Christmas Star

This past week on Dec 21st – the Christmas Star appeared in the night sky. The Christmas Star is actually two planets that end up aligning in the sky to form this rare event.  In this case it was Jupiter and Saturn who aligned. Occurring once approximately every 20 years, this recent occurrence was the first time the two planets have been this close to each other was 1623!

1623 is the year that the word “Insomnia” was put into the dictionary and Dutch painter Wallerant Vaillant, who was one of the first to use the mezzotint technique, was born. It is unlikely that anyone back then saw the event due to it happening so close to the sun. This means the last time a Christmas Star appeared and was visible to the naked eye was nearly 800 years ago.

The Christmas Star has also been speculated to be the explanation for the Star of Bethlehem that leads the wise men to the birthplace of Jesus. It now symbolizes the Christmas season for many across the world. The event is also known scientifically as a conjunction and the next time that a conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn is predicted to happen is 2080 so it is truly a once-in-a-life-time event!

Below is a photo of a tapestry by English artist, Edward Burne-Jones created in 1887 called “The Adoration” depicting the magi arriving at Jesus’s birth place after following the Star of Bethlehem. Today, the tapestry is a part of the collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum. You can find countless examples across history depicting similar scenes and that of the Star of Bethlehem as it has provided inspiration for all kinds of artists – painters, writers, poets and many more.

Edward Burne-Jones, “The Adoration”, 1887