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WAS IT A UFO?

Ever since that wintry night when the Three Wise Men followed a star to a stable in Bethlehem where the Christ child lay, the world has speculated about the fiery light in the sky.

Where did it come from? Where did it go? Was it an exploding nova from some distant galaxy or merely a dying star that in its last gasp blazed with exceptional brilliance? Or, was it a lost comet knifing across the heavens?

And -- the most troubling question of all -- why hasn't it shown up since? Actually, it has. According to one theory a similar blazing star was seen early in the 9th century and again at the start of the 17th. This event, so the theory runs, occurs every 800 years.

Another theory the world of science doesn't like to talk about speculates that the eerie light guiding the Magi was not a star but a visitor from outer space, come not to point the way for the Three Wise Men but simply to monitor those curious goings-on in the manger.

Scientists pooh-pooh the UFO theory, yet do not agree as to just what the star of Bethlehem was. Nor is there agreement among them as to how the mysterious star happened to appear at that particular time and place. The closest thing to agreement is the theory that a rare celestial "summit meeting" of Mars, Jupiter and Saturn (a conjunction, in astronomy lingo) occurred.

It is generally acknowledged among scientists that at about the time of Christ's birth there was such a conjunction. The fact that it didn't occur on the "Christmas Eve" of the Nativity does not diminish the theory's plausibility because Dec. 25 is an arbitrary date for the Nativity. Historians say Christ could have been born years earlier, maybe in the year 6 B.C. Thus, we are left wondering.