Conjunction of Venus and Jupiter — Return of the Star of Bethlehem?

On June 30, 2015, an extremely rare phenomenon will happen involving planets Venus and Jupiter.  Called a conjunction, this is when the orbits of those planets cause them to almost seem to join together into one “superstar” relative to the way we see it on Earth.  If you are interested in astronomy at all, or just like to peer up at the sky on a really dark night, you probably have seen both Venus and Jupiter.  Both are very prominent in the sky from our Earth-based viewpoint.  Venus looks really bright because it’s so close to us.  Jupiter looks so bright because it is just really, really, almost unimaginably huge.  In any case, on an average night, these two stars would be the star of the celestial show (pardon the pun).

June 30 will not be an average night at all really.  It has been over 2,000 years since the last time the orbits of Venus and Jupiter caused this phenomenon, and that has some people out there wondering if the last time Venus and Jupiter joined up in the sky, a phenomenon Christians refer to as the Star of Bethlehem might have been the result.

It kind of makes sense.  Everyone knows the story.  The star, assumed to be an act of God commemorating the birth of Christ and leading an untold number of wisemen to find him bearing gifts, could actually be explained by a real scientific phenomenon that just happens to coincidentally fall around the same time that the events in the Bible supposedly happened.

What does it matter?  Not much.  Does it prove anything?  No, not at all.  Atheists are not going to be impressed with the second coming of the Star of Bethlehem any more than they would be impressed with talk of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.  Christians may or may not like this explanation.  Some will say that it takes away from the story because the star was supposed to be a one-time only event set forth by God Himself.  Other more reasonable Christians may just think it’s pretty cool that the star could have happened scientifically as well as religiously, and in fact, we all might have an opportunity to look on the same event that happened on a magical night that changed the world forever, regardless of what you believe.  One thing is for sure:  the conjunction is exceedingly rare, and there is no chance that any of us will live long enough to see it again, so it’s probably worth a glance at the least.