Are You a Wise Man?

Three Wise Men Follow the Eastern Star at Christmas

In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep.”

As Genesis moves along, God creates light, the day and night, the water and the firmament. And a little further on, he creates two great lights, the greater to rule the day and the lesser to rule the night. And he creates the stars.

Many years later, the Bible reports that three wise men came from the east, following a star. And this star led them to Jerusalem where the wise men asked King Herod of Judea “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?” And Herod sends them off to continue following the star to a manger in a barn in Bethlehem where they find Jesus, just born.

People say that a local newspaper such as Dan’s Papers should write about the local news, and I certainly believe it. But from one perspective, our local news comes from our particular planet, which is just one of nine that circle around the sun. And we don’t even stand out. From among the nine we are not even the largest or the closest to the sun. We are the fifth largest and the third closest. So, reports from Earth are about as local as news can get.

Nevertheless, as small as our part might be in this, we are part of a colossus, our solar system, which our nine planets and sun comprise, just one such system in the Milky Way part of our galaxy in one corner of our universe and perhaps, and we do not yet know this yet, universes beyond.

And God did all that.

And now, on Monday, December 21, four days before Christmas and on the day of the Winter Solstice, there will appear in the nighttime sky an astronomic event that has not happened since March 4, 1226. Visible from the beaches in the Hamptons as the brightest object in the sky other than the sun and moon, you will find it high above the horizon in the southwestern sky from 4:20 p.m. and for the next two hours, when it will disappear over the horizon. It will be at its brightest around 5:30.   

It is called the Christmas Star. Astronomers call it that because they believe this star might have been what the Three Wise Men saw in the night sky 20 centuries ago when they followed this star. (It will make its next appearance in 2080, a fact made possible by using backward mathematical calculations and then projecting them into the future.)

Technically, the Christmas Star is composed of the confluence of our two largest planets, Jupiter and Saturn. They are aligning themselves half a billion miles from each other but in such a way that, as seen from Earth, they are in a line, not quite exactly one behind the other, but off-center to appear to us here on Earth as a single super bright star.

It is all weather permitting, of course, but if it is clouded over, the Christmas Star will repeat the next evening at the same time. After that, Jupiter and Saturn will drift apart.

And so, we here at Dan’s Papers invite you drive down to our main beaches—at Kirk Park Beach in Montauk, at Main Beach in East Hampton, at Sagg Main in Sagaponack, at Coopers in Southampton, Ponquogue in Hampton Bays and Cupsogue Beach in Westhampton at sunset on December 21 to celebrate the anniversary of the night the Wise Men followed the Christmas Star.    

Get there by 5 o’clock as the sky darkens, park, remain in your cars, turn on your car radios and tune in to WLNG at 92.1 on the dial. In honor of the appearance of the Christmas Star, we asked WLNG and they have agreed to broadcast the religious aria “Nessun dorma” by Luciano Pavarotti between 5:15 and 5:30.  Turn up the sound on this beautiful operatic piece and aim your headlights low beam toward the ocean.  Christmas carols will follow until 5:45.

And if any in your group wish to be part of this celebration out on the beach, 5:15 will be the  time to do so. You will have dressed as Wise Men before you left home and you are hooded, robed and carrying a staff and lantern. As the music begins, mask up, assume a social distance and walk westward toward the star. But not too far. It will be pretty cold out there after all. The event ends at 6.   

See you there.

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