Starry, starry night

By: ATTY. DENNIS R. GORECHO - Columnist/CDN Digital | December 22,2020 - 08:00 AM

Astronomy fans eagerly awaited the appearance of the so-called Christmas Star or Star of Bethlehem on December 21, 2020, which coincidentally is my natal day.

On this day, Jupiter and Saturn appeared closer to each other.

It is  called a “great conjunction”  because Jupiter and Saturn are the two largest planets in the Solar System, and to the naked eye they will  look like a single bright star during this “celestial summit meeting.”

One of the more popular theories for the “Christmas Star” was that it was part of a series of conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn in 7 BC wherein these planets met not once but three times that year (in May, September and December).

In Christian belief, the Christmas star is found within the New Testament only in the Gospel of Matthew.

The Christmas Star led the three wise men (Magi) to Jesus’ home in the town in Bethlehem where they worshiped him and gave him gifts.

The wise men were then given a divine warning not to return to Herod, so they  travelled back home by a different route.

For seafarers, stars also played special roles in their profession through the so-called celestial navigation.

Considered as one of the oldest practices in human history, celestial navigation is the art and science of finding one’s way by the celestial bodies of the sun, moon, stars, and planets.

Hundreds of years ago, early mariners traversed the open sea using only their eyes and the stars.

They tracked the movement of stars across the night sky and knew the positions of constellations during every season.

Their extensive knowledge of celestial bodies allowed them to cross large spans of open water with confidence.

It is the use of angular measurements (sights) between celestial bodies and the visible horizon to locate one’s position in the world, on land as well as at sea.

At a given time, any celestial body is located directly over one point on the earth’s surface.

Knowing the position of the star in the sky, the measure of the angle between the horizon of the observer and the star, using a sextant, is enough to determine the observer’s position in latitude and longitude.

For thousands of years, brave sailors and explorers relied on Polaris, or the North Star, as an excellent fixed point for navigation, especially during turbulent times and rough seas.

The North Star is located almost directly above the North Pole and does not change position in the sky.

In the Northern Hemisphere, mariners could determine the latitude by measuring the altitude of the North Star above the horizon.

Depending on which constellations are visible in the sky Seafarers can easily find true north by locating the North Star.

Balangay is one of the most ancient boats in the Philippines  that used celestial navigation.

It is a type of lashed-lug boat built by joining planks edge-to-edge using pins, dowels, and fiber lashings.

The Filipino balangay was used largely as trading ships up until the colonial era.

It was navigated by the old method used by the ancient mariners – steering by the sun, the stars, the wind, cloud formations, wave patterns and bird migrations.

If my natal day December 21 this year is associated with the Christmas star, on the other hand, it was considered as the doomsday in 2012, or  eight years ago, when believers expected that cataclysmic or transformative events would occur.

An ancient Maya prophecy associated the doomsday to a mysterious planet on a collision course with Earth, or a reverse in Earth’s rotation.

It was linked to the end of one of the cycles in the ancient Mayan calendar at the winter solstice in 2012 — hence the predicted doomsday date of December 21, 2012.

I was born under the zodiac sign Sagittarius (November 23 and December 21) which is the ninth astrological sign associated with the constellation Sagittarius.

Greek mythology associates Sagittarius with the centaur Chiron, who mentored Achilles, a Greek hero of the Trojan War, in archery.

Also known as the Archer, Sagittarius is represented by the symbol of a bow and arrow.

Half human and half horse, Sagittarius is the centaur of mythology, the learned healer whose higher intelligence forms a bridge between Earth and Heaven.

May the guiding stars keep  the voyages of  our brave Filipino seafarers safe.

Atty. Gorecho heads the seafarers’ division of the Sapalo Velez Bundang Bulilan  law offices. For comments, e-mail [email protected] or call 09175025808 or 09088665786.

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TAGS: celestial navigation, Christmas Star, December 21, great conjunction, Jupiter and Saturn, Star of Bethlehem

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