Was Jupiter's movement perceived as Star of Bethlehem?
London: The appearance of the Star of Bethlehem, which in the Bible guides the three wise men to Jesus' birthplace, can be backed up by science, according to an astronomer.
Mark Thompson of the Royal Astronomical Society and Astronomy Presenter on BBC's "The One Show" has conducted research that can explain the story, told in the Gospel of Matthew, about the star leading the travellers to Bethlehem.
Using historical records and computer simulations that allow the position of the stars and planets to be charted back to around the time when Jesus is believed to have been born, Thompson claims there was an unusual astronomical event, reports the Telegraph.
He said that between September 3BC and May 2BC there were three "conjunctions" where the planet Jupiter and a star called Regulus passed close to each other in the night sky.
Thompson, who is due to present the BBC's new astronomy programme "Stargazing Live" with Brian Cox, said: "The three wise men were believed by some to be Zoroastrianist priests, who were renowned astrologers at the time, so the king of planets passing so close to the king of stars on three occasions would have been hugely significant and could have been interpreted as the birth of a new king."
"Interestingly, in the world of astrology Jupiter is considered to be the king of planets and Regulus, which is the brightest star in the constellation Leo, is considered to be the king of stars."
Thompson said he looked at "all the possibilities" before coming to his conclusion.
The three conjunctions, which took place 14 September 3BC, 17 February 2BC and 8 May 2BC, were caused by an astronomical phenomenon called retrograde motion, in which a planet will appear to stop its normal eastward drift through the night and instead drift back towards the west for a period of several weeks.