Erich Lessing/Art Resource, NY

Johannes Kepler (1571–1630), depicted in a 1627 oil painting now in Strasbourg Cathedral in France, observed a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in 1603 followed by the appearance of a new star in 1604. Intrigued, the German astronomer determined that Jupiter and Saturn would have also been in conjunction in 7 B.C.E. He suggested that this event may have heralded a new star or nova (a star that suddenly increases in brightness) at that time, too—perhaps the star of Bethlehem. An avid astrologer (Kepler, as Imperial Mathematician, wrote the horoscopes for Emperor Rudolph), he was the first to associate the celestial events of 7 B.C.E. with Jesus’ birth.