Wise Men HeaderThe Theories.

By Rev. Phil Greetham. © Copyright 1996. This Version, 2012.

5: An early siting of Uranus theory
One night a Magus was observing a bright star and noticed a faint companion star next to it that he had not seen before. The next night he showed it to his colleagues but he thought it was in a slightly different position. A week later he observed it again. This time there was no doubt. The faint star had moved away from the brighter star. He had discovered a new planet. Unfortunately, because of its faintness, he soon lost track of the new planet. It was only discovered again in 1781 by Sir William Hershel. He called it Uranus.
Certainly a new planet in the sky is a discovery to get excited about. There are only 5 planets normally observable with the naked eye and these have been known from the beginning. A new planet would be a tremendous discovery. In fact I cannot think of anything that would have been more important to the Magi than the appearance of a new planet.
Sky Map If the discovery of a new planet signified the birth of a world ruler and if they already believed that such a world ruler would be a Jew then the stage is set for the initial journey to Jerusalem.The question now arises, could ancient observers have discovered Uranus without a telescope? As all modern astronomers know, the only way to verify the sighting of a faint object in the solar system is to observe it on several nights and notice if it moves in relation to the fixed stars. If you draw the relative positions of the stars on subsequent nights and compare your drawings, the object will betray itself by moving. Uranus is a faint object to the naked eye, but under favourable conditions, in a clear sky it is visible as a faint star. The only way I can think that it would be noticed is if it approached a bright star being watched by an observer. If that observer noted the stars in the vicinity of the bright star and then verified his work a few days later he would have notice that one star had moved; that would have been Uranus. He would initially imagine that he was in error and would check his work the next night, but a series of drawings should reveal the presence of the new planet. A reader, John Harris, has points out to me that the planet Saturn came close to Uranus during June 9BC. Close observation of Saturn at the conjunction in September of that year may have revealed a new planet. The date of 9BC would fit in with the possible earlier census of Quirinius.
Between 10 BC and 1 AD Uranus moved through very spartan areas of Aquarius and Pisces, coming nowhere near a star brighter than itself. Not until the 1st November AD 28 did it approach the bright star Regulus in the constellation of Leo the Lion. Saturn would not have been closely observed until the conjunction in the south during September. It would be difficult to describe this as 'first seeing it in the east or at its rising'. Also the joy at the appearance of Uranus 2 years later while the Magi approached Bethlehem is difficult to explain. It didn't come near to another bright planet until its encounter with Venus in April 6 AD, so if it had been lost it is difficult to see how it could have been recovered as the Magi approached Bethlehem. A major problem is how the appearance of Uranus in Pisces communicated to the Magi that an important King had been born. If we are relying on Astrology we run into the usual difficulty of Christianity endorsing a system at odds with its theology.
Timing - rather early
Repeatability - NO
Direction - How could it be first seen in the east?
Theology - No difficulties
Historic/Scientific credibility - It is improbable, although not impossible
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