Astronomer Addresses Star Constellations and Biblical Passages that Some Claim Indicate Jesus Will Return on September 23rd

by Dr. Danny R. Faulkner

Since my article about the supposed fulfillment of the sign of Revelation 12:1–2 on September 23, 2017, went up on May 1, the article has generated much interest.

To recap, Revelation 12:1–2 records a great sign in heaven—a woman about to give birth, clothed in the sun with the moon under her feet and a crown of 12 stars on her head. The constellation Virgo represents a virgin (a woman), though I’ve never been able to pick out the outline of a woman in the stars of Virgo (unlike some constellations, such as Orion or Leo, where I can pick out the outline of what they are supposed to represent). During September and October each year, the sun appears in the constellation Virgo for about a month. For a day or two each month, the moon appears in the general vicinity of where Virgo’s feet are supposed to be. Therefore, there is a day or two each year with the sun in Virgo and the moon near her feet. This year, this occurs on September 23.

This year the planet Jupiter is in the constellation Virgo as well. Many websites are promoting the idea that Jupiter represents the child about to be born in the sign of Revelation 12:1–2. There are several arguments bolstered to support this claim. Jupiter was the king of the gods in Roman mythology (the equivalent was Zeus in Greek mythology). Therefore, Jupiter represents a king, and Christians recognize Jesus as the King of Kings (Revelation 19:16). People reason that, being near the womb of Virgo, this king is soon to be born. Some argue that the length of time Jupiter is spending in Virgo or in Virgo’s womb this year is equal to the human gestation period, which supposedly further enforces the supposed fulfillment of prophecy.

People also claim other strange things about the significance of Jupiter, though it begins to look like a Rorschach test or even astrology. The planet Jupiter takes 11.8 years to orbit the sun, and there are 12 constellations along the zodiac, so approximately every 12 years Jupiter spends about a year in Virgo. The year 2017 is one of those years when Jupiter is in Virgo. I’ve seen this happen four times before: 1969, 1981, 1993, and 2005. As on September 23 this year, each one of those previous years had a day or two when the sun was in Virgo, the moon was near the feet of Virgo, and Jupiter was in Virgo. So what makes this year so special?

The answer to that question supposedly lies in the other detail of this sign: a crown of 12 stars. The constellation Leo lies beyond, and hence above, the head of Virgo. The claim is that Leo has nine stars, but that the addition of three naked-eye planets this year, Mercury, Venus, and Mars, brings the total to twelve stars, thus conforming to the crown with 12 stars on the woman’s head. Leo is a considerable distance from Virgo (about 15 degrees). To fit the description of the sign, the crown would have to be atop the mother-of-all-beehive hairdos on Virgo’s head, but that’s a minor point.

How Many Stars Are in Leo?

As I pointed out in my previous article, Leo contains more than nine stars, so the addition of three planets this year won’t total twelve stars. The problem is that the Stellarium software used by people promoting this thesis connects nine stars to form the pattern of Leo. However, Stellarium plots other stars in Leo, though they aren’t connected to the nine outlining Leo. Many other depictions of Leo show varying numbers of stars connected to form the outline of a lion. I gave several examples of different star counts in my previous article. Since then, I consulted a planisphere that I’ve had for nearly 50 years and used to learn the constellations. It connects 10 stars to outline Leo, including the nine stars that Stellarium connects, plus Omicron Leonis that marks Leo’s front paws.

I am amazed by how many people who know next to nothing about astronomy want to debate me about this. Some argue that, yes, there are more stars in Leo, but in our light-polluted skies, we can’t see them all. So, I decided to check this. A few months ago, when Leo was still visible in the evening sky in late spring, one clear evening I attempted to see how many stars I could see from my light-polluted neighborhood in suburban Cincinnati. I easily counted 13. So much for that claim.

Others who wish to argue this point with me go entirely in the other direction, claiming that all or nearly all ancient depictions of Leo included nine and only nine stars. As it turns out, we have an authoritative source on ancient astronomy—Claudius Ptolemy’s Almagest. Ptolemy wrote the Almagest around AD 140. It is a compendium of ancient Greek astronomy, including a very detailed listing of stars in their respective constellations, along with ecliptic coordinates and estimates of magnitudes.1 Ptolemy catalogued a little more than 1,000 stars, and his coordinates permit astronomers today to unambiguously identify most of them. The Almagest was and is the authoritative source of the shapes and depictions of the original 48 constellations, including those in Stellarium. So I checked out the copy of the Almagest from the Answers in Genesis library. Ptolemy catalogued 27 stars in Leo, with detailed descriptions of which part of the lion each star corresponded to. Of these 27 stars, two were of the first magnitude, two of the second magnitude, six were of the third magnitude, eight were of the fourth magnitude, five were of the fifth magnitude, and four were of the sixth magnitude. Ptolemy also catalogued an additional eight stars that were near Leo but not part of the constellation itself (one star was fourth magnitude, four were fifth magnitude, and three were too faint to assign a magnitude).

If one creates a depiction of Leo with stars third magnitude and brighter according to Ptolemy, then Leo has ten stars. That is, to get a count of nine stars in Leo from the authoritative ancient source, one must ignore stars fainter than third magnitude and arbitrarily delete one third-magnitude star. There is no justification for this. All astronomers would concur with my assessment: there is no standard depiction of Leo containing nine stars, either from the ancient or modern world. Rather, how many stars any source today uses to depict the outline of Leo is merely a matter of preference.

But somehow in the minds of some people, Stellarium’s preference for nine stars outlining Leo has become the standard, despite all evidence to the contrary. The belief that there will be a literal fulfillment of the Revelation 12:1–2 sign on September 23, 2017, critically depends upon there being nine stars in Leo. However, just a little bit of knowledge of the history and practice of depicting constellations ought to reveal no basis for this claim. Again, I am amazed at the number of people willing to debate this point. Apparently, because they saw it on a YouTube video, it must be true.

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SOURCE: Answers In Genesis