There’s been a lot of talk about Comet 17P/Holmes, and even in today’s world of modern technology, it was erroneously thought to be a new star when it was first noticed again when it unexpectedly brightened, making it visible to the naked eye on October the 23rd, 2007:
Comet surprise makes it visible to naked eye
* Comet 17P/Holmes explodes, making its cloud bigger than Jupiter
* Comet can be seen in the northern sky, in the constellation Perseus
* Scientist: “This is a once-in-a-lifetime event to witness”
KNOXVILLE, Tennessee (AP) — A comet that unexpectedly brightened in the last couple of weeks and is now visible to the naked eye is attracting professional and amateur interest.- Advertisement -
Paul Lewis, director of astronomy outreach at the University of Tennessee, is drawing students to the roof of the Nielsen Physics Building for special viewings of Comet 17P/Holmes.
The comet is exploding and its coma, a cloud of gas and dust illuminated by the sun, has grown to be bigger than the planet Jupiter. The comet lacks the tail usually associated with such celestial bodies but can be seen in the northern sky, in the constellation Perseus, as a fuzzy spot of light about as bright as the stars in the Big Dipper. MORE
It’s important to understand the known history of this comet, and Wikopedia offers an excellent synopsis:
Comet 17P/Holmes was discovered by Edwin Holmes on November 6, 1892 while he was conducting regular observations of the Andromeda Galaxy (M31). Its discovery in 1892 was made because of and during magnitude changes similar to the 2007 outburst. 17P/Holmes brightened to an approximate magnitude of 4 or 5 before fading from visibility over a period of several weeks.
The comet’s discovery was confirmed by Edward Walter Maunder (Royal Observatory, Greenwich, England), William Henry Maw (England), and Kidd (Bramley, England), and independent discoveries were made by Thomas David Anderson (Edinburgh, Scotland) on November 8 and by John Ewen Davidson (Mackay, Queensland, Australia) on November 9.
The first elliptical orbits of 17P/Holmes were calculated independently by Heinrich Kreutz and George Mary Searle. Additional orbits eventually established the perihelion date as June 13 and the orbital period as 6.9 years. These calculations proved that the comet was not a return of 3D/Biela.
The 1899 and 1906 appearances were observed, but the comet was lost after 1906 until recovered on July 16, 1964 by Elizabeth Roemer (US Naval Observatory, Flagstaff, Arizona, USA). Aided by the computer predictions of Brian G. Marsden, the comet has been observed on every subsequent return. (There are charts and a wealth of information at this LINK)
Based on the synopsis in Wikopedia and other historical references, there is evidence that this comet has “brightened” in the past, and it’s important to note that it’s location is in the northeastern sky. Consider this reference which is made on “The Star of Bethleham” in an apparent effort to analyze the fabled “Star of Bethlehem.”:
When the wise men said “we saw his star in the east,” they didn’t mean “we saw his star while we were in the East.” The Greek text here says the Star was “en anatole,” meaning they saw his star rising in the east.(Emphasis added.) That’s what all but polar stars do, because of the rotation of the Earth. Stars rise in the east, but not all celestial objects do that. So, that’s another qualification for the Star: 4) it must rise in the east like most other stars. MUCH MORE- Advertisement -
Based on the historical references I’ve found, this comet is unusual and exhibits properties not usually witnessed in the many comets we have extensive data on, and while I’m not an astronomer or “star gazer”, I find it fascinating how this comet has behaved in the past - and is behaving today, which has been characterized as an “explosion” of the comet itself, however, is it indeed an explosion, or simply another manifestation of the odd properties of this particular comet?
In summation, it’s been my experience that many of our past legends and so-called myths were often based on factual events that became legendary as their stories were repeated and at times, distorted in the various writings thereof; is it possible this is the Star of Bethlehem ? I surely don’t know, however based on it’s location and prior history of “brightening” at unforeseen intervals, it seems to me it’s a theory worth investigating by the people that have much more knowledge in astrological events than I, and to me, it may be a plausible explanation of The Star of Bethlehem. I’ll be curious to see what the professionals have to say about this, and whether or not it’s a plausible theory, or I’m off by a mile…