South Florida Museum: Extraordinary Astronomical Exploration

Join Us for an Extraordinary Astronomical Exploration of the Star of Bethlehem — 4 Shows Only

South Florida Museum’s Bishop Planetarium also offering special showings of the seasonal favorite ‘Let it Snow’

The Star of Bethlehem has been a popular topic at planetarium shows since the 1940s, with hosts presenting explanations that would account for the star described in the nativity story in the Christian tradition. Was the star a comet, a supernova, something else entirely, these shows ask.

But at the Bishop Planetarium, Astronomer Howard Hochhalter goes beyond this traditional planetarium presentation to take guests on a “forensic” journey of the Star of Bethlehem that compares historical records to what was really happening in the skies some 2,000 years ago.

“I really wanted to take our guests a step beyond just talking about things traditionally covered in planetarium shows about the star — the idea that the star was a comet or supernova. Those explanations are a bit more fluff and don’t really present a compelling connection to the events of the time,” Hochhalter said. “Instead, with our system in the Bishop Planetarium, I can take our guests back in time to show them what was really happening in the skies above Babylon and Palestine between 7-1 B.C.”

In addition to exploring the movements of the planets, Hochhalter also explores the cultural meaning that those living in the period would have attached to changes in the skies. For example, Hochhalter said, Jupiter and Venus were doing some interesting things (you’ll have to attend the show to find out just what!). “Jupiter was believed to be the king of the ‘wandering stars’ — which we know today as planets. And another wandering star, Venus, symbolized fertility and motherhood. The motion of these wandering stars had enormous meaning and potential consequence to the Magi watching the skies 2,000 years ago.”

“Let it Snow” Holiday Special

Throughout December, the Bishop Planetarium is also offering special showings of “Let it Snow,” a 32-minute multi-media special that includes festive holiday musical classics that are visually enhanced through animation, special effects and all-dome scenery.

Show Details: “Star of Bethlehem”

About the Show: The “Star of Bethlehem” explores the question “What was the Star of Bethlehem?” with Astronomer Howard Hochhalter, who leads guests on this journey to Jerusalem 2,000 years ago using the Planetarium’s ability to travel through time and space.

When: 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday Dec. 17 and 18

Where: South Florida Museum’s Bishop Planetarium, 201 10th Street West Bradenton, Fla., 34205

Cost: $5 for Museum Members; $8 for non-members

Show Details: “Let it Snow”

About the Show: Featuring a variety of festive classics from Frank Sinatra and Chuck Berry to Burl Ives and Brenda Lee, ‘Let it Snow’ includes a stunning multi-media finale by the Trans Siberian Orchestra. The soundtrack is visually enhanced with thematic animation, special effects and all-dome scenery. The 32-minute program is a fun and entertaining experience for all ages, especially families.

When: 2:15 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays; 11:15 a.m. Saturdays and 12:30 p.m. Sundays through Dec. 28. (Note: The Museum is closed on Dec. 25.)

Where: South Florida Museum’s Bishop Planetarium, 201 10th Street West Bradenton, Fla., 34205

Cost: Included in the price of admission. Admission is $18 for adults; $16 for seniors 65 and older; $14 for children ages 4 to 12. Children 3 and younger and Museum Members always get in free.