"Season of Light" shows in Science Complex

Three students attended “Season of Light,” which was shown Saturday afternoon in the Science Complex.

The event featured two separate presentations. The main feature looked at the history and astronomy behind current traditions, according to Tom Kasper, professor of astronomy at Eastern.

A smaller feature showed first and discussed the different winter constellations. It took the audience through the different constellations visible during the winter solstice.

“The first part I found made more sense to me because I’m taking this for an astronomy class,” Maya Korogodsky, finance junior at University of Michigan, Dearborn said. “I was more interested in looking at the sky than the Christmas part.”

“Season of Light” went through different older traditions that set the stage for modern Christmas and Hanukah traditions.

Originally, the winter solstice was celebrated by Celtic and Native American tribes. Between summer and winter, the position of the sun on the horizon lowers, according to the presentation. Both cultures would light huge fires to encourage the sun to continue shining despite its descent. These fires were celebrated with festivals.

There was also the Jewish Feast of Lights, which remembered the reclamation of the temple in 2nd century B.C. and the relighting of the menorah.

Another tradition originating from the past is modern Christmas decorations. Evergreen plants were seen as proof of eternal life because they retained their needles despite leaves and other plants dying.

Mistletoe was thought to provide fertility. The Scandinavians decorated with it as a symbol of peace and laying down their weapons. The Celts and Romans decorated trees, and our modern version probably comes from Germany.

The Christmas candle is a tradition that has ancient roots, too. The Norse would burn a Yule log. In the Southwest United States, Luminaries were lit, and the Christmas candle itself comes from the Irish.

The other part of “Season of Light” looked at different theories for the explanation of the Star of Bethlehem.

The presentation said the cosmic event had to be extraordinary to send wise men packing. It was probably not a normally seen planet, star or meteor.

One theory is it was the eclipse that occurred in 3 B.C.

Another option is a comet, but they were typically regarded as evil omens. And, there were none recorded during 3 and 1 B.C.—the time which the event is believed to occur.

It could have been a nova or a supernova, but again, there are none recorded during that time.

The wise men, or Magi, were learned Persian priests. Part of their beliefs was astrology, meaning they believed they could interpret future events.

Venus and Jupiter crossed in the eastern sky during this time period. They crossed in the constellation Leo, or Lion, which was often associated with Judaism. A few months later, Venus reappeared in the night sky, and the two planets overlapped.

However, there is too much speculation and too little evidence to support this theory.

“I really liked the history about the lights,” said Janna Lee, sociology junior and University of Michigan, Dearborn. “There was a lot of stuff I didn’t know. This was new stuff for me because I already know about the stars.”

This was the third year “Season of Light” showed in the EMU Planetarium. There are two showings per year. The next showing is from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. on Saturday Dec. 12 in room 402 of the Science Complex.


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