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    Re: The Star of Bethlehem and Navigation
    From: Paul Hirose
    Date: 2009 Jan 03, 21:28 -0800

    Marcel Tschudin wrote:
    > After
    > studying various texts a person came to the conclusion that this star
    > has likely been Venus in the morning-sky at the moment when it changed
    > its movement from retrograde to normal. According to his calculations
    > this moment would have been on September 1st, 2 BC. For those of you
    > who do know German they can read some of his explanations here
    > http://bazonline.ch/wissen/geschichte/Der-Stern-von-Bethlehem-war-die-Venus/story/29467985
    
    I used SofaJpl to check the motion of Venus with the JPL DE406 ephemeris
    and IAU 2006/2000A precession-nutation model:
    
    -0001-08-31T00:00 TT (J)  139°27' true RA
    -0001-09-01T00:00 TT (J)  139°05' true RA
    -0001-09-02T00:00 TT (J)  138°44' true RA
    -0001-09-03T00:00 TT (J)  138°26' true RA
    -0001-09-04T00:00 TT (J)  138°10' true RA
    -0001-09-05T00:00 TT (J)  137°56' true RA
    -0001-09-06T00:00 TT (J)  137°45' true RA
    -0001-09-07T00:00 TT (J)  137°36' true RA
    -0001-09-08T00:00 TT (J)  137°29' true RA
    -0001-09-09T00:00 TT (J)  137°25' true RA
    -0001-09-10T00:00 TT (J)  137°23' true RA
    -0001-09-11T00:00 TT (J)  137°24' true RA
    -0001-09-12T00:00 TT (J)  137°27' true RA
    -0001-09-13T00:00 TT (J)  137°32' true RA
    -0001-09-14T00:00 TT (J)  137°39' true RA
    -0001-09-15T00:00 TT (J)  137°49' true RA
    -0001-09-16T00:00 TT (J)  138°01' true RA
    -0001-09-17T00:00 TT (J)  138°15' true RA
    -0001-09-18T00:00 TT (J)  138°32' true RA
    -0001-09-19T00:00 TT (J)  138°50' true RA
    -0001-09-20T00:00 TT (J)  139°10' true RA
    
    "TT (J)" means the Terrestrial Time scale and Julian calendar. The year
    -1 is 2 BC. The right ascension is the geocentric coordinate.
    
    So my computation shows Venus stationary in right ascension on September
    10 (Sept. 8 in the Gregorian calendar). In another computation I found
    it stationary in true longitude on the 12th (Julian calendar).
    
    To compute topocentric values, I used 32N 45E. This is in Iraq, at the
    same latitude but 10 degrees east of Bethlehem. It's just a guess. Delta
    T is +176 minutes, from a polynomial approximation by Espenak and Meeus
    at the NASA eclipse web site. With those values, at 2 BC September 10
    04:55 local apparent time, I have Venus at azimuth 88, elevation 15. Its
    phase angle is 140 (0 = full, 180 = new), so in a telescope it would be
    a crescent. The Sun is at azimuth 76, elevation -10.
    
    Moon phase angle is 52 degrees, 3 days past first quarter. New
    moon was August 30.
    
    I can't explain why my computation has Venus stationary on the 10th, not
    the 1st.
    
    Another problem is that 1) the Magi arrived in Jeruselem in the time of
    King Herod, 2) Herod died in 4 BC. I wonder how the author of this new
    theory explains the discrepancy.
    
    The Bible translation I have, the New International Version, says, "Magi
    from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, 'Where is the one who has
    been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come
    to worship him.'" (A footnote says "star in the east" could also
    translate to "star when it rose".)
    
    There's more than one way to read "We saw his star in the east." 1) the
    star was in the east, 2) the Magi were in the east (in their home
    country) when they saw the star.
    
    In any case, after the star tells them "what" (the king of the Jews is
    born), "where" is obvious. They must go to Jerusalem, the Jewish capital
    city. When the Magi arrive and ask about the child's location, King
    Herod sends them to Bethlehem, only 8 km south. In Bethlehem, it may
    have been easy to find the right house by simply asking people in the
    village. So the Magi may not have needed a supernatural navigational aid
    at any point in the journey.
    
    It's true the Bible says that after they left Herod, "the star they had
    seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place
    where the child was." However, to me that doesn't say they used it for
    navigation. I suspect a lot of details have been distorted in the
    re-telling and translation of the story by people not expert in land
    navigation and astrology.
    
    But having said all that, I admit that nothing indicates the Magi did
    *not* use some celestial object (miraculous or otherwise) to navigate.
    
    I may investigate some of the conjunctions and occultations in
    the Wikipedia article:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_of_bethlehem
    
    -- 
    I block messages that contain attachments or HTML.
    
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