Athena's Web Weekly Column

Week of August 22nd - August 28th,  2003

Star Light, Star Bright

Columns Archive

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  Mars is growing brighter. The media's abuzz with news about the close approach of Mars to the Earth at the end of this month. On the 27th, Mars will be closer than it has been since 57,617 BC! Add 2,000 more for AD and in round figures that's 60,000 years ago! The last Ice Age was one sixth of that.

Mars and Moons

Mars and Moons

  The orbit of Mars is poised such that it visibly changes in size depending on where it is in its cycle. When the Sun and Mars are in opposition, here on the Earth we would see Mars right overhead when the Sun is right below us at local midnight. That's the 'jist' of the relationship. With the Earth in between these two Solar System neighbors, we are closer to Mars than usual. This happens about every two years. During oppositions, the visible diameter of Mars grows considerably in stature. Normally, it can be distinguished by the reddish tint; but during times of these oppositions, it glows much more powerfully in the night sky.

  The Sun is the brightest object we can see, followed by the Moon. Among the first 'stars' people often spot at night are in fact the planets Venus and Jupiter, because they are third and fourth in brightness. Venus and Jupiter often become the stars people 'wish' upon in the old nursery rhyme,


  "Star light, star bright,
first star I see tonight
I wish I may, I wish I might,
I wish I may have the wish I wish tonight.


Mars

Mars

  It's interesting to note that Venus and Jupiter are also considered to be the benefics, the 'wish-bringing' planets. During the current opposition between the Sun and Mars, Mars has overtaken Jupiter in brightness, commanding a new luster currently usurping 4th place in order of luminance. To the naked eye, this change is quite impressive. It stands out best when viewed against the Moon and constellations.

Mars, the God

Mars, the God

  Through a telescope, the differences are perhaps less apparent. Mars glows like a ruby against the night sky, as though lit from within; but the scope doesn't offer the same frame of reference as the naked eye. With more expensive scopes some of the detail of the terrain will be visible. You can even put a put a sliver of tape over the eyepiece to blot out the red glow and see the two moons of Mars, Deimos and Phobos, hidden in the light.

  Astrologically speaking, Mars is in early Pisces together with Uranus. This is a time of powerful personal and social introspection. As the Sun opposes Mars, this can, indeed, be a time when religious fanatics confront those who are not of similar persuasion. It can also be when we focus on what we've lost.

  But, whenever one is examining 'trigger' points such as this, it's important to step back and see what is happening in the larger picture. Saturn recently entered Cancer, trining Mars and Uranus in Pisces, and our imaginations can be used at this time to plant the seeds of real social change. Travesty is translated into opportunities, empathy evokes governmental support, and time matures the process. Business is coming up with new ways to work with the shifting realities. We can make a difference. The recent blackout is a case in point. Safeguards will be put in place to remedy the situation for the future.

  Mars is growing brighter. How can we use this light to better illuminate our own inner natures?



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