April 6 Celebration of the Planets

by John P. Pratt

Reprinted from Meridian Magazine (6 Apr 2000)
©2000 by John P. Pratt. All rights Reserved.

Thursday, April 6, 2000 marks exactly 2000 years since the Savior's birth during the night preceding Thursday, April 6, 1 BC. In a sight worth seeing, the planets Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars, along with the Moon will appear to be grouped in the sky on the nights of April 5-6, seemingly a birthday gathering for the Savior's 2000th birthday. Equally intriguing, the other two visible planets, Mercury and Venus will be together about that time as they are last seen in the morning sky.

Mars, Jupiter & Saturn on 6 Apr 2000
What's more this April 6 also marks the New Year's Day of the Sacred Year on the Hebrew Calendar. The Hebrew day begins in the evening, and the new month usually begins on the evening when the thin crescent of the new moon is first visible. For those of you who are skywatchers, you will notice that shortly after sunset on April 5, a very thin crescent may be visible for a few minutes, heralding the coming day. Above the moon the planet Mars will be passing the brighter Jupiter like the minute hand passing the hour hand of a clock at midnight. On the next night, after sunset on April 6, the sight will be much more impressive with the easily seen crescent Moon next to Saturn. The accompanying illustration is taken from NASA. There is a similar photo in the April issue of Astronomy magazine.

The Mercury/Venus alignment is also significant because for chronology purposes, both planets are at the beginning point of their cycle. Both of those planets were precisely on that beginning day of their cycles on the day the Savior was born. Thus, we see that the planets are indeed useful for reckoning time, even as the Lord told Moses, that they are "for signs and for seasons" (Gen. 1:14). It may be interesting to note that next month all these planets will also align with the Sun. The cover article "When Planets Align" of the May, 2000 issue of Sky and Telescope magazine is devoted to convincing us that all such planetary alignments are meaningless. But that is just not true: one purpose for which the Lord created the planets was to keep time, and they do it extremely well.