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Itís 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 the Pleiades.

Astrologically, 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.

Jupiter and Aldebaran

Jupiter, 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 to marvel.

Aldebaran 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.

The Precession of the Equinoxes

Aldebaran 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 of Aquarius.

Sky watching 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.

Aldebaran 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.

Saturn and the Seven Sisters

Saturn, 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!

We know 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.

In Vedic 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.

The stars 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.

In the meantime, take advantage of this special stargazerís treat and commune with the big planetsólive from Aldebaran and the Pleaides.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

M. Kelley Hunter has studied the stars as an astrologer, mythologist and amateur astronomer for over 30 years. Co-founder of the Roots of Astrology experiential conferences, she is now astrologer-in-residence for the Omega Institute winter programs in the Caribbean. She leads star gazing nights and astrology workshops, and writes about the sky for various publications. She has mentored adult students at Norwich University and other colleges.

Send an email to the author.

For more information about Kelley Hunter, click here.

Other StarIQ articles by Kelley Hunter:

  • Tracking Orion the Hunter   1/4/2001
  • Stargazing: Astronomy for Astrologers Part 2   9/2/2000
  • Stargazing: Astronomy for Astrologers   7/15/2000
  • Y2K: How Real Is It?   11/23/1999

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