The Star of Bethlehem has been a popular topic at planetarium shows since the 1940s, with hosts presenting explanations that would account for the star described in the nativity story in the Christian tradition. Was the star a comet, a supernova, something else entirely, these shows ask.
At the South Florida Museum, Astronomer Howard Hochhalter goes beyond this traditional planetarium presentation to take guests on a “forensic” journey of the Star of Bethlehem that compares historical records to what was really happening in the skies some 2,000 years ago.
“I really wanted to take our guests a step beyond just talking about things traditionally covered in planetarium shows about the star — the idea that the star was a comet or supernova. Those explanations are a bit more fluff and don’t really present a compelling connection to the events of the time,” Hochhalter said. “Instead, with our system in the Bishop Planetarium, I can take our guests back in time to show them what was really happening in the skies above Babylon and Palestine between 7-1 B.C.E.”
In addition to exploring the movements of the planets, Hochhalter also explores the cultural meaning that those living in the period would have attached to changes in the skies. For example, Hochhalter said, Jupiter and Venus were doing some interesting things (you’ll have to attend the show to find out just what!). “Jupiter was believed to be the king of the ‘wandering stars’ — which we know today as planets. And another wandering star, Venus, symbolized fertility and motherhood. The motion of these wandering stars had enormous meaning and potential consequence to the Magi watching the skies 2,000 years ago.”
The “Star of Bethlehem” explores the question “What was the Star of Bethlehem?” with Astronomer Howard Hochhalter, who leads guests on this journey to Jerusalem 2,000 years ago using the Planetarium’s ability to travel through time and space.
It will take place at 5:30 and 7:30 pm Wednesday and Thursday December 17 and 18 in the South Florida Museum’s Bishop Planetarium, 201 10th Street West Bradenton, Fla., 34205. It costs $5 for Museum Members; $8 for non-members. You can purchase tickets now at SouthFloridaMuseum.org or call 941-746-4131, ext. 17
Throughout December, the South Florida Museum is also offering special showings in the Planetarium of “Let it Snow,” a 32-minute multi-media special that includes festive holiday musical classics that are visually enhanced through animation, special effects and all-dome scenery. Featuring a variety of festive classics from Frank Sinatra and Chuck Berry to Burl Ives and Brenda Lee, ‘Let it Snow’ includes a stunning multi-media finale by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. The soundtrack is visually enhanced with thematic animation, special effects and all-dome scenery. The 32-minute program is a fun and entertaining experience for all ages, especially families.
The program will take place at 2:15 pm Tuesdays-Fridays; 11:15 am Saturdays and 12:30 p.m. Sundays through December 28. (Note: The Museum is closed on Dec. 25.) in the South Florida Museum’s Bishop Planetarium, 201 10th Street West Bradenton, FL, 34205. The price is included in the price of general admission. Admission is $18 for adults; $16 for seniors 65 and older; $14 for children ages 4 to 12. Children 3 and younger and Museum Members always get in free. Purchase admission tickets online now at SouthFloridaMuseum.org.
The largest natural and cultural history museum on Florida’s Gulf Coast, the South Florida Museum offers engaging exhibits as well as educational programs which interpret the scientific and cultural knowledge of Florida, the world and our universe. In addition to the permanent exhibits, the Museum features a constantly changing lineup of temporary exhibitions – offering something new to discover with each visit. The facility also includes both the all-digital Bishop Planetarium Theater and the Parker Manatee Aquarium. Outfitted with a brand new, state-of-the-art Planetarium and projection system in October of 2013, the NEW Bishop Planetarium is the region’s premier astronomy education facility with stunning new multimedia capabilities. The Parker Manatee Aquarium is home to Snooty™, Manatee County’s official mascot and the oldest known manatee in the world. Snooty shares his Aquarium pool with young manatees from the Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation Partnership. These injured or orphaned animals are taken care of by the Parker Aquarium staff until they are ready to be released into the wild. For more information about current exhibitions and special programs, membership, hours, or admission prices please call 941-746-4131 or visit SouthFloridaMuseum.org/.