See that tiny, tiny dot in the night sky directly above the photographer’s knuckles? People are calling it the Christmas Star. Astronomers call it a great conjunction, when the two largest planets in our solar system–Jupiter and Saturn– appear very close together to eyes viewing from Earth.
Today is December 21, 2020, the Winter Solstice. I took this photograph with my little camera from the Cabrillo Bridge in Balboa Park shortly after dark. That’s downtown San Diego you see on the left.
The last time Jupiter and Saturn were in conjunction this closely (and could be seen in most of the Northern Hemisphere) was the year 1226. You’ll have to wait sixty years to see it again. I suppose I won’t be around.
I’ve read and heard conjecture that the biblical Magi were guided to Bethlehem by the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn on the year of Christ’s birth. Some believers claim the timing would have been about right.
Can you make out that miniscule dot? Is that the same “star” the Wise Men saw?
Another good question might be: Is a light from far away what the wise see?
Jupiter and Saturn will continue their orbits around the sun, as will the Earth, long after you and I and every worldly thing we have done and hold dear has vanished, turned to dust, to be swirled by an unseen finger, transformed into something else.
Great conjunctions will continue hundreds, thousands, millions of years into the future. A billion years from this moment–give or take a century–there will be another Christmas Star.