When Christ Was Born!
Psalm 19: 1"The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands." (NASB)
The Bible clearly reveals no man knows when Jesus' Second Coming will be but there's no prohibition against trying to figure out when He first came, as God Incarnate. A look back to that era coupled with modern technology is indeed quite revealing and exciting. Maybe this is one Coming we're supposed to dig into. With computer technology astronomers can go backwards in time to determine the location of planets and stars for a given date and time. To state the end of the story at the outset, it's very likely Jesus was born on September 11, 3 B.C. (between 6:15pm and 7:45pm), which was Rosh sha' shanah (Day of Trumpets), and visited by the Magi on December 25, 2 B.C. (or about 15 months after His birth). See VII, (C) of the last link below for more on this precision in timing.
On August 12, 3 B.C. a conjunction occurred wherein Jupiter (representing kingship) and Venus came into close alignment from the prospective of an observer on earth, appearing as a "morning star." (The tiny insert in the picture in the upper left is one example of a conjunction. Click on the same picture in the "III. Attention in the Heavens" section of this website to view the same illustration yet a much larger one. For a basic video representation of a conjunction go to this website and click "next" five times). This August 12, 3 B.C. conjuction of Jupiter and Venus (in the constellation Leo to boot) is most likely what the maji witnessed in the eastern sky, 30 days before Christ was born. To the maji Jupiter represented kingship and Venus represented birth and motherhood. The maji also knew this conjunction occurring in the constellation of Leo symbolized the Hebrew tribe of Judah. Yes, for the maji these signs indicated it was time to saddle up the camels and ride.
33 days later, on September 14, 3 B.C., Jupiter came into alignment with Regulus (kingly star in the constellation Leo, the Lion). Jesus is known as the Lion of the tribe of Judah. Jupiter would continue its normal course through heaven in 3/2 B.C. , yet due to its annual retrogression it would reunite (form a conjunction) with Regulus a second (February 17, 2 B.C.) and third time (May 8, 2 B.C.). The first conjunction had coincided with the Jewish New Year. All three conjunctions occurred within the constellation Leo. So by now, the maji have been traveling for months and have seen probably at least four conjunctions, all testifying to the birth of the Savior. (Records show there were 9 major conjunctions in 3/2 B.C.)
The declaration from the triune God appeared to be that God the Father (The kingly planet Jupiter symbolically) is hovering over the newborn King (the star Regulus symbolically, and the Christ child literally). For more detail and a color pictorial of this crowning of Jupiter over and around Regulus see the "IV. Magi's Heightened Observation" section here.
On December 25, 2 B.C. Jupiter would come into a stationary position directly over Bethlehem, as viewed from Jerusalem (5 miles north of Bethlehem). Jupiter "stopped" in the abdomen region of the constellation Virgo, with Virgo being representative of "virgin" (think Mary here). Matthew 2:2 reads, "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him." So here we have the Maji in Jerusalem seeking the location of Jesus (who again is 5 miles away in Bethlehem).
A strong piece of evidence for the maji not arriving at Mary and Joseph's house on the day of Christ's birth is found in scripture itself. Luke 2:39 reads,"When they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city of Nazareth" (NASB). This was right after Simeon blessed Jesus in Jerusalem, not Bethlehem. So, from Jerusalem Jesus went back to Nazareth. But the maji met Jesus in Bethlehem. Therefore, it's reasonable to believe once back in Nazareth Mary and Joseph decided to relocate in Bethlehem (which was much closer to Egypt where they would soon flee to escape Herod's order to have all male children two and under slain).
The heavens were very active in 3/2 B.C. A lot of cases can be made for what constituted the star in the east. However, factoring in Jewish history, the constellations involved with the various conjunctions, it's very likely the aforementioned dates are accurate. It's difficult to imagine that Christ's birth and the "deductions" of the maji were not "in conjunction" with the declarations emanating from God's heavenly bodies. If not, the events, person and testimony of Jesus Christ are no less diluted.
The birth of Christ and the concomitant movement of the celestial bodies is an intriguing study. These observations represent a brief outline. A good starting point for extracting tangential study topics can be found in abundance at this site--Birth of Christ Recalculated. The Star That Astonished the World by Ernest L. Martin seems to be one of the most respected books on the topic (out of print?).
Note: Other theories posit that Jupiter and Venus formed a conjunction in September 2 B.C. and that this is likely "the star" over Bethlehem. This would indicate the maji arrived when Christ was about 1 year old, not 15 months old. Still another purported Jupiter/Venus conjunction near Regulus occurred June 17, 2 B.C. Was this the star over Bethlehem?