10:00 pm on November 16, 2000. Do you know where Jupiter and Saturn are? The two largest planets
are easy to locate most of the night in the region of the Bullís Eye and
Jupiter is in the sign Gemini, and Saturn has retrograded back into
Taurus for the winter. If you look up, youíll easily see these two big
planets in the night sky, right in the heart of the constellation Taurus,
the bull (this is their astronomical, not astrological placement). Because
they are both retrograde, they will be hanging out in this section of
the sky for months. This gives us a great opportunity to look them upónot
only in our books, but also by looking up at them! We can identify and
enjoy some of the skyís most spectacular stars at the same time.
glowing like a diamond in the sky, can be seen to the left, or north,
of Aldebaran. This star is the original bullís eye, as it marks the
eye of Taurus the bull. One of the brightest stars, its reddish glow
suggests the eye of an angry bull and identifies this star as a red
supergiant, one of those stars that has passed middle age and puffs
up in order to keep its energy recycling. Itís got a lot of life in
it yet, though. Donít expect it to burn out any time soon. But when
it does, it will burst into a supernova that will cause future generations
is located on one of the tips of a V-shaped star pattern called the
Hyades, representing the head of the bull. Because Jupiter is so bright,
it is not easy to see the whole V pattern now. Hereís another way to
find it: many people know Orion the Hunter, one of the best-known constellations.
Orion rises after Taurus, like a bullfighter following the bull. While
looking east late in the evening, you can follow the line of Orionís
three belt stars upward into the sky. They point directly at Aldebaran.
Precession of the Equinoxes
is one of the four royal stars that mark the corners of heaven, according
to ancient star watchers. It marked spring equinox during the Age of
Taurus, about 4000Ė2000 B.C. The precession of the equinoxes is a 26,000-year
cycle that moves the Spring Equinox point backward through the zodiac.
Over time, the precession has created a difference between the signs
we use in Western astrology, and the constellations those signs
were named for around 4000 years ago. For us, the sign Aries
begins at Spring Equinox, even though the constellation now rising
at dawn on equinox is Pisces and will soon be Aquarius, as in the Age
can help us get a sense of how precession changes our view of the heavens.
By looking at the paths of the planets through the night sky, we can
see the difference between the signs and the constellations. Some astrology
systems, Vedic and Sidereal, for instance, account for precessional
change and use different methods of interpretation. Most Western astrologers,
however, use tropical, or the ďtraditionalĒ placements. Astrology is
a rich field with many traditions.
is located zodiacally at almost 10 degrees Gemini. Jupiter stationed
retrograde at 11 degrees Gemini in September, and will return to this
point in April. This months-long alignment of Jupiter and Aldebaran
alone would have been a cause for ceremony and celebration in star-watching
cultures, but we have an added bonus this season.
and the Seven Sisters
less brilliant and more creamy in color than Jupiter, is to be found
close by, just to the right of the Pleiades, the most famous star cluster.
Extend that line of Orionís belt stars past Aldebaran, and there are
the Pleaides. How many can you see? With a clear sky, most people can
see six, sometimes seven. Through binoculars one sees dozens of stars
in the cluster, and through a telescope, hundreds!
them as the Seven Sisters from Greek mythology. The Onondaga people
of the Iroquois nation tell a story of Seven Dancing Children who neglect
their chores and linger by the river to dance. An old silver-haired
man dressed in a robe of white feathers approaches and warns them to
behave properly. They just keep dancing and then start to rise into
the sky. Now they have to keep dancing or they will fall down. Do you
detect a moral to that story? Native peoples tell star stories to teach
their children, as well as to remember seasonal markers.
astrology, the Pleaides mark one of the Moon mansions, one of the nightly
positions of the Moon as it circles the sky night by night through the
month. This Moon mansion is named Krittika, and is seen as a flame or
axe. It is called the star of fire and said to burn or cut away impurities,
a good thing to do while Saturn is in the territory.
of the Pleiades are located at the very end of the sign Taurus. Saturn
dwells with the Pleiades through the winter, and will not cross into
Gemini until late April. We have some months to incorporate our lesson
from the Pleiades. Then Jupiter will move on and Saturn will come forward
to align with Aldebaran. Weíll be looking that bull in the eye yet again.
meantime, take advantage of this special stargazerís treat and commune
with the big planetsólive from Aldebaran and the Pleaides.