There are scores of opinions regarding the star the wise men saw in the east. There are those that think it was a comet, and others who feel it was an unusual alignment of planets that created the image of one very bright star. While these kinds of events may have occurred around the first century, I think it would be best to rely on the details provided in the true word of God.
Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. – Matthew 2:2
It is widely accepted that the wise men were from Persia or the area around it. They saw this star while they were in the east. This means they saw the star to the west of them because it was over Bethlehem. These men studied the stars as part of their religion, as we will study later, but this one was different enough that it signaled to them a momentous event. In fact, they identify this star as “his star.” This gives the idea that this particular star was new to them.
Some of the Jews themselves believe the Messiah will be announced by a star from their interpretation of Numbers 24:17:
I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth. – Numbers 24:17
Apparently this star disappeared and reappeared at least once.
When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. – Matthew 2:9-10
The star did not “lead” them directly to Jesus. Therefore, they went to the palace looking for the king because that is the natural place to find one! The wording of this verse indicates that the same star they saw in the east “showed up” in the night sky once again. Also, it says they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. Why would they rejoice if the star had been there the whole time? For that matter, if the star never went away, could they not have followed it to Jesus skipping the meeting with Herod altogether?
These verses also show that this star moved. It “went before” them and “stood” over where Jesus was.
I am certainly not an astronomer, but these traits don’t fit the characteristics of any star I have seen. I am inclined to believe that this star was a star ”coming out of Jacob.” It was a celestial creation of God designed specifically to lead the wise men to Jesus.