Christmas is just around the corner … despite the difficult year, the Christmas excitement remains. And also the associated rites and symbols. For example the star of Bethlehem. In the Bible it is mentioned as a guide for the Magi on their way to the birth of Jesus. But was the star of Bethlehem a comet?
Star with a tail?
Many centuries later, the Florentine artist Giotto di Bondone painted The Adoration of the Magi around 1305. It is one of his many frescoes depicting the Sagrada Familia. It is located in the Arena Chapel in Padua, Italy. But Giotto painted a comet on the manger, not a traditional star. It has its own tail for these space objects.
Many experts believe that Giotto was probably inspired by none other than Halley’s comet. It appeared only a few years earlier, in the autumn of 1301, low in the sky of what is now Italy. Its intense glow must have caught the attention of the locals.
They were widely viewed as early signs of disaster. But comets were also seen as signs of change, such as the arrival of a new king on the throne. It is not inappropriate that Giotto could choose a comet in his painting as a symbol of change for the star of Bethlehem.
Interestingly, no one knew at the time that they were seeing Halley’s comet. Little did humans know that comets orbited the sun and reappeared after a few years. It was unpredictable, fiery and punctual phenomena that are considered part of the atmosphere.
The Comet of Kings and Halleys
It was the Englishman Edmund Halley who found something with a new formulation of Newton’s laws. The events of 1531, 1607, and 1682 were different appearances of the same comet. Halley’s Comet was named in his honor.
Taking into account the 75 year period of this comet, it turns out that Halley was 12 BC. BC appeared above the sky. It is within six years of Jesus’ actual date of birth. Was the star of Bethlehem a comet?
In March 1986, a European space probe flew 600 kilometers from the core of Halley’s Comet. He took photos and examined the surface and tail of dust and gas in detail. What name do you think you gave the probe?
None other than the Giotto probe. Merry Christmas!