus at dusk near horizon (Jupiter nearby)
May 23: Conjunction of Venus and Jupiter at dusk near horizon in Gemini
Sep 5: Lunar eclipse (2/3 umbral passage), but at 2:15 pm (daytime) and well below horizon

3BC
Apr. 2: Saturn, Venus, Mars grouping in Taurus
Jun 13: Saturn and Venus conjunction, seen rising at 3 am in Taurus
Aug 12: Jupiter and Venus close conjunction, seen rising at 5 am in Leo
Sep 5: Lunar occulation of Jupiter near Regulus in Leo
Not visible until 1 deg. separation when rising at 3 am.
Sep 14: Jupiter rises with Regulus in Leo
About 15 arcmin. Separation at 4 am, 24 deg. alt.
Oct. 3: Jupiter, Regulus, and crescent Moon within 3 deg. radius of Regulus (Leo)
Oct. 31: Close conjunction of Moon and Jupiter in Leo at 4 am,
About 30 min. separation at 60 deg. alt.

2 BC
Jan 20: Lunar eclipse below horizon in daytime (2 pm)
Mar 25: Saturn and Mars conjunction setting in Taurus (8:30 pm), Venus nearby
Apr 3: Saturn, Venus, Mars grouping (3 deg. radius from Venus) at setting
Apr 12: Moon, Regulus, Jupiter alignment
May 7: Crescent Moon close conjunction (2 arcminutes) of Venus in Gemini
But 20 deg. below horizon
May 10: Moon, Regulus, Jupiter alignment seen at midnight at setting
Jun 17: Venus occulation of Jupiter (8 arcsec separation), 9:18pm in Leo
Jul 17: Lunar eclipse below horizon in daytime (8:30 am)
Oct 14: Jupiter and Venus conjunction rising at 3 am in Virgo
Nearby is Mars close to Spica
Oct 24: Jupiter, Venus, Spica, crescent Moon grouping in Virgo (5 am)
Dec 8: Venus and Mars conjunction rising at 4 am in Libra

1 BC
Jan. 10: Total Lunar eclipse at [corrected: 6 am.]
Aug 27: Alignment of Mercury, Venus, Jupiter and Mars (briefly visible at [corrected: 7:30 PM] in East; in Virgo)
Jan 24: Saturn and Moon close (daytime, 9:30 am, 1.7 deg.)
Feb 16: Lunar (3.5 day old) occulation of Venus (below horizon, 2:25 am)
Feb 20: Saturn and Moon close ( daytime, 4 pm, 2 deg.)
Mar 18: Lunar (4.9 day old) conjunction with Mars, 9:21 pm
Mar 20: Saturn and Moon close ( 1:30 am, 1 deg)
Apr 11: Lunar occulation of Venus (below horizon, 2:30 am)
Apr 16: Vertical alignment: Mars, Moon, and Saturn (below horizon, 8 am;
within the body of Gemini)
May 13: Grouping of Saturn, Mercury and Moon (2 day old) in body of Gemini at sunset
May 13: Lunar occulation of Saturn at 11:18 pm, below horizon (-24deg)
Jul 8: Lunar occulation of Saturn, 4 am on eastern horizon. Mercury within 42 minutes of Saturn.
Aug 29: Grouping of Mercury, Venus and Jupiter (near Sun).
[Added: Nov 8: Mars -2.48 mag. in opposition in Pisces-]
Nov 10: Conjunction of Mars and Jupiter (~ 37 arcminutes at 6am)
Dec 29: Lunar eclipse beginning at 3 pm (daytime), ½ umbral at 4:52 pm (Sun at - 2 deg alt, Moon at 1 deg. alt.); penumbral only at 6 pm (Sun at - 15 deg, Moon at 13 deg.)

1 AD
Jun 10: Total Solar eclipse, 9 am. [Saturn and Mercury nearby]
Jun 24: Lunar eclipse at 3:45 pm (penumbral only, daytime)
Aug 1: Conjunction of Saturn and Venus, eastern horizon, 3:50 am
Aug 4: Grouping of Saturn, Venus and 26 day Moon (8 pm, below horizon)
Sep 1: Lunar conjunction with Saturn (daytime, 11 am, 42 min sep.)
Nov 2: Grouping of Moon, Mars, Jupiter, Mercury and Venus, below horizon. Nov 19: Lunar partial penumbral eclipse at 10:55 pm. [Not noticeable]
Dec 4: Solar eclipse, partial, and at midnight [Not noticeable in Israel.]
Dec 19: Lunar partial penumbral eclipse at 11:55 am. [Not noticeable]

Added is in color

Robert Tulip
2011-Jul-02, 03:09 AM
what the Persians might have observed that got them willing to saddle-up their camels.

All this assumes that the stories are literal history, but there is no independent corroboration for the gospel accounts. It is more likely that the movement of the equinoctial point across the first fish of Pisces in about 21 AD provided the basis for the myth.

15190

George
2011-Jul-03, 05:02 PM
All this assumes that the stories are literal history,... Agreed. All we can do is provide scientific context to the different narratives. It seems clear that astrology commanded great respect but what elements of it were the likely influential ones that may have caused these maji to look for new king, assuming we accept the story? Only the saddling-up portion of the story interests me astronomically because I see only a miracle at work to have some sort of light guide them from capital to Bethlehem.


It is more likely that the movement of the equinoctial point across the first fish of Pisces in about 21 AD provided the basis for the myth.
15190 Why do you favor this event?

Robert Tulip
2011-Jul-04, 10:28 AM
Agreed. All we can do is provide scientific context to the different narratives. It seems clear that astrology commanded great respect but what elements of it were the likely influential ones that may have caused these maji to look for new king, assuming we accept the story? Only the saddling-up portion of the story interests me astronomically because I see only a miracle at work to have some sort of light guide them from capital to Bethlehem.George, as I mentioned earlier (http://www.bautforum.com/showthread.php/114078-Observatory-of-Lisbon-Star-of-Bethlehem-a-scientific-fact?p=1871136#post1871136) in this thread, it is plausible that the source of the traditional tale of the three Magi and the star in the east is in ancient observation of the stars, with the popular fable embroidered around these observations.

Placing the story in 'scientific context' requires effort to compare the plausibility of rival narratives. On the one hand, the literal historical account of the birth of Christ suffers from numerous difficulties, not least the absence of any independent corroboration of such major events as the massacre of the innocents. On the other hand, there are abundant precedents in the mythology of Egypt, Babylon and Greece for the story of a divine birth.

So, it seems far more plausible to me to read the birth story along the same lines as other myths of heroes visible in constellations, such as Hercules and Perseus. Taking this assumption, the three kings become the three stars of the belt of Orion, rising each night from the east and journeying across the sky to the west, 'the star in the east' becomes Sirius, the brightest star of the sky, which is in fairly direct line eastward from the three stars of Orion's Belt at culmination, and the manger beneath the star becomes the constellation Argo, which interestingly has stars that can be seen as either the deck of Noah's Ark or the manger of Christ.

Why is the star 'in the east' (Matt 2:9 (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+2:9&version=KJV)) when it would have been in the west if real magi had followed it from Chaldea, and in the south as they traveled from Jerusalem to Bethlehem? Either the reference to the east means the magi saw it when they were in the east, or it refers to a map of the sky, the fact that Sirius is always to the east of Orion as the belt reaches the meridian.


Why do you favor this event?

If the story is primarily a cosmic allegory, it can be read against the observation of precession of the equinox as a symbol for transition from one age to the next.

Understanding the ages as the 2000 year periods in which the equinox inhabits the successive constellations along the ecliptic, we find that the supposed time of Christ is the time when the equinox physically moved into the constellation of Pisces. Such slow movement, one degree per human life time, means the movement of the equinox into Pisces was a gradual process.

The moment I depicted in 21 AD was when the equinox crosses the first fish of Pisces, defined as the line between the two stars of this asterism that are closest to the ecliptic.

There are numerous stories in the gospels that support this cosmic vision of an imagined shift of ages - Christ as fish, the alpha and omega as the end of the last age and beginning of the next, the loaves and fishes as the equinoctial constellations Virgo and Pisces, and so on.

This interpretation does not require any unscientific assumptions, but rather sets the traditional tales within the scientific context of archaeo-astronomy, applying an appropriate skepticism to well known stories that are on face value implausible, but which could have an allegorical meaning.

Shaula
2011-Jul-04, 06:56 PM
The points you raise as support are cherry picked. Why was Christ a lamb as well? Aries? Walking on water? Aquarius? Point being there are a lot of other equally valid allegories you could build from the wealth of stories in the book. Also you have to consider which pieces are based on fulfilling prophecies or outdoing previous prophets (IIRC the loaves and fished bit can be explained as that).

You define the start of the Piscean age rather arbitrarily to fit the date you are interested in. Why those two stars? Why that line?

I don't meant to sound like I am bashing the theory - I just think that the evidence is lacking right now.

astromark
2011-Jul-04, 07:55 PM
Good on you 'George' you have shown some good information that almost any one of..

could easily have been the 'Star' of Bethlehem..

or the unrecorded 'Nova' event in the eastern sky..is my favourite candidate.

Not because I know this ( I do not ) But such a event would be very bright, very obvious,

and fade to nothing in a week or so... Which for me encompasses all that we know.

That such a event could so easily be the answer does not surprise me.. and we can never know...

grapes
2011-Jul-04, 08:49 PM
1 BC
Jan. 10: Total Lunar eclipse at 2:30 am.
Nov 8: Alignment of Mercury, Venus, Jupiter and Mars (briefly visible at 6 am in East; in Libra
Are there some dates out of order?


Aug 1: Conjunction of Saturn and Venus, eastern horizon, 3:50 am
Aug 4: Grouping of Saturn, Venus and 26 day Moon (8 pm, below horizon)
Sep 1: Lunar conjunction with Saturn (daytime, 11 am, 42 min sep.)
Nov 2: Grouping of Moon, Mars, Jupiter, Mercury and Venus, below horizon.
I personally think you should add the opposition of Mars in September, 1BC, since its last appearance had been so uncommonly bright, astronomers would have taken a keen interest in it. Especially since it happened in the star-lean Pisces. They would've mapped every nearby star, including that 5.7 magnitude one that suddenly started to drift west! And they probably would have followed the star's progress until until it stopped, in December. Then, of course, they would've soon lost it in the sunlight.

Robert Tulip
2011-Jul-04, 09:07 PM
The points you raise as support are cherry picked. Why was Christ a lamb as well? Aries? Walking on water? Aquarius? Point being there are a lot of other equally valid allegories you could build from the wealth of stories in the book. Also you have to consider which pieces are based on fulfilling prophecies or outdoing previous prophets (IIRC the loaves and fished bit can be explained as that).
It may appear to be cherry picking on a surface reading, but I would argue it is about understanding a consistent cosmology that informed the writers of the New Testament. This astronomical reading is not well known because the literal interpretation of the Gospel has been so dominant historically.

The key is the argument that theology originally sought to explain nature, presenting allegorical stories about Christ that matched to the actual observable changes of the cosmos. The primary actual cosmic change observable at the time of Christ was the movement of the equinox from its former position in the constellation of Aries into the constellation of Pisces. Seeing this slow sweep of time as providing the event which the allegorical stories sought to explain enables a coherent picture.

You define the start of the Piscean age rather arbitrarily to fit the date you are interested in. Why those two stars? Why that line?It is not actually arbitrary. If you look at the diagram of the equinox point at the time of Christ (http://www.bautforum.com/attachment.php?attachmentid=15190), you see that the constellation Pisces comprises two lines of stars. One line crosses the ecliptic at right angles at the equinox point of the time of Christ, and the other line extends along the ecliptic past the current equinox point.

Yes it is possible to choose various exact moments, such as when the equinox point first entered the modern constellation boundary about a century before Christ. However, considering how the ancients must have seen it, the 'start of the new age' would have been regarded as the point when the equinox shifted from before the perpendicular line of the first fish to after this line.

I used the astronomy software SkyGazer 4.5 to produce the diagram referenced. The stars of the constellation are joined by marker lines, and 21 AD is when the equinox point crossed the line of the first fish of Pisces. I zoomed in to check this with the software, so this claim is just as accurate as the software I used. For ancient observers who did not have modern computers, the slowness of the movement of the equinox around the ecliptic made it a decadal observation, with the equinox point crossing into Pisces around the period from the claimed birth to death of Jesus.

It was a matter of common knowledge among astronomer-priests of the ancient world in the time of the common era that the equinox had precessed from Aries into Pisces. Their traditions included the idea that the stars behind the sun marked the tropical signs of the zodiac. Precession meant this was no longer the case. The first fish of Pisces, as a long line of stars perpendicular to the ecliptic, presents an obvious boundary point.


I don't meant to sound like I am bashing the theory - I just think that the evidence is lacking right now.Fine, and this material is very much open to contest as this astronomical reading has not been widely discussed. But considering the balance of probabilities, it presents a more plausible account of the psychological motivations of the writers than other readings that rely on supernatural and miraculous factors.

R.A.F.
2011-Jul-04, 11:40 PM
It may appear to be cherry picking on a surface reading, but I would argue it is about understanding a consistent cosmology that informed the writers of the New Testament. This astronomical reading is not well known because the literal interpretation of the Gospel has been so dominant historically.

I know this isn't the proper forum to demand evidence, but really....prove it...prove that the writers of the New Testament were somehow "better informed".


The primary actual cosmic change observable at the time of Christ was the movement of the equinox from its former position in the constellation of Aries into the constellation of Pisces.

What "kind" of science is this?? It reads like jibberish.

George
2011-Jul-05, 02:29 AM
Are there some dates out of order? Time and date, apparently. I made the changes. The eclipse was around 6am not 2:30 am, but Jan. 10th was correct. The Nov. 8th grouping took place in late August and in Virgo.


I personally think you should add the opposition of Mars in September, 1BC, since its last appearance had been so uncommonly bright, astronomers would have taken a keen interest in it. Agreed. The neo-antipodal grouping at the same time would have heightened their astrological juices, perhaps.


Especially since it happened in the star-lean Pisces. They would've mapped every nearby star, including that 5.7 magnitude one that suddenly started to drift west! And they probably would have followed the star's progress until until it stopped, in December. Then, of course, they would've soon lost it in the sunlight. Hmmm, was there ever any evidence that a "wandering star" was ever so dim? Why would they find any interest in a dim body with a name like Uranus? They weren't Germanic? ;)

I recall that Galileo had a shot at Georgium Sidus during his Medician Moons discovery back in early February 1610 when Uranus came within 2 deg. of Jupiter. It was only 1/2 deg. in mid July of 1609, but he didn't have his little scope at that time.

George
2011-Jul-05, 02:59 AM
Placing the story in 'scientific context' requires effort to compare the plausibility of rival narratives. On the one hand, the literal historical account of the birth of Christ suffers from numerous difficulties…. On the other hand, there are abundant precedents in the mythology of Egypt, Babylon and Greece for the story of a divine birth.

So, it seems far more plausible to me to read the birth story along the same lines as other myths of heroes visible in constellations, such as Hercules and Perseus. I do suspect that the constellation assignments to nations were important to this story.


Taking this assumption, the three kings become the three stars of the belt of Orion, rising each night from the east and journeying across the sky to the west, 'the star in the east' becomes Sirius, the brightest star of the sky, which is in fairly direct line eastward from the three stars of Orion's Belt at culmination, and the manger beneath the star becomes the constellation Argo, which interestingly has stars that can be seen as either the deck of Noah's Ark or the manger of Christ. That’s a nice view but it is a static one. Something made these guys, perhaps 3, saddle-up for a long journey.


Why is the star 'in the east' (Matt 2:9) when it would have been in the west if real magi had followed it from Chaldea, and in the south as they traveled from Jerusalem to Bethlehem? Either the reference to the east means the magi saw it when they were in the east, or it refers to a map of the sky, the fact that Sirius is always to the east of Orion as the belt reaches the meridian. Why would that excite them if that were all there was to it? They saw the star while in the east and they reportedly came from the east, but something dramatic must have been taken as a strong astrological sign. It may have taken a nova or supernova, but maybe not if their spiritual temperatures were high enough to get excited about something less dramatic.


If the story is primarily a cosmic allegory, it can be read against the observation of precession of the equinox as a symbol for transition from one age to the next. Perhaps, but I doubt it was dramatic enough even if they were that knowledgeable of it during this period, though the discovery predates this time frame.


The moment I depicted in 21 AD was when the equinox crosses the first fish of Pisces, defined as the line between the two stars of this asterism that are closest to the ecliptic. I would not expect Pisces to be a Judean constellation, or was it. The importance of loaves and fishes came after their trip. Aries seems to be the more favored choice, but I haven’t bothered to research it.

George
2011-Jul-05, 03:13 AM
Are there some dates out of order?

Aug 1: Conjunction of Saturn and Venus, eastern horizon, 3:50 am
Aug 4: Grouping of Saturn, Venus and 26 day Moon (8 pm, below horizon)
Sep 1: Lunar conjunction with Saturn (daytime, 11 am, 42 min sep.)
Nov 2: Grouping of Moon, Mars, Jupiter, Mercury and Venus, below horizon.

Oops, these belong in 1 AD not 1 BC.

How the heck did you catch these errors? :doh:

Shaula
2011-Jul-05, 05:23 AM
It may appear to be cherry picking on a surface reading, but I would argue it is about understanding a consistent cosmology that informed the writers of the New Testament. This astronomical reading is not well known because the literal interpretation of the Gospel has been so dominant historically.
The point I was trying to make is that if you assign importance to certain metaphors and not others (including those with alternative explanations related to scriptural and narrative techniques common at the time) then the onus is on you to explain away the other metaphors.

I've read the astronomical hypothesis several time before and it has always smacked of over-fitting, an attempt to jam a mystical text written a long time ago into a 'modern' context. Rather like the Soviet attempts to explain away everything historical in terms of early examples of capitalist oppression and communist revolution.

Robert Tulip
2011-Jul-05, 01:03 PM
prove that the writers of the New Testament were somehow "better informed".
I didn't say they were 'better informed', whatever that means, but that they were informed by their observation of the cosmos. Precession of the equinox is a scientific fact that has been known to astronomers since ancient times. Precession was first mentioned explicitly by the Greek astronomer Hipparchus in the second century BC, but there is strong evidence, for example as attested by Norman Lockyer in his book The Dawn of Astronomy, that precession was recognised long before that in Egypt, arising from their obsession with observation of the regular cycles of the stars. This is not to suggest the ancients understood the mechanism of precession, or that their magical ideas about it made sense, only that they saw its effects in the slow movement of the stars against the seasons. In terms of ancient cosmology, precession was the major cycle of astronomical observation encompassing the shorter cycles of the day and the year.

The key observations of precession are in the apparent movement of stars at the pole and the ecliptic. The March equinox point, now nearing the end of Pisces, moved into Pisces at the time of Christ. Before that it precessed through the constellations of Aries, Taurus, etc, around the ecliptic, spending an average of 2148 years in each.

Proving that this observation of the slow movement of the stars against the seasons informed the writers of the New Testament faces the immediate challenge of conflict with orthodox views, especially its conflict with the orthodox rejection of pagan star worship in favor of a transcendent monotheist perspective. This context means that if the authors of the New Testament were aware of precession, and indeed used it as a framework for their cosmology, with the Bible stories as allegory for natural observation, they had to hide any references to it in coded language to enable their ideas to be included in the New Testament, which was intended for popular use among people who had no knowledge of this cosmic framework. A direct statement of this cosmic observation would have been unacceptable to readers who associated such ideas with pagan views which Christianity rejected.

There is actually abundant evidence of the coded inclusion of precession in the New Testament. The single most vivid example is the description in Revelation of the holy city as having twelve jewels as its foundations. Traditional Biblical commentaries attest that by old tradition, these twelve jewels symbolize the twelve signs of the zodiac in reverse, beginning with Pisces and ending with Aries. This coded language has a direct correlation with precession of the equinox, with the first foundation matching to the Age of Pisces, and so on in reverse around the ecliptic.

The timing of the life of Christ is precisely when the equinox precessed from the first sign, Aries, into the last sign, Pisces. Here again we see a direct correlation with Christian imagery, notably the description of Christ as the alpha and omega, the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, with the new age of faith correlating directly to the new age of cosmology.


What "kind" of science is this?? It reads like jibberish.
No, it is not gibberish, it is objective astronomy. Calling precession a “primary observable change” means that other observable changes were nested within it. Precession is the biggest stable cycle of the relation between the earth and the visible cosmos, encompassing the faster cycles of the year and the day, a fact well known since ancient times. The earth wobbles like a top due to lunisolar torque, causing the entire sphere of the heavens to appear to slowly rotate against the seasons. The axis wobble period is conventionally known as the Great Year, about 25,765 years in duration. It causes the spring point of the sun, the first point of tropical Aries where the ecliptic crosses the equator, to slowly move along the ecliptic, at a rate of one degree per 71.6 years. Asking how the cosmos changed, it is a fact that the biggest observable change in the visible structure of space at the time of Christ was the movement of the equinoxes into Pisces and its opposite constellation Virgo.

I am not suggesting here that this event directly caused anything on earth, only that it appears the ancients thought that it did, in that the figure associated with the dawn of a new age, Jesus Christ, was said to have lived at precisely the time that their astronomy saw as a new age, as the equinox moved from its longstanding location in one constellation into the next one.

R.A.F.
2011-Jul-05, 06:24 PM
Asking how the cosmos changed, it is a fact that the biggest observable change in the visible structure of space at the time of Christ was the movement of the equinoxes into Pisces and its opposite constellation Virgo.

I still have to say, so what? Other than "discovering" that the ancients had silly ideas, what is it that we actually learn?....that the stars were made into patterns by the ancients, and by this made up "method", came to the conclusion that there was a "change" at the time of Christ.

Think about it for a second...the ancients made up the "patterns" of the stars, so any conclusions reached are artificial...


I am not suggesting here that this event directly caused anything on earth, only that it appears the ancients thought that it did...

...and the ancients were wrong...

Robert Tulip
2011-Jul-06, 08:09 AM
I still have to say, so what? Other than "discovering" that the ancients had silly ideas, what is it that we actually learn?....that the stars were made into patterns by the ancients, and by this made up "method", came to the conclusion that there was a "change" at the time of Christ. Think about it for a second...the ancients made up the "patterns" of the stars, so any conclusions reached are artificial... ...and the ancients were wrong...

Going back to the argument of the opening post, the question here is how ancient myths can best be explained by reference to actual astronomical observation. The ‘star of Bethlehem’ is conjectured as various observations such as a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn. I argue it is better explained along similar lines to other myths about constellations representing heroes, as a way to historize the actual observation of Orion, Sirius and Argo at the winter solstice. As the ‘three kings’ (Orion) culminate on the meridian in their westward journey, a ‘star in the east’ (Sirius) points to a ‘manger’ (Argo) rising on the south-eastern horizon.

It opens a central research question of archaeo-astronomy, how observation of the stars actually influenced ancient culture. Taking the model of the star of Bethlehem as an actual reference to a readily observed annual occurrence, of main stars in the southern sky as viewed from Biblical latitudes, opens the door to considering other stories as allegory for natural observation. If the intent of other main stories in the New Testament can also be explained by reference to natural observation that has been hidden by the dominance of literal readings, then it helps us to understand how astronomy relates to culture. If the old idea of a new age can be explained by astronomy, it helps to see how observation of the stars has been a hidden factor in cultural evolution.

This is all legitimate material for discussion today, because these topics are so much beset by claims that are not compatible with mainstream scientific knowledge, and setting them on an empirical basis helps to rebut the common errors. Leaving aside specifically religious theories, there are people who seek to explain the relation between precession and ancient knowledge with claims that lack any credibility, such as binary stars and other groundless astrological speculation. It has all poisoned the well for scholarly research into these topics.

Starting from acceptance of mainstream astronomy as the basis of interpretation, there is a lot that can be said about how precession affects the long term cycles of the earth, such as Milankovitch’s findings on glaciation. It is plausible that precession also provided a structure for ancient theories of time, with the observation of the regular drift of the equinox around the ecliptic widespread in myth.

Robert Tulip
2011-Jul-06, 09:13 AM
The point I was trying to make is that if you assign importance to certain metaphors and not others (including those with alternative explanations related to scriptural and narrative techniques common at the time) then the onus is on you to explain away the other metaphors. I've read the astronomical hypothesis several time before and it has always smacked of over-fitting, an attempt to jam a mystical text written a long time ago into a 'modern' context. Rather like the Soviet attempts to explain away everything historical in terms of early examples of capitalist oppression and communist revolution.

This skepticism is reasonable, as the argument that the authors of the Bible encoded information about precession of the equinox as an organising principle is far from proven. I find it persuasive, but I don't think it has previously been presented as a sufficiently organized, succinct and robust argument to gain much attention.

There should be nothing against the scientific mainstream here, rather the argument of use of precession is a conjecture that brings in evidence from diverse fields, so is rather complicated and has not been presented in a compelling way. I have tried to make a start on this in my replies to RAF.

Ancient use of precession is sufficiently off topic for this thread on the star of Bethlehem that I would prefer to start a new thread to discuss it.

grapes
2011-Jul-06, 09:24 AM
Wait, before you go, you seem to imply that the "other" interpretations have problems.

This interpretation does not require any unscientific assumptions, but rather sets the traditional tales within the scientific context of archaeo-astronomy, applying an appropriate skepticism to well known stories that are on face value implausible, but which could have an allegorical meaning.
What about this one?


I personally think you should add the opposition of Mars in September, 1BC, since its last appearance had been so uncommonly bright, astronomers would have taken a keen interest in it. Especially since it happened in the star-lean Pisces. They would've mapped every nearby star, including that 5.7 magnitude one that suddenly started to drift west! And they probably would have followed the star's progress until until it stopped, in December. Then, of course, they would've soon lost it in the sunlight.It's a reasonable thing to expect of ancient astronomers--and it doesn't have that "problem" that no one else but they were able to see it. No one else could see it because it was so dim.

Robert Tulip
2011-Jul-06, 12:41 PM
you seem to imply that the "other" interpretations have problems.

Since Grapes raises it, I will answer this, although I am not sure how this discussion sits against board rules.

To recap, this thread is based on the assumption of the general accuracy of the Bible story that three wise men followed a star from Chaldea to Jerusalem and Bethlehem to find the baby Jesus. This story, recorded in Matthew 2 (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=mat2&version=NIV#fen-NIV-23171a), has many problems. Events that are not attested in independent contemporary historical sources include the massacre of the innocents by Herod and even the existence of the town of Nazareth, which it seems was too obscure a place to get mentioned in the Old Testament or by historians such as Josephus. We also have the story of the shepherds in the fields, which rules out the traditional birth date of December. The census of Quirinius (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Census_of_Quirinius) mentioned by Luke was a decade after the death of Herod (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herod_the_Great) mentioned by Matthew. This is not even to mention bigger questions from a scientific perspective, such as the virgin birth, a motif present in many different sources (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miraculous_births). It seems probable that the entire birth narrative is mythic, not historical. This approach to the story is supported by scholars such as Earl Doherty (http://www.jesuspuzzle.humanists.net/jhcjp.htm).

In light of all these problems, any speculation about an actual star is highly dubious. This is why I suggest considering it against the widespread practice of developing myths about constellations (http://www.windows2universe.org/mythology/const_nav.html).

grapes
2011-Jul-06, 01:25 PM
Since Grapes raises it, I will answer this, although I am not sure how this discussion sits against board rules.
My question was about astronomical issues.

George
2011-Jul-06, 02:20 PM
To recap, this thread is based on the assumption of the general accuracy of the Bible story that three wise men followed a star from Chaldea to Jerusalem and Bethlehem to find the baby Jesus.Assuming we take the passages at face value, you are correct, but there is no mention of three wise men, but three gifts, and they seemed to know what country to travel to but not the specific town. This would explain why they went to the leadership, including the religious leaders -- there may not have been fellow astrologers to meet with -- in the capital of Judea.


this story, recorded in Matthew 2 (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=mat2&version=NIV#fen-NIV-23171a), has many problems. Events that are not attested in independent contemporary historical sources include the massacre of the innocents by Herod... How many, or few, were killed in the little town of Bethlehem? Who controlled the media? How cruel was Herod (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herod_the_Great) -- "a madman who murdered his own family and a great many rabbis". But these are side issues with little bearing on the astronoical issues, so lets avoid them.


We also have the story of the shepherds in the fields, which rules out the traditional birth date of December. Yes, this helps. [Christmas seems to have come about to replace the popular pagan celebration, which is the mainstream Christian view of it, I think.]


The census of Quirinius (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Census_of_Quirinius) mentioned by Luke was a decade after the death of Herod (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herod_the_Great) mentioned by Matthew. There are a couple of plausible explanations for this to demonstrate Dr. Luke was not incompetent, but they aren't astronomical points. I do favor allegory, nevertheless, for the guiding "star" over the city of Bethlehem.


This is not even to mention bigger questions from a scientific perspective, such as the virgin birth,... Not many objectively unverifiable supernatural claims lend themselves well to any scrutiny limited to natural laws, which is science. If it could, faith would become void. Any "miracle" that can easily be explained by natural events becomes hyperbole at best.


..a motif present in many different sources (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miraculous_births). It seems probable that the entire birth narrative is mythic, not historical. This approach to the story is supported by scholars such as Earl Doherty (http://www.jesuspuzzle.humanists.net/jhcjp.htm).As you might expect, there is a lot that can be argued here, but it would be inappropriate for this forum.


In light of all these problems, any speculation about an actual star is highly dubious.Even if I agreed, it is still a highly respected story and we do have a vast array of tools that allows us to determine what celestial events may or may not have taken place at that time. It is certain that astrology was highly respected, which was prevalent into the 16th century and even, somewhat, today.

R.A.F.
2011-Jul-06, 04:18 PM
The "problem" I have with all of this, is that you're attempting to find astronomical/scientific explanations for myths.

There is no reason why myths HAVE to have some basis in reality...no reason at all...

Daffy
2011-Jul-06, 04:41 PM
I hesitate to post here these days, but I have to ask a direct question: if it were an astronomical event such as a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, how would that have lead the 3 "wise men" to Bethlehem at all? Was the event directly overhead from there? And at what time was it directly overhead? And, if so, how would they have narrowed it down to such a small geographical area without precise measurements?

I ask out of genuine curiosity; it doesn't seem possible.

George
2011-Jul-06, 05:27 PM
The "problem" I have with all of this, is that you're attempting to find astronomical/scientific explanations for myths.

There is no reason why myths HAVE to have some basis in reality...no reason at all...Whether it was a myth or not is ultimately an opinion. The astronomical evidence, however, may add or subtract from the plausibility either way. Science can sometimes, not too often, contribute to certain religious narratives, which can alter, rarely, the interpretations of the narrative.

The "star" in question is intriguing regardless of the opinon one already has. Even myths may involve real celestial events.

George
2011-Jul-06, 05:32 PM
I hesitate to post here these days, but I have to ask a direct question: if it were an astronomical event such as a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, how would that have lead the 3 "wise men" to Bethlehem at all? Was the event directly overhead from there? And at what time was it directly overhead? And, if so, how would they have narrowed it down to such a small geographical area without precise measurements? Yep, that's a very good question. No distant celestial light source can single out a specific town. But the wise men were not led to Bethlehem initially but to, apparently, Judea, which is why they went to Jerusalem.

The "star" the led them to Bethlehem would have been something more miraculous or, at least, angelic, IMO.

Daffy
2011-Jul-06, 05:43 PM
Yep, that's a very good question. No distant celestial light source can single out a specific town. But the wise men were not led to Bethlehem initially but to, apparently, Judea, which is why they went to Jerusalem.

The "star" the led them to Bethlehem would have been something more miraculous or, at least, angelic, IMO.

It just seems to me for those looking for a genuine astronomical event to explain the Star of Bethlehem, need to first explain how any astronomical event could have done the things claimed for that one.

George
2011-Jul-06, 06:34 PM
It just seems to me for those looking for a genuine astronomical event to explain the Star of Bethlehem, need to first explain how any astronomical event could have done the things claimed for that one. Yes, and it is surprising that anyone would even care to suggest a star could do such a thing, not that anyone here would.

grapes
2011-Jul-06, 07:29 PM
I personally think you should add the opposition of Mars in September, 1BC, since its last appearance had been so uncommonly bright, astronomers would have taken a keen interest in it. Especially since it happened in the star-lean Pisces. They would've mapped every nearby star, including that 5.7 magnitude one that suddenly started to drift west! And they probably would have followed the star's progress until until it stopped, in December. Then, of course, they would've soon lost it in the sunlight.


It just seems to me for those looking for a genuine astronomical event to explain the Star of Bethlehem, need to first explain how any astronomical event could have done the things claimed for that one.My explanation, posted again above, does pretty well at that, I think. What's wrong with it?

George
2011-Jul-06, 08:08 PM
My explanation, posted again above, does pretty well at that, I think. What's wrong with it? How would that apply to the specific long. & lat. of Bethlehem? If these wise men assigned Judea to Pisces, then it might explain their trip to Jerusalem, though Aries is another candidate for the constellation guidance scenario.

Daffy
2011-Jul-06, 08:08 PM
My explanation, posted again above, does pretty well at that, I think. What's wrong with it?

See my post above. I don't understand how---without modern measurement capabilities---such an event could have lead them anywhere other than a very large geographical area. Plus, where exactly was the constellation Pisces, relative to Bethlehem, at the time of the event? (I admit I don't know.) Given that the Gospels were written long after the events described, Occam tells me that someone probably incorporated a known past celestial event into the story.

grapes
2011-Jul-06, 08:48 PM
How would that apply to the specific long. & lat. of Bethlehem? If these wise men assigned Judea to Pisces, then it might explain their trip to Jerusalem, though Aries is another candidate for the constellation guidance scenario.There was a certain bit of prior knowledge, sure, but they saw the "star" Uranus in the east and noticed it traveling west, and followed it. They asked directions along the way, so it wasn't completely exact. When it stopped going west, they did too. Simple, eh?


See my post above. I don't understand how---without modern measurement capabilities---such an event could have lead them anywhere other than a very large geographical area.Yes, they asked around, of course.
Plus, where exactly was the constellation Pisces, relative to Bethlehem, at the time of the event? (I admit I don't know.) Relative, in what sense? The constellations rotate through the sky every day, of course.
Given that the Gospels were written long after the events described, Occam tells me that someone probably incorporated a known past celestial event into the story.I have no beef with Occam (other than it is not a scientific principle)--in fact, that's kinda what led me to this. If there were a "bright, floating beacon" shining before them, why wouldn't they attract crowds, why would experienced astrologers get excited about an ordinary conjunction, etc.

Daffy
2011-Jul-06, 09:10 PM
Yes, they asked around, of course. Relative, in what sense? The constellations rotate through the sky every day, of course.I have no beef with Occam (other than it is not a scientific principle)--in fact, that's kinda what led me to this. If there were a "bright, floating beacon" shining before them, why wouldn't they attract crowds, why would experienced astrologers get excited about an ordinary conjunction, etc.

So---they followed a star to a specific geographical location (based on what?) and started asking around for directions? And directions to what? Sorry, but that sounds really far fetched to me. As I say, the explanation that makes the most sense is that whoever wrote the Gospel (who, btw, could not have been an eyewitness), simply added the star bit, possibly based on a known celestial event at the time in question.

grapes
2011-Jul-06, 09:24 PM
So---they followed a star to a specific geographical location (based on what?) and started asking around for directions? And directions to what? .Not to a specific geographic location (in the sense of standing over it, no celestial object can do that), but they were following prophecies, apparently.

What was your question about Pisces?

Daffy
2011-Jul-06, 09:34 PM
Not to a specific geographic location (in the sense of standing over it, no celestial object can do that), but they were following prophecies, apparently.


I am afraid my only response to this may violate the rules against discussing religion.

grapes
2011-Jul-06, 09:42 PM
I am afraid my only response to this may violate the rules against discussing religion.If the discussion becomes one of believing/disbelieving, yes, I would think that would violate BAUT rules. The game here is to take historical accounts and explain them in context. Like those recent reports that there might be an actual "manna."

Daffy
2011-Jul-06, 09:59 PM
My response has to do with on the one hand you seem to be looking for celestial events that explain the wise men tale; on the other hand, you now say they were only following a prophecy. To discuss this further, seems to me to violate the no religion rule. Perhaps if you check with the mods, we can find out. I have no wish to violate the rules of this forum.

grapes
2011-Jul-06, 10:09 PM
My response has to do with on the one hand you seem to be looking for celestial events that explain the wise men tale; on the other hand, you now say they were only following a prophecy. To discuss this further, seems to me to violate the no religion rule. Perhaps if you check with the mods, we can find out. I have no wish to violate the rules of this forum.I don't see the contradiction. You asked "directions to what?". Here's the canonical text (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+2&version=NKJV), which btw is not the one I subscribe to--it's just a relevant historical document.

R.A.F.
2011-Jul-06, 11:18 PM
The "star" the led them to Bethlehem would have been something more miraculous or, at least, angelic, IMO.

...or it didn't exist at all, so looking for a cosmological "event" to coincide with this biblical "story" is what I call not well reasoned.

grapes
2011-Jul-06, 11:23 PM
...or it didn't exist at all, so looking for a cosmological "event" to coincide with this biblical "story" is what I call irrational.Or did exist, so looking for it is rational, after all. :)

We got lots of options. If I weren't doing this, I might be playing suduku...

Daffy
2011-Jul-07, 02:19 AM
Or did exist, so looking for it is rational, after all. :)

We got lots of options. If I weren't doing this, I might be playing suduku...

As I said before, I personally cannot imagine any celestial event that would fit the description in the Bible. And since you have now declared that the Wise Men were following prophecy and not a "star" at all, it would seem you can't either. Or am I missing something? If, as you say, they were following "prophecy," why do we care at all what was in the sky?

George
2011-Jul-07, 05:03 AM
...or it didn't exist at all, so looking for a cosmological "event" to coincide with this biblical "story" is what I call not well reasoned. In my case, I am not convinced that any non-local (ie celestial) event could guide anyone to a specific location. But an unusual celestial alignment could trigger an astrological prediction that involved kingship, especially given that astrologers were paid by kings, and even a Pope or two favored such things.

grapes
2011-Jul-07, 08:57 AM
As I said before, I personally cannot imagine any celestial event that would fit the description in the Bible. And since you have now declared that the Wise Men were following prophecy and not a "star" at all, it would seem you can't either.That's not what I have declared, at all. It's the same sort of explanation that "fits" any of the things on George's list, except better, in my case. I think it was Kepler that started this.


Or am I missing something? If, as you say, they were following "prophecy," why do we care at all what was in the sky?Explain your question about Pisces, and I think I can explain.

grapes
2011-Jul-07, 08:58 AM
In my case, I am not convinced that any non-local (ie celestial) event could guide anyone to a specific location. But an unusual celestial alignment could trigger an astrological prediction that involved kingship, especially given that astrologers were paid by kings, and even a Pope or two favored such things.None of the things on your list were all that unusual, is my point. Whereas my "dim" occurrence was huge. :)

George
2011-Jul-07, 12:46 PM
None of the things on your list were all that unusual, is my point. Whereas my "dim" occurrence was huge. :) I confess to an anti-Uranus bias given its naming circumstances. However, I am curious if anyone ever charted Uranus prior to its discovery by Herschel.

What astrological event would cause the wise men to saddle-up and go on an adventure is anyone's guess, but adventures don't always require a supernova to trigger an expedtion. I assume they were sincere in their belief a new king was what they were reading in the heavens, but they may have also had other motivating factors that made them itchy for a ride out of Dodge. If so, the dramatic event could have been almost any of the things I listed. Or, it could have been a supernova, using trinitree's idea from an earlier thread.

Is there an astrologer in the house? :)

grapes
2011-Jul-07, 01:10 PM
W
If so, the dramatic event could have been almost any of the things I listed.
Exactly. None of them are that much more unusual than the others. But you seem to be excluding my description, why is that? It would've been much more dramatic and unusual, albeit esoteric--just the sort of thing that would not draw crowds, and yet would be visible for months.

Robert Tulip
2011-Jul-07, 01:38 PM
...or it didn't exist at all, so looking for a cosmological "event" to coincide with this biblical "story" is what I call not well reasoned.

The star map of Orion, Sirius and Argo (http://www.bautforum.com/attachment.php?attachmentid=14091&d=1292766423) that I posted earlier reconciles this problem of the likelihood that the star of Bethlehem probably did not exist as a literal historical event.

The group in Argo rising at the southeast horizon, as shown in the linked star map, was most likely seen in ancient mythology as the deck of Noah's Ark (Ark=Argo), and also of the barques of Osiris and Gilgamesh. Certainly, Argo Navis is associated with these old myths, although the stories are largely lost. One extant source is Plutarch (http://www.argonauts-book.com/argo-and-the-ark.html)*, who said "the vessel in the celestial sphere, which the Grecians call the Argo, is a representation of the ship of Osiris, which out of reverence has been placed in the heavens". The linked website gives various claims about this association. The flood story presents the deck of the Ark as a symbol of salvation. Mythically, this origin in stories of human salvation gives Argo Navis/Noah's Ark a link to the nativity story, with the manger a wooden vessel located among animals.

If you look at the star map, you can see there are three stars in a row at the head of the 'manger' rising in the southeast, just as the 'three kings' in Orion's Belt culminate. So, we see a typical mythical story in the stars, three kings (Orion's Belt), look past a star in the east (Sirius), and end up kneeling before the savior. These stars in Argo are not visible from European latitudes, so it is not surprising that this interpretation has not been raised before.

This reading has the advantage over traditional interpretations that it does not involve any implausible fables, except that the loss of this story (if it is true) requires the assumption that it provided a cosmic oriented origin for the myth that was suppressed by the rise of the popular literal reading in Matthew.

Grapes' suggestion that the star is Uranus is surprising on a number of levels. It assumes the historical truth of the story, although it lacks any corroboration, even though such amazing events would probably have been noted in the historical record if they actually happened. The claimed events of the nativity were not recorded until several generations later, giving rise to the suspicion of hearsay. Uranus is at the very limit of naked eye visibility. Even Galileo saw it but did not realize it was a planet. This makes it an attractive candidate in one way (ignoring the general problem of plausibility of the whole story) in that the wise men were supposedly visionaries who revealed hidden secrets. Uranus was also located precisely at the March equinox point, so fits in with other mythical ideas regarding precession as an encompassing story. Also, Uranus travels across the sky each night with the celestial sphere, so the idea of following it makes little sense. This last objection applies to all real stars and planets.

*The claim at the website (http://www.argonauts-book.com/argo-and-the-ark.html) that Argo has no connection to the Ark is wrong. Both are derived etymologically from Agastya (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agastya), the Indian name for the star Alpha Carinae, Canopus. The Indians have old myths that call Canopus Agastya, a cognate of Argo.

George
2011-Jul-07, 02:18 PM
WExactly. None of them are that much more unusual than the others. But you seem to be excluding my description, why is that? It would've been much more dramatic and unusual, albeit esoteric--just the sort of thing that would not draw crowds, and yet would be visible for months.
I am dubious about an expedition trigger by any 5.7 mag. observation, unless it is the Richter scale. :)

grapes
2011-Jul-07, 02:38 PM
Also, Uranus travels across the sky each night with the celestial sphere, so the idea of following it makes little sense. This last objection applies to all real stars and planets.Followed in the sense that it was moving westward (retrograde) among the stars. Planets also can "wander" towards the west, but Uranus would have been a new star.


I am dubious about any 5.7 mag. observation, unless it is the Richter scale. :)Under dark skies? You can't be serious!

I've seen that planet naked eye myself.

Also, the motion of Mars at the time would have been to loop and reintersect Uranus, again drawing attention to it, over the months.

George
2011-Jul-07, 03:37 PM
Followed in the sense that it was moving westward (retrograde) among the stars. Planets also can "wander" towards the west, but Uranus would have been a new star.

Under dark skies? You can't be serious! Huh? I keep expecting to see a newly installed facetious smiley at the end of these statements.


I've seen that planet naked eye myself.But is there any evidence that it was known a couple thousand years ago? Uranus as a wandering star would have made front page news back then. [/facetious]

Part of the astrological problem, I suspect, is the likelihood that the magnitude of the celestial body was proportional to the degree of impact upon their lives. The tiny glow of Uranus might only cause a King to win in a chariot race but not win a major battle. Of course, Mars would cause a significantly greater effect, so the combination, I suppose, might improve his chariot speed during a battle that he wins. [/facetious... I want that smiley with or w/o the sarcastic one. :)]

Robert Tulip
2011-Jul-07, 03:51 PM
Followed in the sense that it was moving westward (retrograde) among the stars. Planets also can "wander" towards the west, but Uranus would have been a new star.
Under dark skies? You can't be serious!
I've seen that planet naked eye myself.
Also, the motion of Mars at the time would have been to loop and reintersect Uranus, again drawing attention to it, over the months.

You can't be Sirius! You have better eyes than I Gunga Din. I suppose ancient Israel and Chaldea lacked modern light pollution.

Uranus is retrograde for about five months each year, bisected by the moment when it rises at dusk. It hit the March equinox point in July of 1BC, then went retrograde back west into Pisces until going direct in November. Mars joined it at the first passage of the equinox and retrograded with it until October. Pretty story but rather fanciful. It relies on the idea that the seers had been watching the constellation of Pisces and observed Uranus as a faint star moving west within it in the months leading up to the BC/AD moment, prefiguring the subsequent movement of the equinox point over the age period.

Uranus is at about the same tropical point this year, but sidereally shifted by about one hour and fifty minutes right ascension.

grapes
2011-Jul-07, 04:04 PM
I am dubious about an expedition trigger by any 5.7 mag. observation, unless it is the Richter scale. :)




I am dubious about an expedition trigger by any 5.7 mag. observation, unless it is the Richter scale. :)
Under dark skies? You can't be serious!

I've seen that planet naked eye myself.OK, I see where you have modified the post to clarify. Thanks.

But it wouldn't have been just a 5.7, it would have been moving!


But is there any evidence that it was known a couple thousand years ago? Uranus as a wandering star would have made front page news back then. [/facetious]
Now I'm not sure of what you mean. Do you mean you think a moving star would've been huge, or not? (maybe the facetious sign would be just too confusing...)


You can't be Sirius! You have better eyes than I Gunga Din. I suppose ancient Israel and Chaldea lacked modern light pollution.I'd suppose! :)


Uranus is retrograde for about five months each year, bisected by the moment when it rises at dusk. It hit the March equinox point in July of 1BC, then went retrograde back west into Pisces until going direct in November. Mars joined it at the first passage of the equinox and retrograded with it until October. Pretty story but rather fanciful. It relies on the idea that the seers had been watching the constellation of Pisces and observed Uranus as a faint star moving west within it in the months leading up to the BC/AD moment, prefiguring the subsequent movement of the equinox point over the age period.
I suggested earlier that the "seers" would have been watching Pisces for maybe many reasons, but in particular to observe the progress of Mars, which had produced such a show a couple years before.

George
2011-Jul-07, 06:49 PM
OK, I see where you have modified the post to clarify. Thanks. Yep, and it's still grammatically incorrect.


But it wouldn't have been just a 5.7, it would have been moving! If it were that noticeable I would have heard someone at one of the dark sky star parties say "Hey there's Uranus" without the aid of their telescope. At 5.7 mag. it is sure likely they could have done so, but even today, when we know where to look, we don't. At least, not when I'm around, so perhaps this point is more a punphobia issue instead. Yet, I don't recall a "There's Neptune" either. [/facetious]


Now I'm not sure of what you mean. Do you mean you think a moving star would've been huge, or not? Sure, isn't that your point, at least for "wise men"? Planets are "wandering stars" by definition. If it had been noticed by anyone of influence, it would have been established as a planet along with the others: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Moon & Sun. It would have become part of the astrological prognostications that might have been just the tweak they needed to improve their poor batting average.

But where is Uranus in the history books? I have never read an account that claimed Uranus was ever noticed prior to Herschel's discovery, otherwise why would he have the right to name it? [Well, apparently he didn't after all, but I digress, as usual.]

The planetary motions were extremely important to them. At the time of Copernicus, but before his model, when the tables generated from Ptolemy's model was only 8 minutes off for a lunar eclipse, they were not happy and it triggered another new set of tables. [This was another incentive for Copernicus to make the change.]

grapes
2011-Jul-08, 08:18 AM
If it were that noticeable I would have heard someone at one of the dark sky star parties say "Hey there's Uranus" without the aid of their telescope. At 5.7 mag. it is sure likely they could have done so, but even today, when we know where to look, we don't. At least, not when I'm around, so perhaps this point is more a punphobia issue instead. Yet, I don't recall a "There's Neptune" either. [/facetious] Neptune of course is a lot dimmer, way beyond the ability of most (all?) humans.

I'm not sure why no one has pointed it out at your star parties. It's magnitude does fluctuate, sometimes it's dimmer than that. Have you looked at it in a scope? If so, it's not a punphobia thing, right?


Sure, isn't that your point, at least for "wise men"? I wasn't sure because of the facetious tag. What is its effect on meaning? I'm just figuring that out, is all. :)


Planets are "wandering stars" by definition. If it had been noticed by anyone of influence, it would have been established as a planet along with the others: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Moon & Sun. It would have become part of the astrological prognostications that might have been just the tweak they needed to improve their poor batting average.Well, it was eventually!

Wiki (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uranus#Visibility) says it was observed, and recorded, many times before Herschel, they just didn't know what it was. It gets lost again--it's motion amongst the stars is complex, and unique in that it spends almost exactly as much time in retrograde motion as prograde.

George
2011-Jul-08, 02:22 PM
Neptune of course is a lot dimmer, way beyond the ability of most (all?) humans. Yeah, I was thinking it was about 6 1/2 but it is about 8 mag.


I'm not sure why no one has pointed it out at your star parties. It's magnitude does fluctuate, sometimes it's dimmer than that. Have you looked at it in a scope? If so, it's not a punphobia thing, right? One of our astronomy clubs is named SALSA, and for good reason. The puns can become hanus of Uranus. :)


I wasn't sure because of the facetious tag. What is its effect on meaning? I'm just figuring that out, is all. :) Your smiley here would work better as a facetious smiley since the humor is an undercurrent and not to be taken as your true and serious intent.


Wiki (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uranus#Visibility) says it was observed, and recorded, many times before Herschel, they just didn't know what it was. It gets lost again--it's motion amongst the stars is complex, and unique in that it spends almost exactly as much time in retrograde motion as prograde. Yes and they cataloged it as either a star or a comet even after they looked at it with telescopes. The ancients recognized this planet about as much as the discussed the true color of the Sun, which ain't that big today. Indeed, there is only one heliochromologist on the planet and that is one more than anyone really wants. [/facetious :)]

grapes
2011-Jul-08, 03:19 PM
The ancients recognized this planet about as much as the discussed the true color of the Sun, which ain't that big today.I was just offering a scenario that made it plausibly observed: 1) dark skies, 2) experienced and motivated (Mars, etc) observers, 3) few stars in the field, 4) short enough time (a few months) that it's true nature (and prograde motion) wouldn't be deduced

George
2011-Jul-08, 03:34 PM
I was just offering a scenario that made it plausibly observed: 1) dark skies, 2) experienced and motivated (Mars, etc) observers, 3) few stars in the field, 4) short enough time (a few months) that it's true nature (and prograde motion) wouldn't be deduced
Yes, I understand those good points. Similarly 1) Solar projections (unfiltered) are always white -- using a telescope or cardboard with a pinhole; 2) Solar twins (eg 18 Sco) are white in color imaging; 3) the spectral photon flux distribution is almost as flat as a pancake (no peaks); 4) the white clouds reflect (Mie scattering) the color of their source (which can be non-white but only if the Sun is near the horizon). [/facetious] [Ok, I'm an incorigible shill.]

R.A.F.
2011-Jul-09, 01:29 PM
I don't know what has become of portions of this board...seems like a number of people are discussing "junk" science "as if" it were reflective of reality...well, when the discussion becomes "I wonder what astronomical event can be "pigeon-holed" into the approximate time of a mythical figures birth", I start questioning the "science" on this board.

kamaz
2011-Jul-09, 02:11 PM
Imagine that you are an ancient astrologer, in the evening of late summer of 1BC, and you are watching the bright planet Mars in the east as it turns retrograde to pass through Pisces. Pisces is regarded as the zodiacal sign where evidence of the messiah will appear. Mars will be at opposition in Pisces in mid-September, and at its brightest (magnitude -2.5).


Pisces, as in fish.
The symbol of early Christianity? Fish.

I believe that we may be onto something here.

Shaula
2011-Jul-09, 03:54 PM
Early Christianity was also expressed symbolically as a lamb, dove and vine. Of those there are Sheep and Doves in the sky.

The fish was also a widely used pre-Christian symbol. It was not applied AFAIK to the Judaic messiah before Christ - the whole idea of someone watching Pisces for a messiah is likely bogus too as the people in question were probably Zoroastrians. Who did not link the fish to their Sayoshant.

I find that the whole idea is a mix of symbols and mythology from a range of times back-filled to fit an 'explanation' of the story.

George
2011-Jul-09, 07:56 PM
I don't know what has become of portions of this board...seems like a number of people are discussing "junk" science "as if" it were reflective of reality...well, when the discussion becomes "I wonder what astronomical event can be "pigeon-holed" into the approximate time of a mythical figures birth", I start questioning the "science" on this board. A "mythical birth", or non-mythical birth, is not the topic. As scientists says, "Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence", though there is strong circumstantial evidence that is convincing enough to many if not most that such a birth did take place. Assuming it did take place, what facts can we assimilate, especially astronomical ones, that will inform us which scenarios are the most logical and which are the most illogical, if not, in some cases, demonstrably false?

If we knew the year, we would be able to greatly limit the range of astronomical events.
Birth date of 7BC to April of 4 BC. The evidence is fairly strong that on or just prior to the first of April, 4BC is when Herod died. The verse in Matthew indicates Herod restricted the killing to 2 year olds an younger, but he was likley being conservative so a 5BC or 6BC seems more likely than something earlier.

The years of our calendar come from a cleric in 525 AD, Dionysius Exiguus, who likely took the verse (Luke 3:23) stating that Jesus was "about 30" when he began his ministry, which lasted about 3 years. [It was several centuries before a numerical dating for the year took hold.] So even a 7BC date is not too far out of line since Jesus would have been about 34, which can be seen as about 30. 5 or 6 BC fit even nicer.

But how long would it have taken the maji to put a small expedtion together as a result of whatever astrological event triggered their initial commitment to do something about it. Plus, how much time did it take for them to travel to Jersualem once they set their sails (upon the backs of their camels)? The sum of these could have been more than a year. So the initial astrological event could have easily been in 6BC or possibly a little earlier.

George
2011-Jul-09, 08:06 PM
The fish was also a widely used pre-Christian symbol. It was not applied AFAIK to the Judaic messiah before Christ - the whole idea of someone watching Pisces for a messiah is likely bogus too as the people in question were probably Zoroastrians. Yes, and there were no Christians prior to Christ. He and his disciples were Jews. If the astrological event was associated with a constellation, it would have been one assigned to Judea, not Christians.


I find that the whole idea is a mix of symbols and mythology from a range of times back-filled to fit an 'explanation' of the story. Yet this is to be expected given their focus on religion and not science. There was a reson little was written by the first century early Christains who felt their end, and a good one, was at hand. Many sold their possesions, appaently, with this in mind.

Nevertheless, there are bits and pieces to the puzzle that, if arranged properly, might make an interesting picture, but very likely never a definitive one. Of course, if a supernova could be assigned to 5BC, or something, then it would help, but we would still want multiple lines of evidence for such a celestial observation.

R.A.F.
2011-Jul-09, 10:52 PM
...if a supernova could be assigned to 5BC, or something, then it would help, but we would still want multiple lines of evidence for such a celestial observation.

Nope...no supernova to "pigeon-hole" into this...guess you'll have to find another astronomical "excuse" for the so called star of Bethlehem.

George
2011-Jul-10, 12:48 AM
Nope...no supernova to "pigeon-hole" into this...guess you'll have to find another astronomical "excuse" for the so called star of Bethlehem. trinitree had mentioned a couple of candidates. It seems unlikely, admittedly, that a sn could have been around since it would be seen by observers around the world and likely some written account would be available of it. The expansion rate of the erruptive cloud is not known well enough to nail down the year of these supernova. Again, the absence of evidence is not...

Shaula
2011-Jul-10, 06:43 AM
Slightly missed my points.
1) Why would Zoroastrians care about a Jewish symbol? Even if there were a Jewish one relevant to it. The major centres of astrology that took detailed measurements and might have spotted some of the subtle events in the sky that we had been discussing were not majority Jewish at the time.
2) I find that it is us who are mixing symbols and timelines. Most explanations of what was happening I have seen here are hugely affected by notions of what is important to us now. So we grab a fish from early Christianity with some precessional stuff from epoch unknown, thrown in some later Christian symbols.... All in an attempt to find a compelling narrative. I've seen no attempt to correlate the events described to earlier prophecy, which is vital because some things were adjusted to be more in line with this by later writers (that is pretty well established by looking at John - and the reconstructed fragments we have of Q).

This isn't, to me, a good analytical attempt to deconstruct the source and tie it to the real world. It is a few astronomers reading the King James and going "Oooh! Look at that! Supernova! Precessional metaphor!"

grapes
2011-Jul-10, 08:47 AM
This isn't, to me, a good analytical attempt to deconstruct the source and tie it to the real world. It is a few astronomers reading the King James and going "Oooh! Look at that! Supernova! Precessional metaphor!"At first I thought you were talking about my example. :)

What would be your criteria for a good analytical attempt?

Robert Tulip
2011-Jul-10, 10:03 AM
1) Why would Zoroastrians care about a Jewish symbol? Even if there were a Jewish one relevant to it. The major centres of astrology that took detailed measurements and might have spotted some of the subtle events in the sky that we had been discussing were not majority Jewish at the time.Ancient Judaism was actually far more stellar in its orientation than is often assumed. People tend to take the prohibitions on worship of stars in books such as Deuteronomy as indicating an absence of stellar motifs. However, both Josephus and Philo, principal ancient sources, say that the twelve stones of the breastplate of the high priest of Israel symbolized the twelve signs of the zodiac.

As to why the stars of Pisces would have been of particular interest, the Hebrew new year began in spring. In Old Testament times this was when the sun was in the constellation of Aries, but from New Testament times it occurred with the sun in Pisces.

"Wikipedia Hebrew Calendar: New year (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hebrew_calendar#New_year)
A shofar made from a ram's horn is traditionally blown in observance of Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the Jewish civic year. Exodus 12:2 and Deut 16:1 set Aviv (now Nisan) as "the first of months": this month shall be unto you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you. Nisan 1 is referred to as the ecclesiastical new year. In ancient Israel, the start of the ecclesiastical new year (i.e. Nisan) was determined by reference to Passover. Passover begins on 14 Nisan, (Leviticus 23:4-6) which corresponds to the full moon of Nisan. As Passover is a spring festival, 14 Nisan begins on the night of a full moon after the vernal equinox. To ensure that Passover did not start before spring, the tradition in ancient Israel was that 1 Nisan would not start until the barley is ripe, being the test for the onset of spring. If the barley was not ripe an intercalary month would be added before Nisan."

The point here is that all the cultures of that region had an interest in how the stars marked time. It is quite plausible that the shift of the equinox point from Aries to Pisces was universally seen as a marker of a new age.


2) I find that it is us who are mixing symbols and timelines. Most explanations of what was happening I have seen here are hugely affected by notions of what is important to us now. So we grab a fish from early Christianity with some precessional stuff from epoch unknown, thrown in some later Christian symbols.... All in an attempt to find a compelling narrative. I've seen no attempt to correlate the events described to earlier prophecy, which is vital because some things were adjusted to be more in line with this by later writers (that is pretty well established by looking at John - and the reconstructed fragments we have of Q).The "precessional stuff" is not "epoch unknown". There is a lot of material that links the position of the spring equinox with the prevailing doctrine and symbols. For example the stories of the replacement of the golden calf (Taurus) with symbols based on the ram (Aries) such as the horn blown at Jericho, and the ram's horn mentioned above as the symbol of the Hebrew new year. As the equinox moved into Pisces at the time of Christ, this position of the sun at the new year in spring remained of key interest.

Shaula
2011-Jul-10, 10:18 AM
OK first off the person doing the analysis should have a solid grounding in the history and sociological factors of the era. Probably undergraduate level. They should have a good understanding of scripture and scriptural analysis (starting with Midrash and Pesher and going on to the harder stuff). This should cover both Jewish and Christian works, including the apocrypha. They should be familiar with a range of Jewish movements of the time (the Essenes being the obvious ones). Then they are about ready to start...

Going back to original works they should ONLY study direct translations (or better still actually read Aramaic) and work from them. They should break down the gospels into source materials (currently I think there are three sources - two of the gospels and Q). They should extract all the themes they consider important (messianic themes, piscine symbology here) and look back for references to them in previous literature. They should especially read up on Isiaah and Elijah (IIRC - may be wrong) and the other prophets who gave the Jews a blueprint for a Messiah. Any 'important' things put in just to satisfy these previous writing can be discounted entirely. The search should include local cults and cultures. Later additions should be traced to see if there was. first, a valid reason for them appearing before we assume secret knowledge of the magi. Note that a lot of this has been done already but I see no evidence that anyone commenting has anything more than the equivalent of a pop-Sci understanding of it. Please counter this assumption if I am doing anyone a discredit.

Only when all of this background is done will there be good, reliable source for us to deconstruct. Timelines should be built - was the event added later? Was it backfilled to counter a different world view (the crowd reaction to Pontius is a good example). The core themes that were too key to remove or alter need to isolated and analysed in context. Analysis of competing hypotheses should be built, a belief/reliability matrix build and degrees of parsimony studied. Each hypothesis should be sent to other people for a devils advocate testing. The ACH matrices for each of these sessions should be combined to create an analyst independent scenario map. Then we might have some idea which ones are even worth looking into more.

Basically it needs to be analysed systematically and read in the way that the people reading and writing it would have read it. This random trawling for references that tie in to a pre-existing hypothesis is the antithesis of how you do analysis.

Edit: And lo - more random trawling of scripture for animals to support a zodiacal hypothesis :D

grapes
2011-Jul-10, 11:38 AM
OK first off the person doing the analysis should have a solid grounding in the history and sociological factors of the era. Probably undergraduate level. They should have a good understanding of scripture and scriptural analysis (starting with Midrash and Pesher and going on to the harder stuff). all of them? :)

That pretty much rules out about 7 billion people. :)

Shaula
2011-Jul-10, 11:40 AM
Nah, just with the associative techniques associated with them. I'm not be unrealistic here. I just would rather people understood why some of these allegories came about, how they were used and why. I should have stated that.

grapes
2011-Jul-10, 12:04 PM
I tried to avoid allegory in my interpretation. Although others have pointed to interpretations of the constellation Pisces, I just claim that it would have been a part of the sky that deserved study because of the retrograde path and opposition of Mars.

I guess I do still require the story of the magi but if we start treating that as allegory, we have nothing at all to discuss astronomically. Unfortunately, that discussion would have to move to a different board--although that would be something I'd be interested in.

Shaula
2011-Jul-10, 12:10 PM
And I am not arguing that there could have been interest in that part of the sky - my whole argument is with the (IMO) simplistic statements that some of the other explanations have used. Christ = Fish. Pisces = Fish. Therefore Christ = Pisces. That sort of thing. I have no issues with things like "people were interested in this bit of the sky" - I have an issue with "the whole story is an allegorical tale of equinox precession".

I was not really directing my criticisms at your posts - they seemed moderate and sensible. Worth thinking about at least. It was the other stuff I was arguing against - the "the whole story is an allegory for precession - look at these dates!" bit.

R.A.F.
2011-Jul-10, 04:20 PM
Again, the absence of evidence is not...

The complete absence of evidence in the historical record of any SN at that time, MOST CERTAINLY demonstrates that there was no SN visible.

Robert Tulip
2011-Jul-11, 02:41 PM
And I am not arguing that there could have been interest in that part of the sky - my whole argument is with the (IMO) simplistic statements that some of the other explanations have used. Christ = Fish. Pisces = Fish. Therefore Christ = Pisces. That sort of thing. I have no issues with things like "people were interested in this bit of the sky" - I have an issue with "the whole story is an allegorical tale of equinox precession". I was not really directing my criticisms at your posts - they seemed moderate and sensible. Worth thinking about at least. It was the other stuff I was arguing against - the "the whole story is an allegory for precession - look at these dates!" bit.

Yes, Grapes presents a reasonable scientific hypothesis on the Star of Bethlehem. However, putting the story into an astronomical context, it makes sense to explore how the authors may have used the literal story, which is far-fetched in scientific terms, as allegory for a vision that makes observational sense against the long term movement of the heavens.

The importance of the constellation of Pisces extends beyond the movement of Mars and Uranus through it in 1 BC. The Jewish New Year starts around the March equinox, and at that time, this point was moving sidereally from Aries to Pisces. So any observation of planetary movements in this part of the sky is inevitably part of a bigger picture of how the seasons are shifting against the stars.

Scholarship on this topic is rather fragmentary. Leading contributions include Hamlet's Mill, by Santillana and von Dechend, The Great Year by Nicholas Campion, and Aion by Carl Jung. There is also a lot of fringe material, which does sometimes have good research. Hamlet's Mill discusses numerous references to precession in mythology, focused on the Finnish Kalevala and its story of how the cosmic mill fell off its axis as allegory for observation of the precessional movement of the North Celestial Pole. Campion is more focussed on millenarian movements, and Jung is scholarly but speculative, as one of the main originators of modern discussion on precession and myth. None of these books really explores the astronomy of precession in great detail with reference to the Bible. It is a topic deserving rigorous research.

Robert Tulip
2011-Jul-23, 12:10 PM
They would've mapped every nearby star, including that 5.7 magnitude one that suddenly started to drift west!

Well I hope to see it tonight, during the Tour De France, although I confess I will use binoculars. Take a straight line through Algenib and Alpheratz in the Great Square of Pegasus down to the ecliptic in Pisces, just east of the circlet, on a line connecting the ecliptic side of the circlet to Alrischa, the knot star, rising just after 10 pm. Picture attached. (http://www.bautforum.com/attachment.php?attachmentid=15261&d=1311422528)

15261

Shaula
2011-Jul-23, 02:12 PM
I guess we will have to agree to disagree on things like what makes a constellation important. I do not agree that ascribing importance to a constellation because it was a Spring/New Year one makes enough sense to say that the entire New Testament in a metaphor for it (you are quite sloppy with your use of the phrase Bible here - which books are you referring to when you use the term? KJ? Others? How have you selected which ones to use? How do you think that the selection pressures associated with the translations into vernaculars affected your hypothesis?). I think you are being overly reductionist - what we call the Bible is a massively complex series of writings. Trying to come up with an 'explanation' for all this variety is, IMO, rather simplistic. There may be a few themes in there that can be teased out but I think this is into the realm of overfitting.

grapes
2011-Jul-23, 07:11 PM
Well I hope to see it tonight, during the Tour De France, although I confess I will use binoculars. Take a straight line through Algenib and Alpheratz in the Great Square of Pegasus down to the ecliptic in Pisces, just east of the circlet, on a line connecting the ecliptic side of the circlet to Alrischa, the knot star, rising just after 10 pm. Picture attached. (http://www.bautforum.com/attachment.php?attachmentid=15261&d=1311422528)

15261Cool. How about going for Neptune as well??

Map their locations, in relation to the stars. Check 'em out the next night.

Robert Tulip
2011-Jul-24, 01:39 AM
Cool. How about going for Neptune as well??

Map their locations, in relation to the stars. Check 'em out the next night.

Not that easy! Here are charts showing Uranus (http://www.bautforum.com/attachment.php?attachmentid=15266&d=1311471448)and Neptune (http://www.bautforum.com/attachment.php?attachmentid=15265&d=1311471434)current positions. Sky location is shown here (http://www.bautforum.com/attachment.php?attachmentid=15261). Naked eye observation of Uranus needs keen sight and dark skies. The next month will be the best time.

I will reply to Shaula at On the possible discovery of precessional effects in ancient astronomy (http://www.bautforum.com/showthread.php/116815-On-the-possible-discovery-of-precessional-effects-in-ancient-astronomy).

15265
15266

mateus1987
2011-Nov-01, 06:01 PM
Year 7 Bc from October to December conjunction jupiter-saturn at decline pointing from Baghdad (Babylon city more exactly) to Jerusalem.


More info soon from the Observatory of Lisbon.


But you have time to verify with your ephemerides.

pzkpfw
2011-Nov-02, 08:01 AM
BAUT is not a place to advertise things, but you are welcome to discus the astronomical aspects of you claims here - just be very careful with the "religious aspects", please.


edit: oops, I see you've been pushing this before. That starts to make you a spammer. Please do not start another thread on the same topic again. These posts will now be merged...