I am going to begin this lesson so we can understand the basic astronomy of the solar system. As I discussed in the history of astrology, it was not so long ago that both astronomy and astrology were one body and I do feel that it is important to understand where the planets are in our solar system. Although this could be rather tedious for individuals that would prefer to jump to interpreting their charts, we will use our understanding of the solar system in follow up lessons.
One of the interesting things that I have found about “our understanding” of the solar system is that many of us do not understand it at all. We know that there is a Sun and a Moon, but beyond that many people do not know how many planets there are. I recently queried a bunch of my friends and I got random answers from 6 to 11 to 13, and several did not know that Pluto was no longer a planet. That’s right – for those of you that did not know — Pluto is no longer a planet. Before any Scorpios (Pluto rules Scorpio) start to develop an identity crisis over Pluto’s demotion, in astrology we still consider Pluto a planet.
I am sure that some of you are wondering how this happened? Why did Pluto get demoted? We can some this up in one word – ERIS.
OMG…. The Solar System Has Dwarves! (No Dwarves allowed)
In January 2005, Mike Brown and his team located in San Diego, CA discovered an object in the solar system that appeared to be larger than Pluto. Brown and the astronomers at NASA initially called the object the “tenth planet” and gave it the provisional designation of 2003 UB 313. However, the size of the object would end up becoming a huge problem and internal arguments and debates erupted in the Astronomical Community.
In August 2006, the IAU agreed upon a new definition of a planet in the solar system. The adaptation of the new requirements for planethood (orbits the sun, has a round shape, and has “cleared the neighborhood” around its orbit) led to the demotion of Pluto to a new category of dwarf planets. In addition, the asteroid Ceres (which was a planet until 1802 and herself demoted to an asteroid) was promoted to a dwarf planet. The new dwarf planet that caused such a ruckus was named Eris who (perhaps by synchronicity) was the Greek Goddess of Strife and Discord. In September 2008, the IAU admitted Haumea as a dwarf planet followed by MakeMake.
OMG MORE DWARFS?
There are several other trans-Neptunian objects under consideration. Some of these include Orcus, Quaoar, 2007 OR10, Sedna, and the asteroid Vesta. In this course, I will only be covering dwarf planets Ceres, Pluto, and my preliminary understanding of Eris. The other dwarf planets Haumaea and MakeMake I may include in the next course if I have had time to work with them.
THE ASTROLOGICAL SOLAR SYSTEM
On the left hand side of this diagram, you will see a yellow glow. This is the Sun and it is the center of our solar system. Every planet, dwarf planet, and asteroid revolves around the Sun.
The Inferior Planets
Mercury is probably the most famous of planets. In recent years, pop culture has become very familiar with the astrological phenomena of Mercury retrograde. Mercury moves around the Sun very quickly and it takes it 88 earth days to circle the Sun. Mercury never gets more than 27 degrees away from the Sun, so it is usually found in the same sign or the one before or after it.
Venus is the next inferior planet. It was named after the Goddess of Love in Roman Mythology, and like Mercury moves around the Sun rather quickly. A Venusian year is 224-225 earth days. The great irony about Venus is that one of her days is longer than it takes for her to revolve around the Sun. Venus rotates very slowly on her axis and one day on the planet is 225 earth days. Venus is never more than 48 degrees from the Sun.
Earth and Moon
This is where we live, and because we stand upon the Earth we do not measure the location of Earth in a chart in western astrology. Since it is the observation point of the solar system, the Earth is always in the opposite astrological sign to the Sun. For example, if you lived on the Sun right now (please bring a large air conditioned igloo) you would find the Earth in the sign of Pisces. Why? The Sun (as of this writing) is in the sign of Virgo. It takes the Earth 365.25 days to revolve around the Sun. This is called 1 year. Further, the Earth is the only planet in the solar system (as far as we know) that intelligent life exists.
Earth is the first planet in the solar system that has a satellite that orbits it. Although we refer to it as the “Moon”, its name is actually Luna. The Moon revolves around the earth every 28-29 days. Every month at the New Moon we begin a new lunar month, which is still part of many religious systems.
The Superior Planets:
The first superior planet in the solar system is Mars. Mars is a rather interesting planet, because it has a rather elliptical orbit and with its striking red color it is very noticeable when it is the closest to the earth. Mars was named after the Roman God of war and is often associated with bloodshed and anger. In traditional astrology it is considered the lesser malefic and is often associated with bad omens. Mars is about half the size of the earth and revolves around the Sun every 687 days or roughly every 2 years.
We Now Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Program…
There are many theories about the asteroid belt. One is that there used to be a planet that existed between Mars and Jupiter, but it was destroyed by either an impact or due to the gravitational pull of Jupiter. This is now home to thousands of asteroids ruled by their Queen – dwarf planet Ceres. Ceres takes about 4.60 years to revolve around the Sun. Within the asteroid belt are three other large sized asteroids which many astrologers use in their forecasting: Pallas Athena, Juno, and Vesta.
Now Back To Your Regular Scheduled Program…
We now leave the realm of the personal planets – Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, and dwarf planet Ceres. The next two planets are considered the social planets. By social, I do not mean Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.
The first social planet is called Jupiter. Jupiter is named after the Roman King of the Gods. Jupiter is the biggest of all the planets in the Solar System and he is most noted for the ‘huge red eyeball’ structure on his surface. I suppose, the King of the Gods has to keep an eye out on the universe. Jupiter takes 11.86 years to circle the Sun. This is approximately 1 zodiacal sign per year. In traditional astrology, Jupiter is considered the great benefic and is known to bring luck to those who had his favor. This could have arisen out of the idea that Jupiter is the giant vacuum cleaner of the solar system, and he protects the inner planets from cosmic debris that might have cataclysmic effects.
The Saturn return is probably the 2nd most talked about astrological phenomena (tied with Eclipses) that occurs around the age of 30 for everyone. Why? It takes Saturn 30 years to go around the Sun. Although Saturn is probably one of the most beautiful objects in the solar system, it is considered the Great Malefic in astrology. Saturn has many rings that surround it which many feel symbolically represent the limitations and boundaries which confine us to physical reality. The fact that it is the last planet that is visible to the naked eye amplifies this feeling that Saturn is the barrier to a much larger universe that we fully do not understand.
WTF… First Dwarves and Now Centaurs?
Chiron is a planetoid in the outer solar system discovered by Charles Kowal in 1977. He became the first of a new breed of galactic objects known as Centaurs. Although Centaurs travel as close to the Sun as Jupiter and many far past Neptune, Chiron has an elliptical orbit between Saturn and Uranus. It takes Chiron 49-51 years to revolve around the Sun.
Unlike dwarf planet Ceres, Chiron is not the largest of his kind – that distinction belongs to Chariklo. There is some debate in astronomical circles that believe one of Saturn’s Moon’s – Phoebe – may have been a centaur that got trapped in Saturn’s gravitational pull. Other notable Centaurs are Nessus and Pholus. In this course, I will only be using Chiron and may bring the other Centaurs into a future course.
The Outer Planets:
The first of the two outer planets is called Uranus. It was discovered in 1781 using a telescope and is considered the first planet of modern times. Uranus is unique in that he tends to break all the rules, and immediately upon his discovery doubled the size of the known universe. Uranus is very unique because he spends 42 years with one pole facing the Sun and then 42 years with the other poll facing the Sun. In total, Uranus takes 84 years to go around the Sun or roughly 7 years through each sign of the zodiac.
Our next planet is Neptune who was discovered in 1846 by Johann Galle. Neptune has a beautiful blue surface almost the color of the deepest parts of earth’s oceans. He is named after the Roman God of the Sea. It takes Neptune 165 earth years to circle the Sun and around 14 years per astrological sign.
The Dwarves: Hi Ho, Hi Ho It’s Off To Work We Go…
The most famous of all the dwarf planets is Pluto. As I stated earlier, we still consider Pluto a planet in astrology and there are no plans to kick him out of the planetary pantheon as our close cousins the Astronomers did. Pluto was discovered in 1930 and has a rather eccentric orbit sometimes coming closer to the Sun than Neptune. It takes Pluto 248 years to go around the Sun, but he quickly moves through the zodiac sign of Scorpio and crawls through the sign of Taurus.
On December 28, 2004, Mike Brown’s team in San Diego, California discovered Haumea. Haumea is the strangest of the dwarf planets because she looks like a gigantic Easter egg. After naming Eris (she is coming), the IAU decided that it would name all ‘outer planet like objects’ after characters in creation myths. Haumaea is named after the Hawaiian Goddess of childbirth. It takes Haumaea 283 years to circle the Sun. Haumaea is currently in the sign of Libra.
The third largest dwarf planet is called MakeMake. He was discovered by Mike Brown in San Diego on March 31, 2005. He is named after the Rapa Nui God of humanity and was the chief god of the bird man cult. It takes MakeMake 309 years to circle the Sun. MakeMake is currently in the sign of Virgo.
The Fairest of Them All
Now is the final member of Dwarf planets – Eris. Eris is the dwarf planet that caused all the controversy. Eris is named after the Goddess of Strife and Discord and as I stated earlier she surely lived up to her name. Eris is the 9th largest body in our solar system and is believed to be larger than Pluto. Eris is the slowest of the dwarf planets and takes a whopping 557 years to go around the Sun. Like Pluto, she has a rather elliptical orbit and moves very quickly through the sign of Libra and crawls slowly through the sign of Aries. She has been in Aries since the early part of the 20th century and is still currently in the sign. I will be covering Eris at length towards the end of this course. I feel that she is very important in astrological charts – especially in Mundane Astrology.
Storm Cestavani – Updated May 2017