The “Christmas Star” Reappears for the First Time in 800 Years This Winter Solstice

What some astronomers believe to be “the Star of Bethlehem” will shine brightest on the darkest day (Dec. 21) of one of our darkest years.

The two largest planets in our solar system – Jupiter and Saturn – will align to create what appears to be a “double planet” or ultra-bright star on December 21 this year.

The last time the two planets aligned so closely to each other and to earth was almost 800 years ago!

German astronomer Johannes Kepler wrote in 1614 that he believed the ‘Star of Bethlehem’ in the Nativity story could have been a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn.

The two planets actually align every 20 years or so, but typically in parts of the sky we can’t see from Earth.

“But this conjunction is exceptionally rare because of how close the planets will appear to one another,” astronomer Patrick Hartigan of Rice University says.

“‘You’d have to go all the way back to just before dawn on March 4, 1226, to see a closer alignment between these objects visible in the night sky.”

Astronomers have calculated that the two planets crossed each other’s paths in 7 BC and that three planets (Jupiter, Saturn and Mars) aligned in Pieces (the sign of the fish, and secret symbol of ancient Christians) for an even brighter conjunction in 6 BC.

Some believe this could’ve been the “bright star” the three magi, or wise men, were following to find their way to Bethlehem when Jesus was supposedly born.

“On the evening of closest approach on Dec 21 they will look like a double planet, separated by only 1/5th the diameter of the full moon,” said Hartigan, a professor of physics and astronomy.

The event can be viewed anywhere on the planet, but will be the brightest for people living near the equator.

For people in the United States, Hartigan recommends looking southwest just after sunset, around twilight, just above the horizon. The farther north you live, the lower in the sky it will be and the earlier you should start looking for it.