(By Walter Jayawardhana)

Sri Lankan scientist Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe thinks what is known as the “Star of Bethlehem” which appeared in the sky over the place where baby Jesus was born could be a Comet rather than a star.
Christians all over the world believe the celestial object that appeared on the Christmas day –led Three Wise Men to the baby Jesus.
Wickramasinghe , who in his theory of Panspermia believes that comets brought us life, disease and death from outer space says, a comet could be the best explanation for what is described as the Bethlehem Star.
For centuries, different explanations have been given by scientists, theologians and astronomer to the enigmatic “Bethlehem Star”
He said the identity of a comet , fits the celestial object heralded in the Christmas carol “We three Kings of Orient Are.”
The carol says the star of exceptional brilliance East of Jerusalem was a guide for the Magi to trek across the desert to the baby Jesus. When they reached the stable where Jesus was born the Wise men saw the star still over.
Wickramasinghe was quoted having said in a Wales publication that ““It is remarkable that some 3,000 years after the event we still do not know the exact nature of this ‘star’.”
“Theologians and astronomers continue to wrangle over the matter. Was it a miracle, and so outside the purview of science? Or was it an astronomical phenomenon that we can identify and comprehend in the year 2008?”
The main textual evidence for the star is in the Gospel according to Matthew, which notes the visit of the Magi during the reign of King Herod.
“For centuries astronomers have searched the records for an exceptionally spectacular celestial event that might match the New Testament story,” said Prof Wickramasinghe.
“In the first century AD Ignatius of Antioch [also called Theophorus] wrote in an Epistle to the Ephesians: ‘The star was so bright that its light was unspeakable and its newness caused astonishment and consternation. A new star unlike any of the other planetary bodies’.
“As early as AD248 the theologian and writer Origenes Adamantis suggested that the Star of Bethlehem might be a comet, and this idea has been intermittently popular ever since.
“From time immemorial comets were widely regarded as omens and portents. So the appearance of a comet might naturally be interpreted as heralding the dawn of a new age. Comets can not just appear in the sky but fragments of comets can also collide with the Earth from time to time.
“Recent studies have shown that the history of our civilisation may have been littered with episodes of cometary missile impacts, and these events may have played a defining role in the evolution of myths and religious beliefs.”
“There is independent astronomical evidence,” said Wickramasinghe, “ that supported the idea that the Star of Bethlehem was a comet”.
“Chinese astronomers of the Han Dynasty recorded the appearance of a comet in the spring of the year 5BC,” he said.
“The Chinese records say it was a spectacular comet with a very long tail and that it lasted for 70 days.
“The comet explanation is particularly compelling if one accepts at face value the story that the ‘star’ stood still over a particular place.
“There is only one type of astronomical object that can appear to stand over a particular spot, and that is a comet. A long upward-pointing comet tail can give the impression of its head pointing to a place – the stable where Christ was born.”

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