In late spring in the year 1054, a strange light appeared in the sky in what we would now call the constellation Taurus the Bull.

It was a new star, where no star had been before. It grew quickly brighter, until by July it outshone everything except the Moon. Over the next two years it faded away, becoming a star of normal brightness and eventually disappearing again entirely.

Astronomers in China and Japan recorded its arrival, and other observers around the world surely noticed it as well. But it was the Dark Ages in Europe, from which we have relatively few written records. Added to that, scholars both there and in the Middle East were more interested in the reliable and seasonable patterns of the incorruptible heavens, and less so in the unpredictable appearances of comets and guest stars. It’s also possible, and this should shock no one, that it was clouded over and rainy in England during the time the star shone most brightly.

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