Friday, August 29, 2008

Milky Way's Core Black Hole Sent Out Massive Flares 300 years ago

Our galaxy’s central black hole let loose a powerful flare three centuries ago.
The finding helped resolve a long-standing mystery: why is the Milky Way’s black hole so quiescent? The black hole, known as Sagittarius A-star (A*), is a certified monster, containing about 4 million times the mass of our Sun. Yet the energy radiated from its surroundings is thousands of millions of times weaker than the radiation emitted from central black holes in other galaxies.
"We have wondered why the Milky Way’s black hole appears to be a slumbering giant," says team leader Tatsuya Inui of Kyoto University in Japan. "But now we realize that the black hole was far more active in the past. Perhaps it’s just resting after a major outburst."

How to Calculate the Part of Fortune

Let me assume that you do not have Solar Fire or any of the pricey astrology software. Because in that case you will have to do your own calculation of fun stuff like the Part of Fortune, the most common of the Arabian Parts brought into Western astrology in the middle ages.
Here is the bare-bones, stripped-down formula:
Moon plus Ascendant, minus Sun, Equals the Part of Fortune.
Not sure if this blogger will accept math symbols but let me try it out:
(Moon + Ascendant) - Sun = Part of Fortune.
How do we do that?

You will have three columns of numbers for each of those factors in the equation. Say you have a Moon in Gemini -- Gemini will equal three because it is the third sign. Follow along with that system for any of the signs; in other words, the number assigned to a sign is the same as its place in the order of signs in the standard list, which is also the same as the House it normally rules. Here goes:
Aries = 1; Taurus = 2; Gemini = 3; Cancer = 4; Leo = 5; Virgo = 6; Libra = 7; Scorpio = 8; Sagittarius = 9; Capricorn = 10; Aquarius = 11; Pisces = 12.
Then the second column will be the degree that the Moon, Ascendant and Sun occupy, and the third column is the number of minutes.
Adding and subtracting can be tricky -- remember that there are 30 degrees in a sign and 60 minutes in a degree. In other words, no number in the first column will be higher than 12, no number in the second column will be higher than 29, and no number in the third column will be higher than 59. Once you have that squared away in your brain, it is a piece of cake to calculate your Part of Fortune.
The Part of Fortune often points out what you really enjoy, what gives you pleasure; this is not necessarily the point that is “lucky”. It can also be useful in helping to find a lost item; see the excellent book by Marion March and Joan McEvers, “The Only Way to Learn About Horary and Electional Astrology.” Good luck and have fun with that!

How To Figure Out Progressions

Astrologers use progressed charts to help predict what will happen to someone or some thing (like the New York Stock Exchange or a company or a political party) in the coming year or even to understand what happened in a past year.
The usual rules are that a day equals a year. What does that mean? It means that if you compare the placement of the planets on a birth date with their placement ten DAYS later, that you can make some determination about what life was like for that person when he or she was ten YEARS old.
Similarly, 20 hours will equal a month. Thirty minutes will equal a week later. Four minutes will equal a day. So you could say after looking at a birth chart and noticing that an applying aspect will be exact 18 days later, that an influence will come to a head at age eighteen. Depending on which planets are involved, that aspect may be a boon or a bane.
Or maybe you are looking at a horary chart where someone has asked where is my lost cat? And you notice that two planets are a degree and a half from being exact -- you can tell her that the cat will show up about three weeks later. (Thirty minutes = a week, so a degree and a half (90 minutes in other words) will equal three weeks.)
Good luck with your progressions and horary charts and have fun out there!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Solar Flares Could be Caused by Dark Energy
A new study led by Konstantin Zioutas of the University of Patras in Greece points to the possibility that solar flares are caused by dark matter particles (if they exist).
Axions were first postulated in 1977 by the Peccei-Quinn theory in an attempt to resolve the strong-CP problem, ie, why matter is dominant over antimatter. The theory puts forth that axions be produced deep within a star, and interact with magnetic fields as they move outwards. These interactions should, theoretically, produce some of the solar flares that we witness.

NASA Predicts Future Behavior of the Sun, Solar Flares
Auroras are dancing along the horizon. Dark sunspots crackle overhead—each little 'pop' more powerful than a nuclear bomb. On TV, a weather forecaster warns astronauts, "a solar flare is sure to erupt," although he can't say exactly when. Moments later, the satellite signal begins to flicker.Where is this place? -- Welcome to planet Earth.Lika Guhathakurta, program manager of NASA's Living with a Star program.
"It's true. We live inside the atmosphere of the sun," says Lika Guhathakurta, program manager of NASA's Living with a Star (LWS) program.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Record of Sunspot Activity -- Daily, from 1849-2002

The full record of Sunspot activity from 1849-2002 is online at
It's a useful resource for all astrologers who chart the relationship between sunspots and drought or mass movements here on Earth. Enjoy!

New Object Discovered at Edge of the Solar System

A "minor planet" with the awesomely poetic name 2006 SQ372 is just over two billion miles from Earth, a bit closer than the planet Neptune has been discovered in the inner Oort Cloud. This lump of ice and rock is beginning the return leg of a 22,500-year journey that will take it to a distance of 150 billion miles, nearly 1,600 times the distance from the Earth to the Sun, according to a team of researchers from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS-II).

The orbital paths of the major planets are nearly circular, but the orbit of 2006 SQ372 is an ellipse that is four times longer than it is wide, said University of Washington astronomer Andrew Becker, who led the discovery team.’

Cher -- Horoscope “Snapshot”

Cher -- born May 20, 1946 at 7:25 am Pacific Std. Time in El Centro, California
Source: Quinn quotes mother

Ascendant is 8 degrees 36 minutes of Cancer, Sun at 29 degrees Taurus, the MC is at 22 degrees 46 minutes of Pisces. The rest of the planets are as follows: Saturn at 21 degrees Cancer, Pluto at 9 degrees Leo, Mars at 13 degrees Leo, Neptune at 6 degrees Libra, Jupiter at 18 degrees Libra, Moon at 18 degrees Capricorn, Mercury at 16 degrees Taurus, Uranus at 16 degrees Gemini, North Node at 22 degrees Gemini, and Venus at 25 degrees Gemini.

A Taurus Sun with Moon in Capricorn and Cancer rising would produce someone who really wants to achieve a level of material success. There was the story of when she and Sonny Bono drove past a large mansion when they were still struggling; she remarked how she loved that house and wanted to live there one day. Wonder of wonders, but eventually she and Sonny did buy and love into that same house.
Her chart is interesting because it lets us follow lunations as they contact house cusps. In 1962, for example, the June lunation contacted her 12th house cusp, and in July it contacted her ascendant in Cancer. The July 31 an eclipse at 7 degrees Leo was close to her second house cusp with Pluto; and two weeks earlier the lunar eclipse at 24 degrees Capricorn was in her seventh house.

We could interpret the twelfth house as subconscious needs -- so the lunation there would activate them and bring them closer to the surface. She took action when the lunation occurred on her ascendant. This was the time period when she moved out of her mother’s house and in with some friends. In August of that year, a New Moon at 6 degrees Virgo was in her third house -- bringing a possible change in environment. A lunation in September at almost 6 degrees Libra conjuncted Neptune in her fourth house. Finally the October New Moon at 4 degrees Scorpio conjuncted her fifth house cusp -- and according to her biographer, that is the month that she met Sonny Bono. The rest is history, as they say. Her marriage to Sonny could well have been fated; the Moon in the seventh is part of a yod. The Moon is inconjunct both Uranus and Mars.

Also you can see how lopsided her chart is -- seven planets on the eastern side would scream her need to be noticed. Funny how the only aspect the Sun makes is a trine to Neptune, but that would suggest her glamorous image and also the music and recording career.

Saturn rises, and rules the seventh house of partners. She depended on someone older to protect her and mentor her into the music business. Saturn in the first also describes her low self-esteem. She was truly an ugly duckling type: awkward, bad skin, shy, sullen. She is also dyslexic -- but once she reads a script she knows it verbatim.

It was difficult for her to reconcile her need for discipline with a great need for freedom and personal expression. This is expressed in the T-square between the Saturn in Cancer, Moon opposite in Capricorn, and Jupiter in Libra in the fourth house. T-squares, by the way, often burst through with pent up energy in the empty leg of the T. Here, that is the tenth house of career. She also has a problematic conjunction of Mars and Pluto in Leo in the second house, square Mercury in Taurus in the eleventh. All that Mars-Pluto energy is very combustible, especially in a Fire sign, so it is lucky she has the outlet of musical (Taurus) communications (Mercury).

You may not know that she had a sideline of rehabbing and redecorating houses for resale. The also taps into that energy of the T-square but focuses on the Jupiter in the fourth house leg. I am told that she did quite well in that business, altho a couple times disputes with workmen broke into the news when they alleged she did not pay overtime.

Now the brassy, trashy image is receding from the limelight as she has retired from touring, and has not made a movie in several years. She has come a long way, tho, from the ugly duckling in El Centro.

Friday, August 15, 2008

August Astronomy Notes From Around the Local Galaxy

Mars Could Be Between Ice Ages
After examining stunning high-resolution images taken last year by the Reconnaissance Orbiter, researchers have documented for the first time that ice packs at least 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) thick and perhaps 2.5 kilometers (1.6 miles) thick existed along Mars' mid-latitude belt as recently as 100 million years ago. In addition, the team believes other images tell them that glaciers flowed in localized areas in the last 10 to 100 million years - a blink of the eye in Mars's geological timeline.

This evidence of recent activity means the Martian climate may change again and could bolster speculation about whether the Red Planet can, or did, support life.

Water on Mars, An Ocean on Europa? The Story in Pictures
Europa is a strange place, with a frozen surface that almost certainly has an ocean beneath it. NASA scientists lean toward the idea of a salt-water ocean, pointing to the red deposits thrown up on the surface from beneath the crust of ice. Because of geologic activity, the heavy tides from the pull of nearby Jupiter, and other factors, Europa is a dynamic, changing moon.
The picture on the right with the red spots and lines is evidence that Europa's icy shell churns away beneath the surface like a lava lamp, with warmer ice moving up and breaking through in places, where it re-freezes.

Have I Mentioned the Coolest Animated ‘Planetarium’ Online?
For a little astronomy and astrology fun go to Shadow & Substance website. They have the coolest animations of solar and lunar eclipses plus the Perseid meteor showers and Comet Holmes. The website is Everything is free; they even have links where you can download the software for an animated image of the night sky from wherever you are located. PLUS another link for listings of sunrise and sunset in your locality.
For example here is the listing of current sunrise and sunset times for Washington DC for a week in August -- --
You can set the parameters for your locality and for a full month.
Lots of fun and you can use this for everything from planning fishing trips to photography shoots (if you want to shoot a sunset) to -- well, you will think of other ways to use it, I‘m sure.

'Earth Explorer' to Map Planet "Inside Out" From Space
The most accurate gravity map of Earth ever will soon be recorded - from space, of course. The Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Explorer (GOCE) will be launched by the European Space Agency (ESA) on the 10th of September, there to explore Earth inside and out like never before.
GOCE is equipped with a triple-accelerometer gradiometer, accurate to within one part in one hundred trillion of standard Earth gravity. Don't pretend you understand that -
GOCE homepage

The Milky Way Influences Earth's Biodiversity Cycles? Research Says Yes
Horoscope enthusiasts will be happy to hear that a grand cosmic force does indeed seem to be responsible for controlling the direction of all life on Earth. However, this grand cosmic cycle has more to do with extinction than finding a tall, handsome stranger.
Research has revealed that the rise and fall of species on Earth seems to be driven by the undulating motions of our solar system as it travels through the Milky Way. Some scientists believe that this cosmic force may offer the answer to some of the biggest questions in our Earth’s biological history—
Our own star moves toward and away from the Milky Way's center, and also up and down through the galactic plane. One complete up-and-down cycle takes 64 million years- suspiciously close to the Earth's biodiversity cycle.

Planets in Late Degrees -- What Do They Mean?

Sometimes I refer to planets that are at the very end of a sign as having an extra oomph. It certainly seems like people who have their Sun in the last couple degrees of a sign are all packed and ready to go in this lifetime -- meaning that they have an unusual ability that could not have been developed only in this lifetime. Maybe they have spent several lifetimes, in fact, perfecting how to play a violin or mastering the laws of science.

The fact is that the royal fixed star Regulus is believed to be at 29 degrees of Leo and whose prominence in a birth chart promised a life lived among the socially prominent. This only adds another layer of energy to the late degree phenomenon.
So let me lay out some information on what you can expect from seeing a planet in the late degrees of a sign. A strict interpretation of ‘late degrees” means the last degree only. But practically speaking, the last three or four degrees are almost equally potent. If you see a Sun, Midheaven, Part of Fortune, or chart ruler in those degrees, then the career should have a measure of fame. But any planet in a late degree is going to throw more weight than you might otherwise expect from the placement or aspects.

ARIES -- People with a Sun or other planet in late degrees of Aries are often explorers and pioneers of some kind. Maybe they are inventors, or they push their entire profession in a new direction. Neil Armstrong, the first man on the Moon, had his North Node at 27 degrees of Aries. Shaquille O’Neal has Venus at 29 degrees of Aries; Venus is expressed in his fondness for personally handing out toys at Christmas and Aries is expressed in his graduation from a police academy and being sworn in as an officer in Los Angeles and Miami; Aries rules police.

TAURUS -- People with a Sun or other planet in late degrees of Taurus are sadly often the victims of financial ups and downs. Maybe they even go through a bankruptcy. A friend with Venus in late Taurus has not been able to save much money due to periods of unemployment in between periods of working very hard and at long hours. Galileo had Mars at 28 Taurus sextile Jupiter and Saturn in late Cancer. His enormous scientific contributions netted him a moderate income from publishing his books, yet he died poor, in ailing health, and under house arrest, too.

GEMINI -- People with a Sun or other planet in late degrees of Gemini are often famous writers or dancers. Julia Child had Pluto at 29 Gemini and her first French cookbook revolutionized American cookery. Billy Joel with Uranus at 28 degrees Gemini, is a prolific writer/performer of rock music (Uranus) tunes. Jay Leno has his Part of Fortune at 28 degrees of Gemini; Gemini excels at comedy because they have great timing.

CANCER -- People with a Sun or other planet in late degrees of Cancer have often inherited property, or they gain wealth through property development or the hotel business. Donald Trump has Venus and Saturn in late Cancer. JFK had Saturn at 27 degrees Cancer, representing his inheritance of the Kennedy name above all else, as well as a “family business”, national politics. He also had his Part of Fortune at 29 Capricorn.

LEO -- People with a Sun or other planet in late degrees of Leo are often famous because they were born into the aristocracy (or infamous for scandals), or involved in entertainment. They rise to positions of command. Winston Churchill had his natal Moon at 29 degrees of Leo; the Moon probably signified the lasting influence of his beloved nanny, Elizabeth Anne Everest. Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf had natal Sun at 28 degrees Leo. One woman tarnished by scandal was the famous Amy Fisher, the Long Island Lolita; she had her Sun at 29 degrees Leo. Saturn’s transit thru the last degrees of Leo last spring and summer triggered a rash of scandals involving sports and entertainment figures.

VIRGO -- People with a Sun or other planet in late degrees of Virgo often gain fame for work in design and especially dress design. Virgo rules textiles even tho Leo rules high fashion. Christa McAuliffe had Mercury at 29 degrees of Virgo, flanked by Saturn at 28 of Leo and Mars at 29 of Libra. Virgo is also the sign of the schoolmarm; she was a beloved teacher who planned to teach her class while in space. Roy Horn, of Siegfried and Roy fame, has Mercury at 27 degrees of Virgo. He supports the College of Magic in South Africa with a grant.

LIBRA -- People with a Sun or other planet in late degrees of Libra gain fame as dancers, judges, or other positions in the law field. Or for their marriages. Princess Grace Kelly had natal Venus at 28 degrees of Libra on her ascendant; while her early fame was for her great beauty and her film career, her main claim to fame is her marriage to Prince Rainier of Monaco. Brigitte Bardot was another famed beauty, with Jupiter at 27 degrees Libra; she was possibly the most photographed woman in the world at that time. Famous Libra dancers include Ben Vereen, Fayard Nicholas, Arthur Duncan, and Juliet Prowse.

SCORPIO -- People with a Sun or other planet in late degrees of Scorpio are known for their passions or dedication to goals. Or a life identified with just one thing. Gangster “Lucky” Luciano had Uranus at 29 degrees Scorpio sextile the North Node at 28 degrees Capricorn. He had total control (Scorpio) of New York brothels (working the prostitutes 60 hours a week) and made the drug trade an international business by establishing the “French connection”. Capricorn ties in because his legacy of narcotic racketeering outlived him. Author Gustave Flaubert had Mercury at 29 degrees Scorpio, expressed in his masterpiece novel “Madame Bovary”, considered a very realistic depiction of adultery. That it was at first condemned is seen in Mercury’s trine to Pluto at 27 Pisces. Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung had his Midheaven at 29 Scorpio; plumbing the depths of the human mind was his life’s work. Scorpio also rules the occult; famous witch Sybil Leek had her Part of Fortune at 27 degrees Scorpio.

SAGITTARIUS -- People with a Sun or other planet in late degrees of Sagittarius are often religious or spiritual leaders, athletes, actors, or lucky gamblers. Pluto has been grinding away at the latter degrees of Sag and that is one reason we have had scandals affecting the Catholic Church and many actors and athletes. Al Gore’s Jupiter at 28 degrees of Sag probably accounts for the spectacular lost election of 2000; Sag and Jupiter both rule national politics.

CAPRICORN -- People with a Sun or other planet in late degrees of Capricorn often build a business, one that may outlive them or be passed on to family members. See Lucky Luciano under Scorpio, and JFK under Cancer. Princess Diana had her North Node at 28 Leo, which would account for all the scandals she brought to the House of Windsor -- but she also had Saturn at 27 degrees Capricorn. This leads me to believe that her son William might be her greatest legacy; only time will tell if he proves to be a good king.

AQUARIUS -- People with a Sun or other planet in late degrees of Aquarius are mental detectives. Marie Curie had Jupiter at 28 degrees of Aquarius and her research into the properties of radium introduced us all to the atomic age. She also had Mars at 29 degrees of Scorpio, another sign of great researchers, detectives and investigators.

PISCES -- People with a Sun or other planet in late degrees of Pisces are nicknamed the “weeping tree”. Their favorite phrase might even be “a river of tears” or the weeping willow. Their lives seem like one disaster after another although somehow they survive them all. Some say that 22 degrees Pisces is also known for this. Jack Kerouac had his Venus at 29 degrees Pisces; tho his Mercury was well aspected and brought him fame for his writing, he became disillusioned with fame and withdrew from life “On the Road”. Queen Victoria had Pluto and Saturn at 27 and 28 degrees of Pisces; the one thing she is best known for is her lifelong garb of black “widow’s weeds” after the early death of her beloved husband. That the British Empire also started to unravel is almost a footnote. On a more upbeat note, Clara Barton had Pluto at 27 degrees Pisces and worked hard to clean up the image of nurses as well as distribute medical supplies to the front lines of the Civil War.

Other notables: Tiger Woods has Venus at 28 degrees Scorpio and Mercury at 26 degrees Capricorn; his Tiger Woods Foundation gifts (Venus) money for golf clinics, grants and scholarships. I have no doubt that this foundation will be a legacy that lives on after him (Capricorn).

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Astrology Attack Kit and Your Defense Answers

In 1995 someone named Andrew Fraknoi wrote a column on the astronomy website AstroSociety. He called it the Astrology Defense Kit but it is really an astrology ATTACK kit. I may as well include it here altho I really don’t want to give this troll any further attention than he already has gotten. Then following that are some astrology defense arguments that you can use to protect yourself. Good luck, have fun.

Your Astrology Defense Kit by Andrew Fraknoi
It happens to all of us - astronomers, amateurs, and teachers. We tell someone about our interest in the heavens and quickly get drawn into a debate about astrology. For many of us it's hard to know how to respond politely to someone who takes this ancient superstition seriously.
The revelation that daily schedules in the Reagan White House were arranged and rearranged based on the predictions of a San Francisco astrologer focused new attention on astrology's widespread public acceptance. More than ever, we are likely to face questions about astrology, especially among young people. So here is a quick guide to some of the responses you can make to astrologers' claims.
The Tenets of Astrology
The basis of astrology is disarmingly simple: a person's character and destiny can be understood from the positions of the Sun, Moon, and planets at the moment of his or her birth. Interpreting the location of these bodies using a chart called the horoscope, astrologers claim to predict and explain the course of life and to help people, companies, and nations with decisions of great import.
Implausible as such claims may sound to anyone who knows what and how distant the Sun, Moon, and planets really are, a 1984 Gallup Poll revealed that 55 percent of American teenagers believe in astrology. And every day thousands of people around the world base crucial medical, professional, and personal decisions on advice received from astrologers and astrological publications.
The details of its precise origins are lost in antiquity, but astrology is at least thousands of years old and appears in different forms in many cultures. It arose at a time when humankind's view of the world was dominated by magic and superstition, when the need to grasp the patterns of nature was often of life-and-death importance.
Celestial objects seemed in those days to be either gods, important spirits, or, at the very least, symbols or representatives of divine personages who spent their time tinkering with humans' daily lives. People eagerly searched for heavenly signs of what the gods would do next.
Seen in this context, a system that connected the bright planets and "important" constellations with meaningful life questions was appealing and reassuring. (Astrologers believe that the important constellations are the ones the Sun passes through during the course of a year; they call these the constellations of the zodiac.) And even today, despite so much effort at science education, astrology's appeal for many people has not diminished. For them, thinking of Venus as a cloud-covered desert world as hot as an oven is far less attractive than seeing it as an aid in deciding whom to marry.
Ten Embarrassing Questions
A good way to begin thinking about the astrological perspective is to take a skeptical but good-humored look at the logical consequences of some of its claims. Here are my 10 favorite questions to ask supporters of astrology:
1. What is the likelihood that one-twelfth of the world's population is having the same kind of day?
Proponents of newspaper astrology columns (which appear in more than 1,200 dailies in the United States alone) claim you can learn something about your day by reading one of 12 paragraphs in the morning paper. Simple division shows that this means 400 million people around the world will all have the same kind of day, every single day. Given the need to fill so many bills at once, it is clear why astrological predictions are couched in the vaguest and most general language possible.
2. Why is the moment of birth, rather than conception, crucial for astrology?
Astrology seems scientific to some people because the horoscope is based on an exact datum: the subject's time of birth. When astrology was set up long ago, the moment of birth was considered the magic creation point of life. But today we understand birth as the culmination of nine months of steady development inside the womb. Indeed, scientists now believe that many aspects of a child's personality are set long before birth.
I suspect the reason astrologers still adhere to the moment of birth has little to do with astrological theory. Almost every client knows when he or she was born, but it is difficult (and perhaps embarrassing) to identify a person's moment of conception. To make their predictions seem as personal as possible, astrologers stick with the more easily determined date.
3. If the mother's womb can keep out astrological influences until birth, can we do the same with a cubicle of steak?
If such powerful forces emanate from the heavens, why are they inhibited before birth by a thin shield of muscle, flesh, and skin? And if they really do and a baby's potential horoscope is unsatisfactory, could we delay the action of the astrological influences by immediately surrounding the newborn with a thin cubicle of steak until the celestial signs are more auspicious?
4. If astrologers are as good as they claim, why aren't they richer?
Some astrologers answer that they cannot predict specific events, only broad trends. Others claim to have the power to foresee large events, but not small ones. But either way astrologers could amass billions by forecasting general stock-market behavior or commodity futures, and thus not have to charge their clients high fees. In October, 1987, how many astrologers actually foresaw Black Monday when the stock market took such a large tumble and warned their clients about it?
5. Are all horoscopes done before the discovery of the three outermost planets incorrect?
Some astrologers claim that the Sun sign (the location of the Sun in the zodiac at the moment of birth), which most newspaper horoscopes use exclusively, is an inadequate guide to the effects of the cosmos. These serious practitioners (generally those who have missed out on the lucrative business of syndicated columns) insist that the influence of all major bodies in the solar system must be taken into account - including the outmost planets Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto, which were not discovered until 1781, 1846, and 1930, respectively.
If that's the case, what happens to the claim many astrologers make that their art has led to accurate predictions for many centuries? Weren't all horoscopes cast before 1930 wrong? And why didn't the inaccuracies in early horoscopes lead astrologers to deduce the presence of Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto long before astronomers discovered them?
6. Shouldn't we condemn astrology as a form of bigotry?
In a civilized society we deplore all systems that judge individuals by sex, skin color, religion, national origin, or other accidents of birth. Yet astrologers boast that they can evaluate people based on another accident of birth - the positions of celestial objects. Isn't refusing to date a Leo or hire a Virgo as bad as refusing to date a Catholic or hire a black person?
7. Why do different schools of astrology disagree so strongly with each other?
Astrologers seem to disagree on the most fundamental issues of their craft: whether to account for the precession of the Earth's axis (see the box below), how many planets and other celestial objects should be included, and - most importantly - which personality traits go with which cosmic phenomena. Read ten different astrology columns, or have a reading done by ten different astrologers, and you will probably get ten different interpretations.
If astrology is a science, as its proponents claim, why are its practitioners not converging on a consensus theory after thousands of years of gathering data and refining its interpretation? Scientific ideas generally converge over time as they are tested against laboratory or other evidence. In contrast, systems based on superstition or personal belief tend to diverge as their practitioners carve out separate niches while jockeying for power, income, or prestige.
8. If the astrological influence is carried by a known force, why do the planets dominate?
If the effects of astrology can be attributed to gravity, tidal forces, or magnetism (each is invoked by a different astrological school), even a beginning physics student can make the calculations necessary to see what really affects a newborn baby. These are worked out for many different cases in Roger Culver and Philip Ianna's book Astrology: True or False (1988, Prometheus Books). For example, the obstetrician who delivers the child turns out to have about six times the gravitational pull of Mars and about two thousand billion times its tidal force. The doctor may have a lot less mass than the red planet, but he or she is a lot closer to the baby!
9. If astrological influence is carried by an unknown force, why is it independent of distance?
All the long-range forces we know in the universe get weaker as objects get farther apart. But, as you might expect in an Earth-centered system made thousands of years ago, astrological influences do not depend on distance at all. The importance of Mars in your horoscope is identical whether the planet is on the same side of the Sun as the Earth or seven times farther away on the other side. A force not dependent on distance would be a revolutionary discovery for science, changing many of our fundamental notions.
10. If astrological influences don't depend on distance, why is there no astrology of stars, galaxies, and quasars?
French astronomer Jean-Claude Pecker has pointed out that it seems very small-minded of astrologers to limit their craft to our solar system. Billions of stupendous bodies all over the universe should add their influence to that of our tiny little Sun, Moon, and planets. Has a client whose horoscope omits the effects of Rigel, the Crab pulsar, and the Andromeda Galaxy really had a complete reading?
Testing Astrology
Even if we give astrologers the benefit of the doubt on all these questions - accepting that astrological influences may exist outside our current understanding of the universe - there is a devastating final point. Put simply, Astrology doesn't work. Many careful tests have now shown that, despite their claims, astrologers really can't predict anything.
After all, we don't need to know how something works to see whether it works. During the last two decades, while astrologers have somehow always been a little too busy to conduct statistically valid tests of their work, physical and social scientists have done it for them. Let's consider a few representative studies.
Psychologist Bernard Silverman of Michigan State University looked at the birth dates of 2,978 couples who were getting married and 478 who were getting divorced in the state of Michigan. Most astrologers claim they can at least predict which astrological signs will be compatible or incompatible when it comes to personal relationships. Silverman compared such predictions to the actual records and found no correlations. For example "incompatibly signed" men and women got married as frequently as "compatibly signed" ones.
Many astrologers insist that a person's Sun sign is strongly correlated with his or her choice of profession. Indeed, job counseling is an important function of modern astrology. Physicist John McGervey at Case Western Reserve University looked at biographies and birth dates of some 6,000 politicians and 17,000 scientists to see if members of these professions would cluster among certain signs, as astrologers predict. He found the signs of both groups to be distributed completely at random.=09
To overcome the objections of astrologers who feel that the Sun sign alone is not enough for a reading, physicist Shawn Carlson of the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory carried out an ingenious experiment. Groups of volunteers were asked to provide information necessary for casting a full horoscope and to fill out the California Personality Inventory, a standard psychologists' questionnaire that uses just the sorts of broad, general, descriptive terms astrologers use.
A "respected" astrological organization constructed horoscopes for the volunteers, and 28 professional astrologers who had approved the procedure in advance were each sent one horoscope and three personality profiles, one of which belonged to the subject of the horoscope. Their task was to interpret the horoscope and select which of the three profiles it matched.
Although the astrologers had predicted that they would score better than 50 percent correct, their actual score in 116 trials was only 34 percent correct - just what you would expect by guessing! Carlson published his results in the December 5, 1985, issue of Nature, much to the embarrassment of the astrological community.
Other tests show that it hardly matters what a horoscope says, as long as the subject feels the interpretations were done for him or her personally. A few years ago French statistician Michel Gauquelin sent the horoscope for one of the worst mass murderers in French history to 150 people and asked how well it fit them. Ninety-four percent of the subjects said they recognized themselves in the description.
Geoffrey Dean, an Australian researcher who has conducted extensive tests of astrology, reversed the astrological readings of 22 subjects, substituting phrases that were the opposite of what the horoscopes actually stated. Yet the subjects in this study said the readings applied to them just as often (95 percent of the time) as people to whom the correct phrases were given. Apparently, those who seek out astrologers just want guidance, any guidance.
Some time ago astronomers Culver and Ianna tracked the published predictions of well-known astrologers and astrological organizations for five years. Out of more than 3,000 specific predictions (including many about politicians, film stars, and other famous people), only about 10 percent came to pass. Veteran reporters - and probably many people who read or watch the news - could do a good deal better by educated guessing.
If the stars lead astrologers to incorrect predictions 9 times out of 10, they hardly seem like reliable guides for decisions of life and affairs of state. Yet millions of people, including the former First Lady, seem to swear by them.
Clearly, those of us who love astronomy cannot just hope that the public's infatuation with astrology will go away. We must speak out whenever it is useful or appropriate - to discuss the shortcomings of astrology and the shaky ground it is based on. Those of us working with youngsters can use these ideas to develop a healthy skepticism in the students and encourage an interest in the real cosmos - the one of remote worlds and suns that are mercifully unconcerned with the lives and desires of the creatures on planet Earth. Let's not allow another generation of young people to grow up tied to an ancient fantasy, left over from a time when we huddled by the firelight, afraid of the night.
[End of the Fraknoi column]

Now, here is a suggested defense for those questions, written by a real astrologer -- His name is Jack Fertig but he goes by the handle STARJACK.

1. What is the likelihood that one-twelfth of the world's population is having the same kind of day?

That depends on how broadly you describe "the same kind of day". You seem to be referring to Sun Sign astrology that attempts to describes daily experience solely by sun sign. This is astrology at its lowest common denominator, even when those newspaper columns are written by qualified astrologers. Few of them are. A complete horoscope is much more personalized, considering the position of the Sun, Moon, and planets calculated to the minute of a degree at the moment of birth and from the perspective of the birthplace.
2. Why is the moment of birth, rather than conception, crucial for astrology?

Because, as we've seen from thousands of years of empirical observation, it works.

The time of birth is identifiable, and marks the beginning of life as an autonomous human being - unlike the moment of conception, which is rarely identifiable. (And as for when a zygote becomes a viable life form, this is a question that has gone back and forth on the whole question of abortion. Nobody has a clear answer, and it seems to be a philosophical, rather than a scientific, question about the very nature and meaning of the beginning of life.)

3. If the mother's womb can keep out astrological influences until birth, can we do the same with a cubicle of steak?

If a cubicle of steak could be devised to provide full life support so that the individual inside had no need for independent breath, food, elimination, cleaning, etc. that might be an interesting experiment. But then a person living in such a vegetative state would not be able to make the choices or have the experiences that astrology is used to help with.

Actually the research of Michel Gauquelin shows astrological patterns within families. (I've seen this in my own work, and other astrologers see it regularly, but unlike our "anecdotal experience" Gauquelin has applied scientific standards of statistical methodology.) He sees this as suggesting that astrological influences may trigger the birth, so the child may well be susceptible to astrological influences in the womb well before birth.

4. If astrologers are as good as they claim, why aren't they richer?

Many of us began the study of astrology as a spiritual pursuit rather than a commercial one. The field is predominant with people who consider philosophical and spiritual wealth far more important than money. Still, most of us are indeed richer than we would be without astrology, both financially and philosophically. There are many branches of astrology and very few astrologers use astrology for financial investments - usually because skills and interests lie in other fields. Some astrologers can see that they have no chart for making money, but may help those who do. As J. P. Morgan said: "Millionaires don't use astrologers. Billionaires do."
5. Are all horoscopes done before the discovery of the three outermost planets incorrect?

Was astronomy incorrect before the Hubble Telescope? Every body of knowledge that is worth anything is constantly expanding, gaining new information, re-evaluating old theories in light of new evidence. Certainly horoscopes including the three outermost planets contain more information.

6. Shouldn't we condemn astrology as a form of bigotry? Isn't refusing to date a Leo or hire a Virgo as bad as refusing to date a Catholic or hire a black person?

Bigotry is pre-judging a person by skin color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, or other factors that have nothing to do with the substance of his/her character. Astrology is a manner of assessing the substance of his/her character. A simplistic approach -- i.e. Aquarians are good people, Scorpios are evil -- is indeed a form of bigotry. A full chart analysis could actually help people into the jobs where they would be most satisfied and productive. (I might want a Virgo for an accountant, but not if s/he has a Sun-Neptune conjunction in the 6th house on the apex of a t-square between Jupiter and Mars -- although that person might make an excellent EMT.)
As for whom you choose to date, that's a highly personal matter. If you don't want to date Catholics, I'm one RC who won't snap your mackerel, but respect your right to choose your dates as you wish. Now Fraknoi is going from telling us how we should think to how we should love.

Moreover he repeats the same questions ad nauseum and ignores the answers. This is as narrow-minded a prejudice as any form of religious bigotry. Besides which, it is the opposite of science.

7. Why do different schools of astrology disagree so strongly with each other?

There are disagreements within any discipline of knowledge. Within a large group of astronomers there will also be disagreements. It is this writer's opinion, though, that those sciences which have been supported by universities, governments, and large corporations have had the great opportunities and funding to test more fully many theories, some of which have been proven wrong, some right, some still in contention. Astrologers have no such support and rely more on personal, indeed, anecdotal experience. Also as a field where there is no established consistent code of credentials and protocols there is inevitably more variation of thought. Some of us regard this diversity as a great opportunity; some consider it a gateway to sloppy research, theorizing, and interpretation.

8. If the astrological influence is carried by a known force, why do the planets dominate?

Astrological influence is not carried by a known force. If it were, the scientific community would have no choice but to accept its validity.

9. If astrological influence is carried by an unknown force, why is it independent of distance?

How can one judge the properties of an unknown force?

10. If astrological influences don't depend on distance, why is there no astrology of stars, galaxies, and quasars?

There is, although it is practiced by a small minority of astrologers. But more to the point, we don't know to what extent distance is or is not a factor in astrological influence. I subscribe to the theory that astrology deals exclusively with influences of our Sun, Moon, and the planets, an interactive matrix of influences entirely within our solar system. The stars of the zodiac are only markers -- relatively unmoving guides against which we can measure planetary, solar, and lunar motion.

Post Script - Reviewing these questions one can easily see that they have no scientific basis, that they are intended to bait rather than to investigate. They are reflective of a narrow mind trying to ridicule what it does not understand, rather than making the scientific admission of humble ignorance as a starting point in the pursuit of knowledge. That anybody would pose such questions in the name of science should embarrass real scientists.

Thank you, Starjack, and now back to our regularly scheduled programming, already in progress.

Saturn's Moon Titan Proving to be Full of Surprises

Key Indicator of Life Found on Saturn’s Moon Titan -- Electricity
“Physicists say they have “unequivocally” proved that there is natural electrical activity on Titan, the largest of Saturn's moons. The world scientist community believes that the probability of organic molecules, precursors of life, being formed is higher on planets or moons which have an atmosphere with electrical storms.”
From Daily Galaxy from materials provided by Plataforma SINC, via AlphaGalileo.
- ************************
Saturn’s Moon Titan Has Hydrocarbons, Too
A giant, glassy lake larger than North America's Lake Ontario graces the south pole of Saturn's largest moon Titan, new research from the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory confirms. Titan, which is one-and-a-half times the size of Earth's moon and bigger than either Mercury or Pluto, is one of the most intriguing bodies in the solar system when it comes to exploring environments that may give rise to life.