Biblical Astronomy

December 2004


Editor – Robert Scott Wadsworth <> P.O. Box 2272, Oregon City, OR 97045

Phone (503) 655-7430 <> e-mail – <> Website –





Nehemia Gordon from Jerusalem, Israel compiled the following New Moon Report for November 2004 and the beginning of the Ninth month (Kislev) on the corrected Hebrew calendar.


“The new moon was sighted on Saturday November 13, 2004 by two observers from Beitar near Jerusalem.  The first observer spotted the moon at 16:58 and the second spotted it at 17:01.  This means New Moon day is Saturday night and Sunday day.”


I have some difficulty in believing that the moon could have been visible to the naked eye at that time and place.  It was about 1 percent illuminated and between 1.3 and 2 degrees above the horizon at the time it was supposedly spotted.  In all records over the past 6 years from sightings from Israel, the minimum astronomical circumstance that it was spotted was when it was 1 percent illuminated and 7 degrees above the horizon at 5 minutes after sunset.  1.3 to 2 degrees is way below the previous minimum.  One would have to have a very clear view of the horizon with no hills or other obstacles in the way as well as pristine atmospheric conditions such a vacuum to see the moon at that angular separation from the horizon. 


Roy Hoffman of the New Moon Society in Jerusalem, Israel reflects his doubts in the following reports that he compiled on November 14, with more info on the observations from Beitar.


“In my opinion, no reliable report of the New Moon being seen from Israel was received last night (Nov. 13) so please look again tonight.


Here are the details so that you can judge for yourself.  The Moon was not seen from Kfar Eldad, Jerusalem, Ashdod, Ramle, Ofakim and Arad. In Ashdod, Ramle and Arad the observers added that the sky was hazy. However, two observers from Beitar reported seeing the Moon. Hillel Skolnik, an experienced observer, saw the Moon twice within about 5 seconds in the expected position and orientation (2 to 7 o'clock - expected 1:40 to 6:11) at 16:59 but on questioning was not sure that it was the Moon that he saw. David Koningsberg was a first time observer. He saw the Moon in approximately the correct direction only once for a few seconds at 17:01 but with the wrong orientation (3 to 9 o'clock). He was nearly certain he saw it. Observers of the JAS in Amman, Jordan reported that the Moon was a very difficult object in a 10" telescope (2 out of 6 observers could see it with the telescope). As a result I very much doubt the naked-eye observation from Beitar.


Please look for the Moon again tonight.


Next month's New Moon Should be clearly visible from Israel on Monday 13h December 2004.


Dear All,

As expected, the New Moon was (and still is) clearly visible tonight, SUNDAY 14th November 2004. When I started to look from Jerusalem at 16:17 it was already clearly visible to the naked eye. (T 19.5°C, P 928 mbar, RH 42%) Please report to me if you saw it at around this time or earlier.


Next month's New Moon should be clearly visible from Israel on Monday 13h December 2004.”


I lean toward the latter report as being the more reliable sighting of the New Moon and therefore the first day of the Ninth month of the corrected Hebrew Calendar should be reckoned from sunset November 14 to sunset November 15.  Thus the first day of Hanukkah (Feast of Dedication or Feast of Lights), which falls on the 25th day of the Ninth month (Kislev), starts at sunset on Wednesday December 8, 2004.  The end of the eighth and last day of Hanukkah will be at sunset on Thursday December 16, 2004.




Venus (Nogah) and Mars (Adom) will come into conjunction on December 5, 2004 in the constellation and sign Libra. 


The Hebrew name for this constellation is Mozanaim, which means the scales, weighing.  The Arabic name is Al Zubena, which means purchase, or redemption.  The ancient Akkadian name for this constellation is Tul-ku, which means the sacred mound, or alter.  The most ancient form of this constellation was a circular alter.


Chart 380 shows the positions of Venus and Mars in Libra during their conjunction around 5:00 a.m. on December 5, as seen from Jerusalem.  Nogah (Venus) represents the Bright and Morning Star and the red planet Adom (Mars) represents blood or war or Michael the warrior angel (depending on the context of the portrayal).  It was the blood of the Messiah Yahoshua (Jesus Christ) that was and is the blood of atonement.


Chart 380 – Venus and Mars conjunction on December 5, 2004 (Ecliptic Orientation)


Here is a portrayal of the atoning blood of Messiah (the Bright and Morning Star) on the sacred alter.  If nothing else, this serves to remind us that we were and are redeemed and purchased by the blood that He shed on the alter of sacrifice.  And on this Feast of Dedication we have the opportunity to dedicate ourselves to the one who paid the price for our redemption.





On December 7, 2004 the moon will occult (pass over) Jupiter (Zedek).  This event will be visible throughout much of North America (mostly eastern and central).


Chart 381 shows the positions of Jupiter and the Moon in the constellation and sign Bethulah (Virgo) as seen from Atlanta, Georgia at the time of the occultation.  Both Jupiter (Zedek, The Lord Our Righteousness) and the Moon are in conjunction with (same celestial longitude) the womb of Bethulah.  This was where the sun was in September 3 BCE when Yahoshua (Jesus) was born.


Chart 381 – Lunar occultation of Jupiter on December 7, 2004 as seen from Atlanta, Georgia


At this writing, this occultation is a past event.  I have been holding off on getting this newsletter out in order to get the most updated information on Comet Machholz, which is the big celestial event for later this month and also for the next month.  Below is a photo of the moon just before it disappears behind the moon and an article from Sky & Telescope on the December 7 occultation.


Jupiter Plays Peekaboo

By Sean Walker



December 10, 2004 | While clouds covered most of the United States, a few lucky observers did witness the occultation of Jupiter by the Moon on the morning of December 7th. Don Parker of Coral Gables, Florida, captured it with his 10-inch Cassegrain telescope and a webcam. "The skies cleared up here shortly before the event, so I was lucky," Parker says. "The event was so fast-moving that any exposure lengths longer than two seconds blurred the Moon!" The next Jupiter occultation is visible from Africa and southwestern Australia on January 4, 2005. Click on the image for a 364 kilobyte animated gif showing the beginning of the Jupiter occultation.  




Venus (Nogah) and Mercury (Catab) will come into conjunction in the sign Scorpio on December 27/28, 2004.  Mercury is the planet that portrays Gabriel the messenger angel. 


Chart 382 shows the positions of Venus and Mercury in the scorpion as seen from Jerusalem at the time of conjunction around 5 a.m. local time on December 28, 2004.   Mars (Michael) is seen here near the head of the Scorpion during the conjunction of Venus and Mercury.  The Hebrew name for this constellation and sign is Akrab, which means the conflict or war.  This is the conflict or war between the woman and the serpent; between the woman’s seed and the serpent’s seed as first mentioned in Genesis 3:15 and ending in Revelation 20:15.  This sign portrays Genesis 3:15 in the seed of the woman getting wounded by the serpent (stinger of the scorpion) in the heel, and his other foot coming down on the scorpion’s head to crush it.  This is the wounding of the Messiah when he was crucified. It is through his obedience to obey to become the sacrifice and the sacrifice of his atoning blood, that the serpent and the serpent’s seed will be destroyed (head will be crushed) in the end.


Chart 382 – Venus and Mercury in conjunction on December 28, 2004 (Celestial View)




Comet Machholz is holding up to its expectations as it approaches the inner solar system.  As of December 9, the comet is at a brightness of magnitude 5.0 and is expected to get brighter by at least one magnitude when it reaches its closest approach to the earth on January 5/6, 2005. 


The comet should be easily seen in dark skies with the naked eye in late December.  It will be a good binocular object in areas with light pollution, such as near cities or streetlights.


Chart 383 shows the path of Comet Machholz from December 7 to December 31.  The numbers on the left next to the path are the days of the month.  The numbers to the right of the colon is the time.   Each dot represents one day.  This chart is as seen at 7 p.m. local time from Jerusalem.  The comet is above the southeast horizon.  For mid to mid-northern latitudes add an hour or two to the time to get the same view.


Chart 383 – Path of Comet Machholz from December 7 to December 31, 2004 (Local View)



The article below concerning this comet was written by Robert Roy Britt and released by on December 7.      


New Comet Now Visible to Naked Eye


“A comet discovered earlier this year has now moved close enough to be visible without binoculars or telescopes by experienced observers under dark skies. It is expected to put on a modest show this month and into January.


Comet Machholz will be at its closest to Earth Jan. 5-6, 2005, when it will be 32 million miles (51 million kilometers) away.


People with dark rural skies and a good map should be able to find it on Moon-free nights now into January.


Backyard astronomers have been watching Machholz for months through telescopes. It was spotted by naked-eye observers for the first time about three weeks ago from the Southern Hemisphere, said Donald Machholz, who discovered the frozen chunk of rock and ice in August.


"I saw it last night for the first time with the naked eye," Machholz told Friday.


Comets are made of rocky material and icy mixtures of water and various other chemicals. As a comet approaches the Sun, the surface is heated and essentially boils off. Scientists call the process sublimation. The gas and dust creates a head, also called a coma, and sometimes a tail. Sunlight reflects off the material, making some comets visible from Earth.


Comet Machholz, officially named c/2004 Q2, is not expected to produce the sort of spectacular display put on by comet Hale-Bopp in 1997 or the periodically stunning Halley's comet.


Astronomers cannot say exactly how bright Machholz will get, because it is notoriously difficult to predict the behavior of comets making their first observed close trip around the Sun. Scientists don't fully understand the composition of comets, nor their variety, so they don't know how much stuff will sublimate nor how fast.


Machholz is expected to reach magnitude 4.0, based on an early estimate. On this astronomers' scale, smaller numbers represent brighter objects. The dimmest things visible under perfectly dark skies are around magnitude 6.5. The brightest star, Sirius, is magnitude minus 1.42.


Recent observations suggest Machholz will do at least as well as first predicted.


"The comet is doing better than expected and is about 0.5 magnitudes brighter than expected," Machholz said. "So it will probably get brighter than the Andromeda Galaxy, brighter than magnitude 4.0."


The Andromeda Galaxy is the furthest object visible to the unaided human eye under dark skies. It is a magnitude 3.4 object.


If the comet were to become roughly magnitude 3.0, it would still appear common among the sea of stars available to dark-sky observers. City and suburban dwellers would likely not find it without optical aid. In either case, binoculars or a small telescope might reveal the comet as more of a fuzzy patch, and if it develops a significant tail, that could be visible too.


Machholz, who has found nine other comets, suggests looking for his latest discovery when the Moon is out of the picture, such as around Dec. 11 when it will be at its New phase.


"The comet can still be seen when the Moon is out, but it will be difficult," he said by email. "Use binoculars or a wide-field (low power) telescope, and/or get to a dark site."


The comet is low on the horizon now, where the atmosphere makes for poor viewing. By early January, the comet will be much higher in the sky, improving viewing conditions.”


Also see the September/October 2004 and November 2004 issues of Biblical Astronomy for more information on this comet.  There will be another update in the January 2005 issue of Biblical Astronomy.




Well, not really, but the Geminid Meteor shower that will peak on December 13 may be well worthwhile to make an effort to see.  The below article by Joe Rao was released by on December 10, 2004 (today as I am putting the finishing touches on the newsletter).


Strong Meteor Shower Peaks Monday Night


If you were disappointed with the meager showing put on by this year’s Leonid meteor shower, don’t fret. What could be the best meteor display of the year is scheduled to reach its peak on Monday night, Dec. 13.


Skywatchers with dark skies away from city lights could see one or two meteors every minute during the Geminid meteor shower. The greatest activity is expected to be visible from North America, Europe and Africa.


The Geminids get their name from the constellation of Gemini, the Twins. On the night of this shower’s maximum, the meteors will appear to emanate from a spot in the sky near the bright star Castor in Gemini. [Sky Map ]


Typically strong


The Geminid meteors are usually the most satisfying of all the annual showers, even surpassing the famous Perseids of August. Studies of past displays show that this shower has a reputation for being rich both in slow, bright, graceful meteors and fireballs as well as faint meteors, with relatively fewer objects of medium brightness.


Geminids typically encounter Earth at 22 miles per second (35 kilometers per second), roughly half the speed of a Leonid meteor. Many Geminids are yellowish in hue. Some even appear to form jagged or divided paths.


The Earth moves quickly through this meteor stream. Rates increase steadily for two or three days before maximum. So over the weekend, viewers between midnight and dawn might see a shooting star every few minutes. The number of meteors drops off sharply after the peak. Renegade forerunners and late stragglers might be seen for a week or more before and after maximum.


Ideal conditions


The Geminids perform excellently in any year, but British meteor astronomer Alastair McBeath has expects a "superb year" in 2004. Last year’s display was seriously compromised by bright moonlight, when a bright gibbous Moon came up over the horizon during the late evening hours and washed-out many of the fainter Geminid streaks.


But this year, the Moon will be at New phase Dec. 11. On the peak night, the Moon will be a skinny crescent, low in the west-southwest at dusk and setting before 6 p.m. That means the sky will be dark and moonless for the balance of the night, making for perfect viewing conditions.


According to McBeath, the Geminids are predicted to reach peak activity on Monday at 22:20 GMT, which is 5:20 p.m. EST. Locations from Europe and North Africa east to central Russian and Chinese longitudes are in the best position to catch the very crest of the shower, when the rates conceivably could exceed 120 per hour, or two every minute. [Predictions for Select Cities]


Maximum rates persist at only marginally reduced levels for some 6 to 10 hours, McBeath says, so other places, such as North America, should enjoy some fine Geminid activity as well.


When to watch


Indeed, under normal conditions on the night of maximum activity, with ideal dark-sky conditions, at least 60 to 120 Geminid meteors can be expected to burst across the sky every hour on the average. Light pollution greatly cuts the numbers, so city and suburban dwellers will see far fewer.


Generally speaking, depending on your location, Gemini begins to come up above the east-northeast horizon right around the time evening twilight is coming to an end. So you might catch sight of a few early Geminids as soon as the sky gets dark. There is a fair chance of perhaps catching sight of some "Earth-grazing" meteors.


Earthgrazers are long, bright shooting stars that streak overhead from a point near to even just below the horizon. Such meteors are so distinctive because they follow long paths nearly parallel to our atmosphere.


The Geminids begin to appear noticeably more numerous in the hours after 10 p.m. local time Monday, because the shower’s radiant is already fairly high in the eastern sky by then. The best views, however, come around 2 a.m. Tuesday, when their radiant point will be passing very nearly overhead. The higher a shower’s radiant, the more meteors it produces all over the sky.




It was during Hanukkah in 4 BCE that Miryam (Mary) conceived the Messiah (Luke 1:26-38)

It was on the third day of Hanukkah in 2 BCE that the Magi found Messiah who was a “young child” in a “house” in Bethlehem (Matt. 2:9-11)

It was at the time of Hanukkah (the Feast of Dedication or Feast of Lights) in 27 CE that Yahoshua proclaimed himself to be the Light of the world                         (John 10:22, 23 and surrounding verses)