The answer to this question has to be “a miracle” since there are a great many variables to say with any sort of certainty that it was any particular stellar event. It appeared in the east: if Persia is meant then it is perhaps a two year journey to find Bethlehem.
It is possible that this simply means, as astrologers, they read the signs and determined that the birth of the messiah was near. “We read his horoscope” sounds far less Christmas-y, but that may be in fact what Matthew meant.
Other things besides stars could be considered as omens and portents. Comets and meteors were always considered signs, it is possible that one of these appears at the right time and made the Magi think that Messiah had been born. In addition, the star guides the Magi to the house, this is unlikely to be a comet, meteor, conjunction…
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