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Bradstreet Star Show

Dr. David Bradstreet is the current head of Eastern University’s Astronomy department, and creator of The Star of Bethlehem show. The Star of Bethlehem show has been playing at Eastern University for more than 45 years. Bradstreet says, “The Star of Bethlehem show was fi rst given at Eastern in December 1972 when I was a freshman and the Planetarium Director of the facility. The show has always been open to the public and the Eastern community…its main theme has always been to attempt to show what astronomical possibilities existed around the birth of Christ that might have been described as a miraculous, heavenly event.”

According to Eastern.edu, the Star of Bethlehem Planetarium Christmas Show is “based on a dialogue between an astronomer and his five-year-old daughter (played by Biology Professor Maria Fichera’s daughter, Carina) who wants to know why we have Christmas traditions like mistletoe, candy canes, twelve days of Christmas, decorating houses with greenery, and the Star of Bethlehem.” The show runs for about 45 minutes.

Audiences watching the Star of Bethlehem may fi nd themselves in an information overload, as Dr. Bradstreet has packed the show with easy to understand fun facts and complex explanations for astronomical phenomena. “We discuss comets, meteors, supernovae, planetary motions and conjunctions, the ecliptic, the zodiac, ancient beliefs concerning the heavens and objects contained therein, precession, proper motion, constellations, summer solstice and the reason for seasons, and lunar eclipses,” says Bradstreet.

The show not only addresses multiple astronomical topics, but it is also about the season of Christmas. Bradstreet says that “In searching for the date of Jesus’ birth, we also discuss many of the customs of Christmas and where and how they originated, like decorating houses with greenery, Christmas trees, candy canes, the 12 days of Christmas, St. Nicholas, hanging stockings by the fi replace, pawn brokers (yes, I said pawn brokers!) and mistletoe!” Everything Bradstreet illustrates in his show is backed up by research and Bradstreet’s personal findings. “We use historical references to attempt to narrow down the year of Jesus’ birth, and that is a very difficult thing to do!”

Making such an eye opening show is not an easy task. “I spent about two months researching and writing the script,” says Bradstreet. “We spent about one week recording the audio. We then put musical tracks with the narration. Then we coordinated the narration to match the myriad of visuals in the planetarium itself, which took a couple of months to complete.” Recording the narration for the show was also difficult. Bradstreet claims that Carina, the young girl who plays the five year-old daughter, couldn’t read her lines so her mother helped her memorize them. Even after Bradstreet displayed his show, he still was not finished working on it. “We still edit and tweak some of these visuals as better graphics become available or we get some new ideas as to how to better portray certain ideas and difficult concepts,” says Bradstreet.

Considering how much detail and work has gone into this project, it begs the question, “Why make such a show, anyways?” Dr. Bradstreet believes it makes perfect sense making this show for Eastern Univeristy’s planetarium, stating, “The investigation of the nature of the Star of Bethlehem is perfect for a planetarium and has been a perennial favorite of planetariums throughout the world for many decades. It’s especially perfect for a Christian university in that we can attempt to instill an evangelical message to the audience as to the real reason for the holiday and the true meaning of the Star, whatever it actually was.”

Bradstreet’s main goal with the Star of Bethlehem show is to educate his audience. “We’re trying to educate, inspire and inform everyone as to the true meaning of Christmas, and help them understand why we do so many strange customs at this time of the year!” says Bradstreet. “It can help to show people that God is always in control of His creation and that, as Genesis states, the heavens were made for signs, and seasons, and days and years.”

The Bethlehem Star show has become widely popular amongst local churches and small groups. Its popularity is close to exceeding the show’s capacity. Bradstreet says, “This show is now so popular that most of the shows are sold out and we even have churches buy entire shows months in advance. We don’t advertise it very much because our small seat-less planetarium can only hold 35 adults, and we can hardly handle the demand within the 12 regularly scheduled presentations. We also give the show several times in addition to those 12 to private groups.”

In 2017 Bradstreet presented his show on six days (Dec. 1,2,8,9,15 and 16), totaling to approximately 330 people, and each audience member is different than the last. Bradstreet says he presents his show for people of “all ages, people from on and off campus, church groups, scouting groups, retirement communities, you name it. It has an appeal for all ages and interests. We even have a family who live adjacent to the campus who book the last show each season and bring their neighbors families (with the kids in pajamas) and use the show as an annual Christmas tradition!”

Tickets cost $10 per seat, and they have to be reserved in advance. Eastern.edu explains that “to make reservations, send an email to planet@eastern. edu. Leave a name and the number of seats you would like to reserve and you will get a confi rmation within one to two business days.” Source: Eastern.edu

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