Christmas cards and carols have been lying to us for years. The Bible says the Star of Bethlehem—or "Christmas Star"—was followed by Magi bearing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the birthplace of Jesus. But one Notre Dame professor says the famous star wasn't a star at all, but a once-in-humanity alignment of planets, according to a press release. Scientists and historians have been trying for years to figure out exactly what the Star of Bethlehem was, offering explanations from comets to supernovas, UPI reports. But Grant Matthews disagrees. “It was some subtle alignment in the sky," he tells the National Post. "Not a bright comet with a tail and so forth.” If it was "something really bright, spectacular," someone besides the Magi would have noticed, he says.
Matthews came up with his planetary alignment theory by looking at astronomical, biblical, and historical records. He determined that just before dawn in April of 6BC, Jupiter, Saturn, and the moon would all line up in the constellation Aries, which was also the location of the vernal equinox; Venus would be nearby in Pisces; and Mercury and Mars would be opposite them in Taurus. The Magi, believed to be priests who observed the heavens, would have read meaning into these various positionings "and recognized that it symbolized a regal birth in Judea," Matthews says. He says this exact alignment, including the vernal equinox, won't happen again for at least 500,000 years. Of course, this is assuming the authors of the Bible didn't just make the whole Star of Bethlehem thing up. (And now ... a hipster Nativity scene.)