Mira Ceti and the Star of Bethlehem

Quodlibet 4 (2002)
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Abstract

We consider the probability that the Gospel of Matthew could report the earliest observation of Mira Ceti. Some biblical remarks have to be considered in order to distinguish a scientific text in the modern acceptation and the content of Gospels regarding some astronomical arguments.Mira fulfills the basic requirements to be the Star of Bethlehem as described in the Gospel according to Matthew . In fact it was visible at least two times with a time interval in which it disappeared. Moreover Mira was close to the position were the triple conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn occurred in the years 7-6 b. C. and it could be observed during that period by ancient astronomers. The discovery of Mira in 1596 and its second observation 12.5 years later, made by David Fabricius, occurred when Jupiter approached it.Because of those reasons we study the maxima of Mira in order to evaluate both the frequency of one and of two consecutive bright apparitions eventually as observed by the Magi. We did an evaluation of the correlation between two following maxima in order to verify the probability of occurrence of two consecutive bright maxima, because that condition would have been indeed the most favorable for the candidature of Mira as the Bethlehem Star.Analyzing the maxima of Mira we found a probability of seeing it brighter than α Ceti once every 21 years. In this case, as in February 1997, Mira can be detected at the first sight as a new component near the most significant asterism in its zone, composed by α, γ and δ Ceti. This condition could have happened in the case of the Bethlehem Star.We found also a correlation between the magnitude of two consecutive maxima: if a bright maximum occurs it is more probable that the following is a faint one

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