The early morning of 25 Sep, 2015, as seen and recorded in France by a fellow researcher. At the upper right is the brightest star Venus. At the lower left is the not-quite-so-bright Jupiter. And then about halfway between we see Mars at its closest approach to Regulus – just to the left of Regulus, the brightest star of Leo. Looking closely, we can also see the third-brightest star of Leo, Algieba, off to the left and a bit higher in the sky than Regulus. This is how the sky looked at 5:41 am.
The point of greatest interest to me here is seeing this closest approach of Mars to Regulus, and seeing where it falls on the Hebrew calendar, marking day 10 of month 7, the day of Yom Kippur, the highest holy day on the Jewish calendar.
Now, there are two different renderings of the Hebrew calendar, and they actually differ by 2 days on where Yom Kippur 2015 falls. The above answer comes from TorahCalendar.com, where we see Yom Kippur beginning the evening of Sep 24 and ending the evening of Sep 25. On the more widely used Hebrew calendar on the other hand, Yom Kippur of 2015 came 2 days earlier, beginning the evening of Sep 22, and ending the evening of Sep 23.
Which of these is correct? Well, that depends. The one which places it 2 days earlier is the Hillel calendar, developed during Israel’s long period of exile from their homeland when they were no longer able to identify the first day of the month by observation from Jerusalem. This calendar does a fair job of approximating the cycles of the moon, usually placing the beginning of the month not more than 2 days before or after the first visible crescent of the new moon as seen in Israel. And over the centuries it has had the advantage of providing a way for people in any part of the world to stay on the same calendar, despite local differences in when exactly the new moon might first become visible.
The TorahCalendar rendering on the other hand makes use of the more precise astronomical reconstructions available in our present day, to more accurately model the cycles of the moon, and thus come closer to accurately predicting when the first visible crescent moon of the new month can be seen from Jerusalem. This results in a calendar which closely matches the cycles of the moon, just as in ancient times when the calendar was entirely based on observations of the moon.
Now, for many purposes a difference of a day or two in the timing of calendar events probably really doesn’t matter all that much – so it’s easy to just stick with the calendar that’s been in use for hundreds of years now.
But when what we’re interested in placing on the calendar is astronomical events – and trying to interpret whatever message the Father may have intended to communicate through these heavenly signs – for this purpose what we really need to be paying attention to is the most astronomically accurate version of the calendar. The one which begins each month at the first visible crescent of the new moon.
Let’s look and see what the moon looked like from Jerusalem in 2015 at the beginning of day 1, month 7 according to each of these calendars. On the Hillel calendar the evening of Sep 13 begins day 1:
This is what the Stellarium program shows for the evening of Sept 13. The new moon was clearly not visible this day, setting almost the same time as the Sun, only 1 degree higher in the sky.
Well then, what about the next night, Sept 14?
This time the moon is about 7.5 degrees higher in the sky than the Sun. It looks unlikely to have been visible, since the sky was still rather bright until after the moon had already set.
Ok, the next night, then – the one identified by TorahCalendar as the beginning of the month. What do we see on that night?
Ok, this time the sky is getting dark while the moon is still up, and we can see a bit of a bright edge making the new moon visible, telling us that the new month has begun.
So based on these astronomical cues – the potential visibility of the new moon from Jerusalem – I would say that the Hillel calendar is making a bad call in beginning the new month on Sept 13. It was not possible for the moon to be seen that night. Sept 15 on the other hand – the thin crescent moon clearly could have been visible that night as long as clouds didn’t get in the way. So TorahCalendar wins this one – confirming for us that yes, according to an astronomically correct calendar, that Sept 25 morning marked by the closest approach of Mars to Regulus was indeed day 10 of month 7, that most holy day of Yom Kippur.
And what does this mean? I don’t know. As I looked ahead in anticipation of this event, I thought that by the time Yom Kippur came, we might see a clear answer. Maybe something very special happening on that very day. But now looking back on it I wonder if maybe what it’s pointing to, rather than just that one particular day, is the whole coming year which began with those 10 days from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur.