Some non-Christian Yelnick readers found the Star of Bethlehem post too cryptic, as lacking a lot of background that people raised in Christian countries take for granted. Let me try to make amends.
"Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and have come to worship him" (Matthew 2:1-2)
"... and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was." (Matt.2:3-10).
Here is the synopsis: Two of the Gospels (Matthew and Luke) give stories of Jesus's birth, and in Matthew a star appeared signaling the birth of a new King of the Jews. This star was mystic (or mythic) enough to cause some Magi to come to Israel to find him. The Magi met the ruling King of the Jews (Herod) and told him that the star foretold a new king being born. The ruling King proceeded to put out an order to kill all children 2 years and younger. The Magi found Jesus and gave him gifts. Jesus's family escaped into Egypt and lived there until the death of Herod.
Not much more to the story but a lot in that little bit. A 'star' could be a whole variety of stellar objects, but some of the more interesting can be rejected. A meteor is too short lived. A comet is usually attributed to evil or bad tidings. A nova would be good - it would correlate a new star to a new king - but the only known candidate novae are too dim to have warranted all the attention. Most likely the star was a conjunction of planets. And many have been proposed. Kepler (who started all this speculation) proposed a conjunction of Jupiter (the King planet) with Saturn (the defender planet of Palestine), later joined by Mars, in the constellation Pisces (associated with the Jews, as well as with epochal events) in 7 BC. A similar epochal formation of planets occurred in 6 BC, with all seven planets in the pre-dawn sky, arrayed around the heavens, with Jupiter as the kingpin. Jupiter later went into retrograde orbit, then stopped in the sky when it went back to the normal procession across the ecliptic - which seems to fit the Gospel account of the Star wandering then stopping over Bethlehem (see above). Others have proposed a Jupiter conjunction with multiple planets during its retrograde orbit in 3 BC, and again in 1 BC.
Problem with all of these suggestions is we lack sufficient historical knowledge to know the context - what event would have gotten the Magi to come all that way?
Who were these Magi? The root is the same as "Magician", and means Wise Man or Wizard. Probably astronomers, or astrologers, or both. According to a 1999 analysis by Molnar, they may have been Zoroastrian priests - the Zoroastrian philosophy included the expectation of a Messiah born of a virgin - from the great Parthian Empire, which at this time rivaled Rome. Could have possibly been an embassy to the Israelites to suggest an alliance with the new king. Probably were surprised by the can of worms they had dug up when Herod went after the newborn kids.
How would they have known Jewish myths? In around 600 BC the Jews had been captured and brought to Babylon. During that period a prophet Daniel had predicted the Messiah, and gave timing. (Interesting, his timing can calculate out exactly to Apr 3, 33 AD, when most scholars believe Jesus was crucified.) The Jews were allowed back to Israel, but many stayed on. Quite possibly the Magi were steeped in their myths and history. There is a lot that has been stripped from history of this period. My own investigations suggest that Judeo-Christianity has roots in religious notions of the Megalithic people who built Stonehenge, and were the world's first great astronomers (that we know of). The design of the Jewish Temple, for example, has pillars with sight lines to the summer and winter solstices, and the Temple was oriented to take advantage of various solar angles.
In addition to Daniel there were other Prophets of the Messiah, especially Isaiah. And various books of the Bible discuss stars, including a reference in Numbers: "[T]here shall come a star out of Jacob, and a sceptre shall rise out of Israel." (Num.24:17). We can assume the Magi knew all of this and more, the more being lost in history.
Hence if the Star story is real, the Star must have been something which connected to Jewish mythology of a Messiah or King. It could not be any old King, or they would not have come at that particular time. Many of the candidate conjunctions of various planets in various constellations for the Star could have applied to any King of Israel, and so lack uniqueness to the one and only Messiah. That is why I think this Star must have been not just predictable but actually foretold, and the Magi were watching for its emergence. The most interesting theory is this Shekinah theory, connecting the Messiah to three prior seminal events in Jewish history, and being based on the Venus/Mercury conjunction which is predictable but rare.
BTW it is not clear if the Star story is true. It sounds remarkably like another Star story, from 63 BC, that Magi came to the Roman Senate to announce that a King of the Romans had been born. A half-hearted attempt was made then to weed him out, but the Romans were losing their superstitions. Turns out to have been prophetic - it was the birth year of the first Emperor, Augustus. Maybe the Christians added their version to add legitimacy to the Gospels.
The Shekinah is not normally thought of as a star. It is usually described as the presence or Light of God. Burning Bush - Shekinah light. Pillar of light in the sky - Shekinah light.
Left out of the Star of Bethlehem post is how Venus fits into this. The Megalithic People built observatories like Stonehenge to track not just the sun and moon, but also Venus. They also built mysterious buildings with narrow light corridors that opened into rooms surrounded by crystals. (We also see these light corridors in the Great Pyramids - sight lines to stars.) Investigations have determined that some of these mysterious buildings were designed for the crystal room to glow when Venus rose in the morning before the Sun. People used to think the sight lines were for sunrise but they were not quite placed correctly for that. Not sure of the purpose but seemed to be rituals surrounding a new king being born. The crystal rooms have a resting place or notch in an altar sized for a baby but not designed for sacrifice - thinking is the new king was plunked there when Venus rose to get the blessings of the gods, or perhaps so the soul of the former King could be transmuted into the baby. In any event, the rising of Venus was often thought to presage a new King being born, hence it is more likely Venus is the key planet in the Christmas Star than Jupiter. In the Gospels, Jesus is compared to Venus, as the new rising star in heaven, but never to Jupiter.
What the actually connections were that led to the Magi story are probably truly lost to history. It is quite remarkable speculation that came up with this Venus/Mercury as the Star, and the Star as the Shekinah.