HomeNews'Magi' blends religion and science to determine Star of Bethlehem

‘Magi’ blends religion and science to determine Star of Bethlehem

“Star of the Magi” is the Christmas astronomy show that gives a scientific and theoretical explanation for the star that appeared over Bethlehem the night Jesus Christ was born, according to the Bible.

Tom Hooten, director of the Hudnall Planetarium on TJC campus, brought the show to the planetarium about four years ago. Hooten has been interested in the theory of the star for a long time, and has done a lot of research on the idea.

There are many theories as to the explanation of the star that led the three Magi, or Wise Men, to the place where Christ was born. Hooten’s version of the show is an assimilation of various research he has gathered over the years.

“I didn’t reinvent the wheel or anything,” he said. “We make an assumption. The assumption is that the Star of the Magi that is mentioned in the Bible is a real phenomenon.”

The show that Hudnall presents is based on the theories of various scientists and astronomers and does not give an explanation of the star, but merely speculates what could have been the reason for the appearance of the star.

Based on that assumption, the show then tries to figure out what the star could have really been. Some theories state the star was in fact a comet or supernova. Hooten’s version concludes that the star was a conjunction of solar system objects. However, Hooten said that “all conclusions in science are tentative” because they are always subject to change.

Although the “Star of the Magi” show is a scientific approach to a well-known Biblical occurrence, Hooten said he believes that the demonstration presented at Hudnall is among the traditional shows that are presented during the Christmas season around the world.

“We do it around Christmas time because people are in the Christmas mood,” Hooten said.

However, there are some people who don’t agree with the melding of science and religion.

Lee Vanderpool, presenter at Hudnall Planetarium, said the show gets varied responses from viewers. There are some people who find the idea interesting or compelling, while others perceive the idea as pure astronomy.

“We want to be respectful of religion. We don’t want to ‘diss’ anyone’s religion, but we want to be respectful of science too,” Hooten said. He went on to say that they want to give a “sincere” look at the speculations of the star’s appearance.

Vanderpool said there is definitely a “camp” of people who are against the show, but it is “the number one show people come to.” Hooten said the show usually sells out every year.

“A lot of people perceive that there is a conflict between science and religion,” Hooten said. “But I don’t think it has to be there. We treat religion seriously during the show but we take a very sincere look at the science that could potentially explain the star. So if someone is looking for a connection between science and religion, this show provides that.”

The show includes spectacular space and starry visuals presented to a script written by Hooten and the involvement of a number of other presenters. For those who have never experienced the show, Vanderpool said attendees should expect a well thought-out and examined theory. Also, he said people will learn a little about planetary motion and astronomy. According to the planetarium web site, people can expect to leave with a “refreshed appreciation for the night sky and the beauty of the starry host above.”

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