Depicting the Sky

by Hank Friedman

Both astrologers and astronomers have different ways to portray the positions of planets in the sky, both for specific moments in time, and for unfolding patterns.

Among the tools available to astrologers are birth charts and graphic ephemeride and time maps (as well as astro-maps for locational astrology).

Both astrology and astronomy programs also create Planetarium displays, and animations of the planets movements.


Astrology Charts

Below are charts for Sunrise and Noon created in three different formats. Notice that the Western astrological chart format, below, conforms most closely to the astronomical reality of the visible sky in the top half of the chart, and the Sun culminates at Noon at the top of the chart.

On the other hand, the North Indian Vedic chart format is identical except that the First House is depicted at the top, representing the head of a person standing up.

The South Indian chart differs completely from the other two formats, emphasizing the signs over the horizons. For every South Indian chart, the top square on the left is the sign Pisces, and to the right of it is Aries, etc.


What is missing in Astrological Chart Depictions?

If astrology charts were to portray planets more accurately, retrograde planets would be shown as larger (and brighter) because they are closest to the Earth, combust planets would be shown only by a faint outline (because they are actually invisible to the eye), the glyph for the Moon would change to show its actual phase, and Chiron would have a tail (because it's actually a comet).

While some of these ideas may seem a bit unusual, in fact they would remind astrologers that retrograde planets are stronger, combust planets (and the houses they rule) are weaker, and the nature of the Moon in a person's chart is greatly modified by its phase.


Graphic Ephemeride and Time Maps

You can see my article comparing the different varieties of Time Maps (aka Transit Graphs) here

There are basically two types of graphic epheride: linear and circular. Linear ones, which are much more common, look like this:

While the circular ones look like this:


As aforementioned, both astrology and astronomy programs offer Planetarium features, but those in astronomy programs are much more feature rich. That's why the creators of Solar Fire Gold linked Solar Fire with the astronomy program Stellarium version 0.9.1, so that astrologers could quickly see a full-fledged Planetarium view of any birth chart:

Some of the internal planetaria built into astrology programs are:



and Solar Fire's internal planetarium:

All of the internal planetaria are useful, and can even be animated, but they are just not as extensive as a program like Stellarium.


Animations of Planets

In preparing this article, I searched the internet and came across several beautiful and very well-done Solar System and Planetary animations:

Kepler's Laws enabled astronomers to understand the workings of the Solar System in fundamental ways. You can watch a very good video about them here.

The Solar System Viewer does an excellent job of depicting the Inner Planets, Asteroid Belt, Outer Solar System, Kuiper Belt, and Comets in five different animations.

You can get an understanding of the relative speed of movement of the planets here (an animation showing the relative speeds of Mars through Neptune); and get a grasp of the actual distances between the planets here (a very clever way of seeing how far about they are).

And you can see detailed animations of Solar System objects here.

A truly excellent animation of the orbits of the planets, and their orbiting moons, is here.

To get animations of individual planets spinning on their axes, eclipses, etc from the Hubble telescope here.

Get a sense of the size of the planets and the Sun relative to each other and larger stars here.

A fine movie of the Sun's annual movement through the Zodiac can be seen here.

Finally, explore a lovely Solar System view that you can navigate around and animate here.


I hope the article entertains and enlivens you about the nature of planets and the Solar System.

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