Astrophysical Directions by Michael Erlewine

 

 

In Astrophysical Directions
Introduction Coordinate Systems The Solar System The Solar Neighborhood The Galaxy Galactic Objects The Fixed Stars Star Clusters & Nebulae Non-Visual Astronomy External Galaxies Finder-Lists, etc.
Coordinate Systems

 

  Opening Essay

  The Tropical Zodiac or Ecliptic

  Constellations Above and Below the Ecliptic

  From the Sky to the Chart Form

  The Zodiac or Ecliptic Coordinate System

  Simplifying to the Chart Form

  Parallels of Latitude & Declination (Part 1)

  Parallels of Latitude & Declination (Part 2)

  The Zodiac and the Seasons

  Astrological Coordinates: A Recap

  The Horizon System (additional notes)

  Graphing the Natal Chart on a Star Map

  Snapshots of Earth at a Birth

  The Discovery of Coordinate Systems

  Once Again: Plotting the Chart to the Star Map

  Summary of Ideas

  Cosmic Structure

 

Opening Essay

In this section, we would like to introduce the reader to several of the more advanced considerations and techniques involving cosmic structure. I would also like to share with you some of my own questions that have come up in recent years. Let me make it clear that it has often been very difficult for me to come to feel I understand much of the information presented here. This is due, in the beginning to an almost complete ignorance of astronomy and mathematics as well as a deep feeling of insecurity about technical issues that required me to go over and over simple facts until I feel that I understand what they signify. This learning experience has been, for me, a personal odyssey of immense value and high adventure.

Do not expect to absorb what astrologers have made a point of avoiding for centuries in a few days. Take your time and develop a feel for this material. Don't worry about "what it all means," for the present. The space surrounding our birth is filled with countless stars and objects. These objects, whose numbers may 'boggle' the mind, can all be ordered according to the fabric or system to which they belong or are members. An understanding of the basic matrix or fabric in which they are nested will bypass the need to try to interpret them one-by-one in and attempt to count the stars.

Astrologers have lost much of the grasp they once had on the astronomy and mathematics of their field. In the past, as any history book will demonstrate, astrologers were both astronomers and mathematician. They held a very responsible place in society, a position that was respected, and one that provided a reasonable living.

Astrology in these times is held in low esteem and the individuals practicing it are made to feel shame for charging money for their skills. In my mind, there may well be a direct connection between the state of our art and the loss of the more physical part of that art, the astronomy and math. I have spent many years investigating the heliocentric system of event expression, by itself, and in relation to our traditional geocentric concepts. This has involved not only the doing of many thousands of charts, but also over 1500 individual readings in which both geo and helio charts were consulted. What follows is not pure speculation, but has emerged to my attention through many years of study. Let me recount to you, in brief, how I got into heliocentric investigation:

I was propelled in this direction by an increasing dissatisfaction in the results of existing techniques and by the thrill of the unknown. After I got over the "newness" of helio charts and the extreme discomfort of not having such landmarks as the Moon, the houses, and chart angles to guide me, it dawned that the helio planetary patterns (in particular what we came to call whole-chart configurations, where several major aspects combine to form a whole gestalt or 360°/picture) represented our zodiac in a purity or at a level of significance not before encountered.

After several years of this work, during which much of my geocentric astrological activity was suspended, I attempted to return to Earth (so to speak) and to begin to combine the helio with the traditional geocentric techniques. I then encountered a singular problem. It was then quite clear to me that the zodiac or ecliptic, whether expressed through helio or geocentric planetary positions, was heliocentric or Sun centered in essence, a much less "mundane" plane of reference than I could remember it. Let me restate this:

When first venturing into helio research, I had assumed that I was moving from the very practical and specific methods of geocentric astrology to a more "spiritual," generic, and higher level or order of information (heliocentric). This was, in fact, the case. An unexpected result, however, was the growing awareness that our traditional geocentric sphere (all of our zodiac concerns) was also of a very high or spiritual (psychological, if you prefer) nature and much less the "nitty gritty," down-to-earth affair that I assumed and/or remembered. A different and stark understanding of myself and my fellow astrologers began to occur, one in which I could see that I was much less practical and much more of a dreamer than I could ever have admitted before.

As a part of this experience I began to see that astrologers (as a group) had let lapse or lost almost all their means to specify or communicate their vision to the general public. In particular, they no longer understood the equatorial and horizon systems of coordinates and planes. Everything began to "flip-flop" in this learning experience, my waking vision. As an astrologer, I had a built-in thirst and love for such powerful or sensitive zodiac points as the ascendant and the other angles and house cusps. In fact, like many astrologers, I longed to find and extract even more such meaningful points from our well-worn zodiac.

Until that time, it had never occurred to me that the 'specificity' or 'individuality' of these sensitive points were provided by the horizon and equatorial planes as much as by the zodiac. In other words, it is the plane of the horizon that marks out the specific degree of my ascendant from the other 360 possible degrees. I had unconsciously given all credit for this ability or "power" to the zodiac alone and none to the horizon. In truth, I hardly knew what the horizon even was, other than as a diagram in a book.

I began to see that astrologers had let lapse their conscious use and awareness of these other coordinate planes, although all three systems must be used to calculate every last natal chart! Here I was trying to induce and extract all meaning from the zodiac alone, which is similar to trying to climb up out of the middle of a deep lake when we feel the need for dry land. To bring to a close my bit of experience:

Astrologers have for some centuries now lost the ability to deliver the kind of very specific information that is available through mastery and conscious use of the equator and horizon system of coordinates. Instead, they have clung to the vestiges of such specificity as found in the ascendant, house cusps, etc. The public's demand for such specifics has been satisfied (in our times) more by the "psychic" or intuitive gifts of modern astrologers, than by the use of a comprehensive technique.

If astrologers live in 'specific' poverty, it is because they refuse to master the means to get the attention of this very result-oriented world and this means is available to them through the reacquisition of the lost branches of their art/science: astronomy and mathematics. If astrologers do have a holistic and "spiritual" message to deliver to these times, they will have to get public attention, not through their intuition alone, but also through dependable and predictable results. We must deliver. Let us examine some ways through which these articles might be helpful in this regard.

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Tropical Zodiac or Ecliptic

The term 'ecliptic' is the astronomical word for what astrologers call the plane of the zodiac. Although, as astrologers, we all use the zodiac or ecliptic in our work, let us review just what it is.

The Ecliptic or zodiac is the plane of the Earth's orbit and, like a vast sheet of glass, it can is considered to extend infinitely in all directions. In other words, the 360° orbit of the Earth around the Sun describes a plane that passes through the center of the Earth and the Sun. By definition, our Earth ever moves only within this thin plane in its endless orbit around the Sun. In Figure A, the Earth revolves in a counter-clockwise direction (as seen from looking down from the north pole of the ecliptic).

Plane of ecliptic

 

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Constellations Above and Below the Ecliptic

In fact, this great plane divides all of the universe in two sections or hemispheres containing those constellations of stars above (north) the zodiac plane and those constellations of stars below (south) this plane. The ecliptic plane is also commonly divided into twelve equal 30° sections, the signs of the zodiac. We will ignore for now the argument as to whether the 12 signs of the zodiac fit the star constellations bearing their names. Of the 89 common constellations, these 12 zodiac signs have received very much more attention than the remaining 77 or so other constellation that are scattered about, above and below the ecliptic plane (see Figure C.).

ecliptic plane

 

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From the Sky to the Chart Form

Our astrological 360° chart form (European style chart) represents the plane of the zodiac along which our Earth moves in the course of a year. In addition, the fact that almost all of the planets move in planes that are almost (but not quite) identical or coincident with our ecliptic gives the zodiac plane even greater importance than it would otherwise have. In fact, most astrologers use just the zodiac longitude of the planet's positions on the plane of the zodiac and ignore the latitude or elevation of the planet either above or below the ecliptic plane. Figure D shows how the ecliptic sphere is projected on a the paper chart form used by astrologers.

From the Sky to the Chart Form

 

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The Zodiac or Ecliptic Coordinate System

Let's examine what the zodiac or ecliptic coordinate system is and how we use it in our work. All reference coordinate systems (like the ecliptic) must have a center and here that will be either the Earth or the Sun. We use the Earth as a center for traditional geocentric (Earth-centered) astrology and the Sun as the center for heliocentric (Sun-centered) astrology. As far as the zodiac is concerned, there is no difference between these centers in terms of the infinite distance at which the Zodiac is considered to be. In other words, the geocentric and heliocentric zodiacs are the same because the zodiac is considered to be at an infinite distance from both. The differences between geo and helio planetary positions are due to the differing perspectives of the Sun and planets as seen from either the Earth or the Sun, and are not due to differing zodiacs. Since every center for a coordinate system is surrounded by 360 equal degrees of space in any direction, we must have a plane to which all objects, stars, planets, etc. may be referred — a reference plane. Every coordinate system must have a plane of reference that passes through the center of the system and which divides all space into two equal halves or hemispheres.

The Zodiac or Ecliptic Coordinate System

 

We have mentioned, when speaking of the zodiac, that it is the plane of the Earth's orbit that is used as the fundamental reference plane for the ecliptic system of coordinates. We may specify the position of all objects as either above (north) or below (south) of this plane by a number of degrees of arc that range from 0° (the plane itself) to 90° above or below this plane — the north and south poles of the ecliptic. We must also choose (and this is the most arbitrary factor) a point or direction in space (somewhere along the plane itself) from which to measure longitude of arc from 0° to 360° — zodiac longitude. In the tropical ecliptic system used by most Western astrologers, this point is the zero-degrees Aries point or Vernal Equinox (to be explained later).

Be sure to get a feeling for what a system of coordinates is and how such a system is defined. All coordinates systems will have a center, a plane of reference (i.e. a north and south pole), and a point along the plane from which to measure the longitude factor. The latitude factor is measured above and below the reference plane.

There are many useful coordinate systems in astrological work besides the zodiac or ecliptic. The two outstanding other systems that must be understood for competent astrological considerations are the Equatorial System of right ascension and declination and the Horizon System of azimuth and altitude. Yet other systems include the Galactic System, Supergalactic System, and the Local System (the systems of near stars of which our Sun is one member). This is in addition to the various orbital planes of the planets other than Earth, each of which has its own "ecliptic," based on the inclination of its particular orbital plane. Still other systems exist, based on the equatorial inclination of the planets, the equator of the Sun, and the Invariable Plane of the solar system. It can get complex.

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Simplifying to the Chart Form

Examine Figures 'A' through 'D', until you understand of the following:

  • The plane of the ecliptic (orbital plane of Earth) is different from the orbital plane of, for example, Pluto.
  • However, both planes pass through the Sun center.
  • While the orbits of the two planets are, in distance, larger and smaller, the planes of the orbits ignore this distance factor and are considered as "infinite."
  • These planes are inclined to one another by an angle or inclination (i).
  • The orbital plane of Pluto intersects the orbital plane of the Earth (ecliptic) at two points, called the 'nodes'.
  • The north or ascending node refers to that zodiac point where Pluto passes from under to above the plane of the ecliptic, while the south or descending node refers to where Pluto passes through the zodiac plane, from above (ecliptic north) to below (ecliptic south).
  • A conjunction of the Earth and Pluto (Figure B) is an alignment of the Earth, Pluto, and the Sun center in zodiac longitude and not necessarily in zodiac latitude. When might a conjunction in both longitude and latitude take place? The answer is if both the Earth and Pluto were at one of their nodes. At that point, there would be no latitude for Pluto.
  • Be sure to note that most astrologer's charts ignore the latitude factor in planetary positions (Figure C).

 

Plane of Ecliptic

 

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Parallels of Latitude & Declination (Part 1)

Figure A shows the Earth, on which we have drawn both parallels of geographic latitude and north/south geographic meridians of longitude. Point 'a' illustrates a city located somewhere (we can imagine) in the mid-West. Any atlas will allow you to find other cities (by geographic longitude & latitude) located along the parallel of latitude where you are and also cities located along the north/south geographic meridian that passes through your location. We have illustrated this with small circles in the diagram that represent other cities located along these two directions on the globe.

 

Parallels of Latitude & Declination

 

We have seen how there is a circle of stars on the celestial sphere that equals the circle of geographic latitude for any spot on Earth. We can do the same for the geographic longitude factor. In fact we do this each time we cast a natal chart and locate the Local Sidereal Time (LST) or Right Ascension of the Mid-Heaven (RAMC). We stop the Earth's motion and hold it still (frozen in time) to see what part of the heavens is overhead our birth place. Another way of saying this: we determine in what direction of the heavenly sphere the Earth was pointed or oriented.

Once we have found the LST or RAMC for a birth, we can look up the equivalent midheaven (M.C.), ascendant, and house-cusps in any table-of-houses. We can also look up the direction of the heavens "out-there" or overhead on the star maps elsewhere in this section. Your LST. (Local Sidereal time) may be expressed in Hours-Minutes-Seconds (HMS), which you will find along the edge of these maps or in Degrees-Minutes-Seconds (DMS) of arc (rather than time). These too are given on the maps. (HMS may be converted to DMS by simply multiplying by 15, and DMS may be converted to HMS by dividing by 15).

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Parallels of Latitude & Declination (Part 2)

Look up your RAMC or LST on the equatorial star maps and locate the right-ascension meridian that was overhead at your birth and the direction in space to which your birth location was pointed or oriented. All stars and points along the line of right ascension running from top to bottom on this map were in line with the geographic meridian for your birth.

 

Parallels of Latitude & Declination

 

 

The diagram in Figure B will illustrate this:

  • Ann Arbor is located along the 42nd parallel of Earth latitude.
  • The North/South geographic meridian (F,c,e,s) passes through Ann Arbor at 'F'.
  • This meridian equals points Z, C, E, and S, when projected on the Equatorial Celestial Sphere.
  • All points located along this celestial meridian will be aligned and in conjunction with the North/South geographic meridian for Ann Arbor.
  • However, only star 'Z' is also conjunct by declination (= latitude) for Ann Arbor.
  • The planet Mars (at C) would be overhead, but to the South of Ann Arbor and directly overhead a city at point 'c'.
  • Points Z, C, E, and S would all be conjunct the midheaven for this chart, as we will explain in a moment.

At this point, it is hoped the reader has some feel for how the geographic sphere fits or matches the equatorial sphere. Perhaps it is clear to you why the equatorial coordinates right ascension (RA) and declination are so important in mundane astrology (politics, etc.). For one, any planetary position can be matched to a spot on the Earth by both longitude and latitude and this is what is done when we trace eclipse paths on the globe. There is not space to go into great detail with this subject, but if the reader understands the simple relationship between the geographic and mundane (equatorial) spheres, many interesting ideas may occur.

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The Zodiac and the Seasons

The Earth moves in the plane of the ecliptic around the Sun center. Figure A shows the Earth at the moment of the summer solstice. You will notice that the Earth does not sit-up-straight in its own orbit. The polar axis (the line of the North and South Poles) is forever tilted to the plane of the Earth's orbit. This 'tilt' or angle is the whole of the difference between the ecliptic (zodiac) system of coordinates and the equatorial system. If the Earth were not tilted, the two systems would be identical. As it is, there is a difference between longitudes measured along the ecliptic and those longitudes measured along the equator in right ascension.

 

The Earth rotates around the Sun in a fixed position

 

 

The diagrams on this page should help you to see the difference between these two systems. Be sure you can understand the following statements:

  1. The Earth always stays in the plane of the ecliptic.
  2. The North Pole of the Earth is tilted toward the plane of the ecliptic by an angle of 23 1/2°.
  3. The polar tilt is permanent, although it changes somewhat over a long period of time.
  4. As the Earth moves around the Sun, the North Pole always points in the same direction.
  5. That direction amounts to the zero-degrees of the zodiac sign Cancer.
  6. The North Pole of the Earth is tilted by a out a 23 1/2° angle toward 0° of Cancer (tropical zodiac).
  7. In fact, the direction of 0° Cancer is defined by the direction toward which the North Pole is tilted (in the Tropical zodiac).

 

The four seasons

 

The important idea so far is that the axis of .the Earth is frozen or fixed in space, no matter where the Earth happens to be in its orbit around the Sun. Here are some other facts to consider in relation to these same diagrams:

  1. The seasons result from the 'tilt' of the North Pole into or toward the Sun.
  2. At the summer solstice, the North Pole is tilted most toward and most aligned with a vertical light ray coming from the Sun.
  3. The polar axis of the Earth is in line with a vertical light ray only twice a year, at the solstices.
  4. At the equinoctial points (Spring and Fall), the polar axis of the Earth is at right-angles or 'square' to a vertical light ray coming from the Sun.
  5. At all other times of the year besides these four cardinal points, the angle between the polar axis of the Earth and a vertical light ray coming from the Sun will be somewhere between 0° and 90°.
  6. A parallel of latitude on the Earth at 23 1/2° North is called the Tropic of Cancer since this line marks the "high-water" point for the summer solstice, after which the Sun declines in strength.
  7. A similar point at 23 1/2° South latitude is called the Tropic of Capricorn.
  8. The arctic and anarctic circles are those circles near the Earth's poles defined by the difference between the North Pole of the Earth and the north ecliptic pole.
  9. Half of the Earth is always in darkness.

The ecliptic and equatorial systems are both measured from the same point — zero-degrees Aries or the Vernal Equinox. Longitude is measured from this point along both the celestial equator and the ecliptic in degrees from 0° to 360°. The Vernal Equinox or 0° Aries point originates or is defined as the intersection of the ecliptic and the celestial equator and this intersection (of these two infinite planes) creates an axis and a pair of nodes set in space.

It must be kept in mind that it does not matter that the orbital plane of the Earth is very large and the physical equator of the Earth relatively small. In spherical coordinate systems, we are not concerned with the size of the structures, but with the angles and planes of orientation of these structures. We extend the equator of the Earth out until it reaches the heavens — infinity. We extend the orbital plane of the Earth out until it reaches the heavens — infinity. The points and axis where these two planes intersect in the heavens is all that we are concerned about.

 

The moment of the Summer Solstice

 

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Astrological Coordinates : A Recap

The Celestial Sphere

 

 

  1. The celestial equator and the ecliptic plane intersect to form the two equinoxes and the equinoctial axis.
  2. The Vernal Equinox or 0° Aries node or point is the ascending node of the ecliptic plane to the equatorial plane.
  3. The Autumnal Equinox or 0° Libra point is the descending node of the ecliptic plane to the equatorial plane.
  4. These points and these two coordinate systems are FIXED in space.
  5. AT ANY MOMENT and AT ANY PLACE in the Earth's orbit, the ZERO° Aries point is ALWAYS in the same direction and at an infinite distance.
  6. The measurement of longitude along the ecliptic or the equator is only identical at the four Cardinal points: the two equinoctial and solstitial points.
  7. At all other points, there is a difference between a degree of longitude (the same degree) as measured along the ecliptic and the same degree measured on the equator.
  8. Each system is simply tilted at an angle to the other.

 

The Celestial Sphere

 

Ecliptic & Equator System

 

Equatorial Coordinate System

 

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The Horizon System (additional notes)

We will return to some additional ideas as to the relationship between the equator and the ecliptic after we introduce the third major astrological system of coordinates, that of the Horizon.

The Horizon system of coordinates represents the third and last of the spherical systems used in constructing a natal chart. In this system, the reference plane is one through the birthplace or observing point that is parallel to the horizon. The poles of this system are the Zenith (point overhead) and Nadir (point underfoot). The latitude-type coordinate in this system is called Altitude and is measured from 0° to 90° from the plane of the horizon to either pole. The longitude coordinate is called Azimuth and is measured from 0° to 360° along the horizon (for astrological use in this book), starting from the East point and moving in a counterclockwise direction through the North point and on around, in the same way that we are used to measuring houses or signs.

 

Horizon System

 

The Horizon system is built around the specific place on Earth of any birth or event and all other objects such as planets, stars, cities, etc. are then expressed in terms of how they were oriented or appear from this perspective. The horizon system is most like the standard road map in that it has a North-South-East-West orientation. The North-South axis is identical to the celestial meridian running from the north celestial (or geographic) pole through the observer to the south celestial pole. The East-West circIe is called the Prime Vertical and runs due East or West from the observer. It does not follow the East-West geographic parallels of latitude we mentioned. The horizon system is independent from the other systems we have discussed and can be superimposed anywhere on the Earth.

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Graphing the Natal Chart on a Star Map

The diagram on this page represent my natal horizon system laid out on an equatorial star map. The authors have found that this form of chart representation is very helpful in making clear what the traditional points such as the ascendant, M.C. are. Please examine this map along with the following statements:

  • The straight line through the middle of this map is the celestial equator.
  • The curved line that intersects the celestial equator at 0° and 180° is the zodiac or ecliptic, which becomes a curved line when projected on a two-dimensional surface.
  • You can get a better idea of what the zodiac is by imagining this map wrapped around your head, at which point the curving zodiac would appear at a plane set at a 23 1/2° angle to the plane of the equator.
  • The Local Sidereal Time at my birth was 11h 42m 54s of right ascension along the equator and this is equivalent to a RAMC of 175.70 of arc along the equator.
  • Locate this RAMC on the map.
  • I was born at a geographic latitude of 40° and that is equivalent to 40° declination on the star map.
  • The Zenith or north pole of my horizon system (above my head at birth) points in the direction of 175.70° right ascension and 40° of declination, which is the constellation Ursa Major (the Great Bear).
  • All points along the 175.70° of right ascension were aligned at my birth. Thus I might also look into the constellations Virgo, Crater, Hydra, and Centaurus to the South and the constellations Andromeda, Pegasus, Aquarius, Sculptor and Tucana to the North in relation to my birth.
  • The Midheaven or M.C. at my birth is the point where the RAMC crosses or intersects the Zodiac and this is around 175° of ecliptic longitude.
  • You can see that the M.C. is far to my south and not in my "mid-heaven" at all but rather, the mid-heaven of someone living near the equator.
  • My natal horizon is the long dark curved line running across the map.
  • This line of the horizon is 90° from my zenith and nadir.
  • The intersection of this horizon line to the zodiac in two places defines my ascendant and descendant at 7° of Sagittarius and Gemini.
  • The intersection of the East-West Prime Vertical to the ecliptic defines my vertex (West) and anti-vertex (East).
  • My planets are marked along the zodiac in their approximate positions.
  • As you can see, planets can only be near the horizon at the ascendant-descendant axis.
  • The houses you see in this diagram are the Horizontal House System (I call it the Radiant House system), rather than one of the other systems. In this house system, the anti-vertex marks the cusp of the first house rather than the ascendant, in case you might be getting confused.
  • The points along the ecliptic intersected by these 12 house circles mark the "cusps" or sensitive ecliptic points.

 

Star Map 1

 

Star Map 2

 

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Snapshots of Earth at a Birth

Much of this will be clear through study on your part. I have found that it is very difficult to explain these different coordinate systems in words. Illustrations help a lot and drawing out your own horizon helps most of all. I apologize for the awkwardness of this presentation and can imagine an entire book devoted to a careful presentation of these three coordinate systems.

 

Ecliptic or Zodiac Sphere

 

Let us review these systems once again. We will examine some diagrams that represent the systems at work in a natal chart. Be sure you understand each of the following statements:

  • The birth day is July 18, and the Earth is at 295° or 25° Capricorn along the plane of the ecliptic.
  • The Sun in this natal chart is at 25° Cancer or 115° of Absolute Longitude.

 

Equatorial Sphere or Equator

 

  • It is Summer in the northern hemisphere since the arctic circle is exposed to the Sun.
  • Half the Earth is in darkness, half in light.
  • Noon is that point on the Earth that is in line with the Earth/Sun axis in Figure A.
  • The time of birth is in the later afternoon.

Figure B represents the Earth and/or the celestial sphere. The zodiac or ecliptic is surrounding the Earth, and the North Pole tilted toward the solstice point. Then:

  • A late afternoon birth puts the birthplace to the right of the Earth/Sun line and toward the twilight region of the globe.
  • The birth geographic latitude is 40°.
  • A line from the North Geographic Pole (or celestial pole) through the birthplace and on to the South Pole represents the RAMC for this birth.
  • The point where it cuts or intersects the zodiac is the M.C. (25° Virgo).

 

Equator or Equatorial Sphere

 

  • The Zenith (Z) extends out above the birthplace (dark dot).
  • The plane of the horizon is 90° from the zenith.
  • The intersection of the horizon to the zodiac at 7° of Sagittarius and Gemini marks the ascendant and descendant axis.
  • The horizon system is oriented or tilted toward 7° Virgo. This point is called the Nonagesimal, a point on the ecliptic +/- 90° from the ascendant/descendant axis and near the zenith.
  • The Prime Vertical intersects the ecliptic to form the vertex and anti-vertex.
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The Discovery of Coordinate Systems

Each of these larger orderings has a plane of reference toward which its members concentrate and that plane is inclined to our zodiac by a particular angle or attitude. While all of these systems are worth investigating, the two which have shown themselves to be of greatest value in my research have been the galactic plane and the supergalactic plane. We will describe how some of these large systems are discovered and defined.

 

The Discovery of Coordinate Systems

 

Every system of coordinates (such as the zodiac) has a center. The most common centers in use are the Earth & the Sun, although for certain purposes it is useful to use more distant centers such as the galactic center or supergalactic center. Centers are easy to understand. Every star in the heavens is itself a center (Figure 1-A) and is connected to every other star by at least one beam of light (Figure 1-B). As we have presented earlier, a center (considered by itself) offers no way to measure or point out the direction of objects in space, all centers being equal. A coordinate system must not only have a center, it must also have some kind of equatorial reference plane that divides the heavens in two parts, so that ideas of "above" or "below" are possible. This plane should have some reason to placed where it is rather than just anywhere. We must also have some point along this reference plane from which to measure arc from 0° to 360°.

The vast cosmic reference planes like the galaxy were discovered in a gradual fashion. Men who studied the stars noticed that in some sections of the sky, there were many more stars than in other sections (Figure 1-C). In time it became clear that the area in which many more stars were concentrated extended on either side of the Earth, forming a vast belt or ring around the heavens in all directions. It was seen that this concentration of material was not a chance clustering, but a vast superstructure containing the majority of all the material, light, etc. in the near universe of our solar system. When a "best fit" circle was imagined and drawn through the denser parts of this belt (Figure 1-E), it divided the heavens into material located above and below this circle or equatorial plane, like a vast sheet of glass. A north and south pole were also projected (Figure 1-E) that "fit" the equator. The equatorial plane and the poles defined, there remains but one other step to perform: pick a point in space along this plane from which to measure longitude.

This is the most arbitrary step in the process of defining a new coordinate system, since all directions are equal along a circle. Astronomers attempt to choose the most significant and least arbitrary point along the equatorial plane of a system to be the zero longitude point. For instance, in galactic coordinates, the direction of the galactic center is now used as the zero point, and so forth. All of the above mentioned cosmic super-system were discovered in this manner.

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Once Again:
Plotting the Natal Chart to the Star Map

It will be important for you to get some idea as to what your own natal horizon looks like. At the present time this is made difficult due to the fact that tedious trigonometric calculation is the only way to plot the horizon on a star map. There are computer generated star map programs available. Here is what you will need:

  • Plot your RAMC line on a star map (also the line 180° opposite).
  • Mark in your Zenith on the RAMC line at the declination that equals your geographic latitude at birth.
  • Count South from the zenith (for the northern hemisphere) 90° to find your South Point.
  • Plot your Nadir and count north 90° to find your North point.
  • The intersection of your horizon line to the line of the celestial equator will be two points 90° (+/-) on either side of your RAMC.
  • Perhaps you already have such points along the ecliptic as the ascendant and descendant. These will give you two more points. Now, sketch a line through the points you have found that represents a smooth curve such as the line in our diagram. You will have some idea as to what the natal horizon looks like and how the horizon sphere was oriented at your birth to the rest of the cosmos.

Star Map

There are yet other coordinate systems of interest to astrology besides the ecliptic, equator and horizon systems. There is the equator of the Sun and the Invariable Plane of the solar system (described elsewhere) as well as the orbital and equatorial planes for the various planets. Beyond our solar system are much larger orderings of stellar material such as the local system of stars in the solar neighborhood, the galaxy to which we belong, the local group of galaxies that includes our galaxy, and the local supergalaxy or cloud of clusters of galaxies.

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Summary of Ideas

  • The 'strength' of a natal chart involves three distinct and interdependent coordinate systems: Ecliptic, Equatorial, and Horizon.
  • Each of these systems possesses complete integrity and refers to a different order or level of our life activity.
  • These three systems are inclined to one another by attitudes or angles.
  • The angles themselves must be appreciated in any attempt to evaluate the "meaning" of the coordinate system.
  • It is the author's experience that these changes in angle or inclination refer to similar changes in approach or attitude to life perspectives.
  • There is great opportunity and need for research as to the appropriate use for each of the above coordinate systems.
  • Each system is as useful in combination with the others as it well-understood in its own right as a "stand-alone" way of looking at an event.

 

More:

  • The radix Horizon system should be traced out by students upon both a map of the heavens and a map of the Earth.
  • The natal horizon provides the most "personal" or unique sense of the individuals orientation to space and time.
  • The horizon is oriented at a unique attitude or angle to the zodiac, equator, galactic, and supergalactic planes and has a "ascendant-descendant"-type axis to each of these planes.
  • Sensitive or powerful points in astrological work such as the ascendant, vertex, and house cusps are but the tip of the iceberg, so to speak.
  • The entire Horizon system is sensitive and provides a unique orientation for an individual to all cosmic structure.

 

More yet:

  • The vast cosmic planes, such as the galaxy and supergalactic systems, as well as their centers, are important way beyond our imaginations.
  • The fact of the matter concentrated along these planes in these directions and at these inclinations or angles is of the utmost importance regardless of any distance considerations.
  • The fact that the galactic and supergalactic planes are at about right-angles (90°) to one another has yet to be appreciated by the average astrologer.
  • The centers of these two massive systems are about at right-angles to one another along the ecliptic and near the cardinal points of the tropical zodiac.
  • The closer center of the galaxy possesses more "attraction" upon our self than the more expansive and inclusive supergalactic center and plane.
  • The traditional tropical sun-sign meanings take on increased meaning in terms of their alignment to either the axis of the galaxy versus the supergalaxy.
  • I suggest that the galactic axis (Sagittarius-Capricorn and Gemini/Cancer) may be associated with the more aggressive nature of the Christian religion (as a type), while the supergalactic axis (Virgo/Libra and Pisces/Aries) may be associated with the Eastern religions, in particular Buddhism.

    That these centers are in harmony or resonance with the type of religion mentioned or that these religions act out or serve as local representatives of the principles at work in these cosmic centers.

 

And last but not least, it has been our experience that:

  • A given an individual will be attracted to those points or parts of cosmic structure that are prominent in their own natal configurations.
  • That this amounts to a process of self-discovery in a "macro" sense.
  • That remote events (in space/time) are represented, portrayed, and acted out by individuals on this Earth.
  • That the KEY to this is the orientation of the various systems to one another.
  • The Earth/Sun axis has shown itself of great importance in our research in this regard.
  • Even a simple classification of individuals in terms of whether their Midheaven is more aligned to the galactic or the supergalactic axis may provide a great amount of useful and dependable information.

Pleiade

 

Our cover illustration is of the Pleiades cluster of young stars in the constellation Taurus. The Pleiades is said to be the most photographed celestial object. This star cluster is aligned by zodiac conjunction with the point or node of intersection of the vast galactic and supergalactic planes. When the Earth stands at this point (by conjunction and opposition) twice a year, it is at the mid-point or balance point between these great planes.

The diagram (below) shows how the Pleiades may be related to five different coordinate systems:
          (a) Zodiac
          (b) Equatorial
          (c) Galactic
          (d) Supergalactic
          (e) Local System

The dotted lines (and squares) represent a right-angled projection of the position of the Pleiades to the various reference planes.

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Cosmic Structure

CS R.A. Dec. Long. Lat. Intersect ⌉ II II Notes/Description
01 090 00 00 +90 00 00 090 00 00 +66 33 15 090 00 00 123 00 00 +27 24 00 North Celestial Pole (NCP)
02 270 00 00 -90 00 00 270 00 00 -66 33 15 270 00 00 303 00 00 -27 24 00 South Celestial Pole (SCP)
03 000 00 00 000 00 00 000 00 00 000 00 00 000 00 00 097 44 32 -60 10 52 Equinox, Spring, 0 Aries, Node of Ecliptic/Equator
04 180 00 00 000 00 00180 00 00000 00 00180 00 00277 44 32+60 10 52Equinox, Fall, 0 Libra, Node of Ecliptic/Equator
4a 090 00 00 000 00 00 090 00 00 -23 26 45 090 00 00 207 17 38 -10 51 29 Solstice, Summer, 0 Cancer, Greatest Separation Ecliptic/Equator
4b 270 00 00 000 00 00 270 00 00 +23 26 45 270 00 00 027 17 38 +10 51 29 Solstice, Winter, 0 Capricorn, Greatest Separation Ecliptic/Equator
05 270 00 00 +66 33 15 090 00 00 +90 00 00 270 00 00 096 22 35 +29 48 43 Noth Pole of Ecliptic or Zodiac
06 090 00 00 -66 33 15 090 00 00 -90 00 00 090 00 00 276 22 35 -29 48 43 South Pole of Ecliptic or Zodiac

 

Local System of Stars

CS R.A. Dec. Long. Lat. Intersect ⌉ II II Notes/Description
07171 53 10+29 20 32160 22 03+23 36 60171 10 01202 00 00+72 00 00Local system's North Pole
08351 53 10-29 20 32340 22 03-23 36 60352 10 01022 00 00-72 00 00Local system's South Pole
09248 45 08-22 00 32250 22 02000 00 00250 22 02356 41 15+16 22 08Ascending Node of Local System Equator to Ecliptic
10068 45 08+22 00 32070 22 02000 00 00700 22 02176 41 15-16 22 08Descending Node of Local System Equator to Ecliptic
11261 53 10000 00 00261 10 01+23 11 50262 32 53023 18 23+17 59 44Ascending Node of Local System Equator to Equator
12081 53 10000 00 00081 10 01-23 11 50082 32 53203 18 23-17 59 44Descending Node of Local System Equator to Equator

 

Our Galaxy

CS R.A. Dec. Long. Lat. Intersect ⌉ II II Notes/Description
13192 15 00+27 24 00179 19 15+29 48 43193 18 53033 00 00+90 00 00North Pole of Galaxy
14012 15 00-27 24 00359 19 15-29 48 43013 18 53033 00 00-90 00 00South Pole of Galaxy
15269 15 35-23 26 39269 19 15000 00 00269 19 15006 22 35000 00 00Ascending Node of Galactic Equator to Ecliptic
16089 15 35+23 26 39089 19 15000 00 00089 19 15186 22 35000 00 00Descending Node of Galactic Equator to Ecliptic
17282 15 00000 00 00283 18 52+22 52 52281 15 56033 00 00000 00 00Ascending Node of Galactic Equator to Equator
18102 15 00000 00 00103 18 53-22 52 52101 15 56213 00 00000 00 00Descending Node of Galactic Equator to Equator

 

Our Super Galaxy

CS R.A. Dec. Long. Lat. Intersect ⌉ II II Notes/Description
19283 11 22+15 38 39286 16 11+38 20 52282 08 03047 22 12+06 19 12SuperGalactic North Pole
20283 11 22-15 38 39106 16 11-38 20 52102 08 03227 22 12-06 19 12SuperGalactic South Pole
21014 59 22+06 24 00016 16 11000 00 00016 16 11127 53 05-56 05 47Ascending SuperGalactic Node to Ecliptic
22194 59 22-06 24 00196 16 11000 00 00196 16 11307 53 05+56 05 47Descending SuperGalactic Node to Ecliptic
23013 11 22000 00 00012 08 03-05 12 32014 19 46125 02 27-62 35 07Ascending SuperGalactic Node to Equator
24193 11 22000 00 00192 08 03+05 12 32194 19 46305 02 27+62 35 07Descending SuperGalactic Node to Equator
25041 12 49+59 21 19059 28 47+40 58 19043 40 18137 17 24000 00 00Intersection of Galactic and SuperGalactic Equators
26221 12 49-59 21 19239 28 47-40 58 19223 40 18317 17 24000 00 00Intersection of Galactic and SuperGalactic Equators
27169 21 06-60 38 02208 40 43-56 40 43168 25 06292 00 00000 00 00Intersection Local System and Galactic Equators
28349 21 06+60 38 02028 40 43+56 40 43348 25 06112 00 00000 00 00Intersection Local System and Galactic Equators

 

Cosmic Centers

CS R.A. Dec. Long. Lat. Intersect ⌉ II II Notes/Description
29 134 10 54-50 08 36165 24 57-62 30 54131 43 12270 00 00-03 00 00Centroid of Local System
30265 36 00-28 55 00266 07 53-05 31 48265 57 43000 00 00000 00 00Center of our Galaxy
31010 00 00+41 00 00027 09 24+33 20 59010 52 46121 10 27-21 34 05Center of Local Groups of Galaxies
32187 01 59+13 12 51181 05 29+14 54 03187 39 32283 00 02-33 00 00Centroid Local Triplet (LMC,SMC and Our Galaxy) approx. direction
33282 15 00000 00 00283 18 52+22 52 52281 15 56033 00 00000 00 00Ascending Node of Galactic Equator to Equator
34102 15 00000 00 00103 18 53-22 52 52101 15 56213 00 00000 00 00Descending Node of Galactic Equator to Equator

 

 

© Copyright © 1997 Michael Erlewine

 

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