A re-creation of the night sky around the time of Christ’s birth lends credence to the gospel account that wise men followed a celestial object to find the baby Jesus. These and other illuminating topics will be presented during the “Season of Lights” programs at 1:30 and 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 9, at the Barton Community College Planetarium.
Barton Planetarium Director Dr. Tim Folkerts will show audiences a possible explanation of the Christmas Star during the free programs, which are being held in conjunction with the Holiday Open House for the “Festival of Trees” exhibit at the college’s Shafer Gallery.
Over the years, scholars have found several astronomical hypotheses for the Star of Bethlehem, which wise men reportedly followed to the birthplace of Jesus of Nazareth. Most of these theories speculate that the wise men did not follow an actual star, but some other celestial object. In those days, a planet was called a “wandering star,” and astronomers believe that 2,000 years ago two planets — Venus and Jupiter — appeared so close together in the night sky that their conjunction could have been mistaken for one extremely brilliant object.
Other possibilities are that the magi followed a “shooting star,” that is, a meteor, or perhaps a “hairy star,” or comet, so named because the tail of a comet can look like a beard.
Folkerts won’t limit his program to the Christmas Star. His presentation will visually trace the historical and astronomical connections of many of the world’s most endearing holiday lighting customs. From sparkling Christmas tree lights and candles in windows, to the ritual of the Hanukkah Menorah, “Season of Lights” will educate and entertain attendees about the origins of these traditions.
The 66-seat planetarium is located in the college’s Science and Math Building on the north side of campus. Folkerts will host the presentations and will be available to answer questions. Reservations are not required. For more information about the Planetarium shows, contact Folkerts by calling 620-792-9320.