For centuries scholars and astronomers have discussed several theories to explain the Star of Bethlehem. Some of those theories are based on the conjunction of planets. (A conjunction is when two planets cross each other as the Earth turns.) We will discuss that theory during this science experiment.
- Two flashlights
- Poster board
- Black construction paper
- White craft pen or crayon
- Silver craft paint
- White craft paint
There have been many different theories as to what the Magi saw in the sky at the time of the birth of Jesus. It is called the Star of Bethlehem because it was a great wonder of the heavenlies. But scientists have often set about discovering…was it a giant sun from another galaxy? Was it an alignment of planets? One theory is that in 6 BCE, Jupiter and Saturn passed each other three times, in May, September, and December – called a “triple conjunction.”
Another theory is that a massive nova (an explosion on the surface of a planet) created a bright light in the sky. But the most favored theory is the one that says that the Magi first saw the first planet passing from their homes, left for Jerusalem, and got there in time for the second or third passing to guide them to Bethlehem. The heavens are God’s creations, and no matter what the shepherds saw God led them to Bethlehem to witness the glorious event that was the birth of Jesus.
1. Paint one poster board with black craft paint or glue white sheets of black construction paper onto the poster board.
2. On poster board, draw a replica of the above chart. Use silver paint to dot the sky with tiny stars. (This can be done by dipping a pencil point into the paint.)
3. Draw small circles on the chart to show position of Jupiter, Sun, and Saturn and paint them white. Allow paint to dry.
4. Make very small holes in the centers Jupiter and Saturn.
5. Cut out a large circle in between Jupiter and Saturn, near where they pass close to the sun.
6. Draw a line connecting the two planets, and then use a sharp craft knife to make a slit along the line between Jupiter and Saturn. (Keep the knife away from young children.)
7. Prop the chart on a flat surface, using books to hold the charts up.
8. One person will stand behind the chart and shine a flashlight through the holes in Jupiter and Saturn circles to show that very little light cones through.
9. To show the path of the two planets a second person will begin at Saturn and slowly move a flashlight towards the large hole. At the same time, the first person will move his flashlight beginning at Jupiter towards Saturn. When the two flashlights meet, one person will shine his flashlight through the large hole in the center. This demonstrates that when the planets pass each other, it gives the impression there is one bright star moving across the sky. This represents the Star of Bethlehem.
Without electric lights that light up the Earth at night, the stars at the time of the birth of Jesus would have appeared much brighter than we know it today. So on a dark night the Magi could clearly have seen lights in the sky that guided them to the manger where Jesus was born. But no matter what theory we believe, the message tells us to follow the “light” that leads us to Christ. It means that even when we are experiencing dark times in our lives there is a light inside us. That light is our Lord’s gift that tells us He will not desert us during our dark days. His spirit will be the light that will guide us out of our darkness.