Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry (Sorta) Christmas

We wish a chappy Chanukkah to all our Jewish playfriends and a merry Christmas to all our Christian playfriends...well, sort of a merry Christmas. Astronomers are now saying that Christmas, the day of Jesus' birth is not December 25th, but June 17th. Hopefully, we all got a good look at Venus and Jupiter the other week as they appeared close together by the moon in the early evening sky. Well, in the year 2 B.C. the same sort of astronomical event occured, except that the two stars were so close together that they would have seemed like a single new star, brighter than anything else in the sky and something completely novel. This, they argue, was the Christmas star that supposedly guided the three wise men.

Generally accepted research has placed the nativity to somewhere between 3BC and 1AD.

Using the St Matthew's Gospel as a reference point, Mr Reneke pinpointed the planetary conjunction, which appeared in the constellation of Leo, to the exact date of June 17 in the year 2BC.

The astronomy lecturer, who is also news editor of Sky and Space magazine, said: "We have software that can recreate exactly the night sky as it was at any point in the last several thousand years.

"We used it to go back to the time when Jesus was born, according to the Bible.

"Venus and Jupiter became very close in the the year 2BC and they would have appeared to be one bright beacon of light.

"We are not saying this was definitely the Christmas star - but it is the strongest explanation for it of any I have seen so far.
We have here, what Charles Sanders Peirce called a retroductive explanation, an explanation that if it were true, would explain a surprising phenomenon. The question is whether this is the best explanation, the most likely explanation.

And if it were to be true, would it matter? Two words: Santa and Speedo.