We read in Matthew’s Gospel that the magi observed the star at the nativity ‘at its rising’. Knowing this to be a sign fulfilling a prophecy of a Messiah’s birth, they followed it to Bethlehem. But what was this star? The last 2000 years has given us a feast of knowledge based on solid research, so that we are now in a position to unwrap the story of this wonderful and significant sign.
The most likely interpretation seems to be that this was a supernova – a star in its last evolutionary phase when it gives the sudden appearance of a ‘new’ bright star before fading. This is backed up by the fact that the appearance of this star had been seen for long enough for the magi, or astronomers, to make their journey, following it. Deaths and births often go together and the idea of a dying star heralding a whole new and fantastic life, with its associated meaning for some many, is very fitting.
Article by Christine Clark (with help from her son, Dr Nick Wright, Senior Lecturer in Astrophysics, Keele University
The First Nowell
This new setting by Bob Chilcott is the centrepiece of this year’s Church of England Christmas campaign – Follow The Star: Join The Song
Further reading: BBC: James Webb: Telescope reveals new detail in famous supernova