Thursday, December 25, 2008
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
As a disclaimer, please be aware that, I am simply an amateur astronomer. Yet, although my degrees are not in Astronomy, I do check, and cross check my facts before giving them to you. What I have is an enquiring mind, equipped with a few patches of Velcro for making connections, and a really neat astronomy program called Starry Night. I highly recommend it if you should have a desire to feel totally superior, or even better yet... simply have some fun. It’s economical, easy to use, educational, and extremely entertaining. How can you lose?
Now, let’s get serious about Christmas Astronomy. The years 7 to 2 BC contained the some of the most spectacular astronomical displays ever. So let’s look at a few of them.
To get a proper appreciation for the “Astronomical Event” which has come to be known as the Christmas Star, we have to go back at least 2,500 years. We have to put ourselves into the minds of the people of the times. All ancient people studied the stars, and had been doing so for thousands of years. The one “possible” exception was the Jews, who were forbidden to use divination (Deuteronomy 18:10). Ancient people, everywhere, believed that destinies were foretold, and messages from the gods were announced by the stars in the heavens. Everyone, who was anyone, had their special constellation, star, and advisor.
At that time, there was no difference between an astrologer and an astronomer. Almost no decision was made without first consulting the handy-dandy court astrologer/astronomer - who also just happened to be the most highly educated guy around. With your future on the line, you wanted your best man on the job. This is very important, so put it in your trivia bag. We'll get back to it. The caveat was in the interpretation; and, of course, who was paying. Sometimes the astrologer/astronomer hit the jackpot, and sometimes he crapped out. Under the latter circumstances, as you can imagine, life expectancies were... dubious, at best.
In Astronomy, there is something called Precession. It is rather like a super calendar. The Earth wobbles on its axis like a top, and one wobble lasts about 27,000 years. Divide that by twelve and name each section after the sign of the zodiac in which the Sun rises on the vernal (spring) equinox, and you have the Age du jour. Two thousand years ago the Age of Aries was coming to an end, and the Age of Pisces was just beginning. However, because of the slow motion of the Earth in its wobble, and because of the lack of known boundaries of zodiacal constellations, it’s somewhat difficult (read: impossible) to establish the precise date of the beginning of the Piscean Age. But... everybody was looking for CHANGE!
In astrology, there are four Royal Stars, fixed roughly equally along the general course of the ecliptic, or path of the Sun. They are: Antares in Scorpio; Fomalhaut in the Southern Fish; Aldebaran in Taurus; and Regulus, the king of all the Royal Stars, in Leo, and incidentally the only one of the Royal Stars to be directly on the ecliptic. Perhaps that is why he got to be king! Your guess is as good as mine.
The planets were considered to be wandering gods, and Jupiter was the king of these wanderers, and carried the Hebrew name of Sedeq or “Righteousness.” Saturn was the next mightiest, and according to some sources, was known as the “protector of the Jews”. The thing is that Jupiter and Saturn were the astrological “big men on campus.” Where a planet hung out and with whom, had great portent for lowly mortals. Consider for a moment the international attention paid to the conjunction of Venus, Jupiter, and the Moon earlier this month, or the millennium... or even better yet, the daily astrology column of the local newspaper, and you get the idea. People were expecting...
In 12 BC, Halley’s Comet was visible. Ooooo, ominous! Still, it stirred people up. Lots of things were happening in the heavens, and people like the excitement.
In 7 BC, Jupiter and Saturn had triple conjunctions in Chez Pisces. This is a very rare event. For the two greatest planets to have, not just one, but three conjunctions (within one year) in the house of the new age was indicative of GREAT CHANGE. From time to time, Venus and Mercury also dropped in. By the spring of 6 BC, Mars had joined the party, adding more weight to the degree of changes to come. Astrologers all over the known world were looking for something BIG to happen.
8/01/3 BC: Jupiter rose in the east, en te anatole, “in the first rays of the dawn.”
9/12/3 BC: First Jupiter and Regulus occulting conjunction: rising in the east and visible from 0230 until just before sunrise.
2/18/2 BC: Second Jupiter and Regulus conjunction: visible with full Moon from 1900 until 0530
5/7/2 BC: Third Jupiter and Regulus conjunction: visible after sunset, until 2400.
6/17/2 BC: Jupiter and Venus spectacular conjunction in Leo.
8/27/2 BC: Jupiter, Venus, Mars and Mercury conjunction in the east, just before dawn in Virgo. This places the Sun also in Virgo. Two days later the Moon joined the party.
10/13/2 BC: Jupiter and Venus have a close conjunction in Virgo and Jupiter moves westward in relation to the Sun and other planets.
12/15/2 BC: Jupiter reaches its furthest point westward, no longer moving against the background stars, and appears to stand still for almost a month. Just before dawn, is on the meridian due south of Jerusalem, in line with Bethlehem.
12/25/2 BC: Winter Solstice and Hanukkah.
Now, this is where is the significance of that “most highly educated” comment, which I told you to put into your trivia bag, comes in. Any ancient, who was a serious astrologer/astronomer, would have been familiar with the prophetic writings of a multitude of countries. For centuries, the Ancient Jews had prophecies, recorded in their sacred writings, of the coming of a chosen King. The most well known of these, Daniel 9:26-27, indicated that 3 to 2 BC was the time for the appearance of their Messiah. However, the Jews were not the only ones who had similar predictions recorded in their sacred scriptures. The Zoroastrians of Persia also had predictions of a coming Savior King in their bible, the Avesta. And the Avesta prophesied that there would be born to the Jews a King Messiah, and that His coming would be announced by a sign in the constellation Virgo. The world was certainly looking for CHANGE. They had the SIGNS!
All stellar and planetary positions were verified with Starry Night Bundle Edition 2.1 and Starry Night CSAP. For more on the Christmas Star, you might enjoy The Christmas Star by Barry Setterfield.
I hope that you have enjoyed this, and will want to do further research. May the Spirit of the Star of Bethlehem shine upon you and your home all year long.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Here’s the list:
The Accidental Bard
A Dribble Of Ink
Adventures in Reading
The Agony Column
The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.
Blood of the Muse
The Book Smugglers
The Book Swede
Cheaper Ironies [pro columnist]
Dark Wolf Fantasy Reviews
Dave Brendon’s Fantasy and Sci-Fi Weblog
The Deckled Edge
Dragons, Heroes and Wizards
Dusk Before the Dawn
Enter the Octopus
Fantasy Book Critic
Fantasy Book Reviews and News
Fantasy and Sci-fi Lovin’ Blog
The Foghorn Review
From a Sci-Fi Standpoint
The Galaxy Express
Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review
Grasping for the Wind
The Green Man Review
Highlander’s Book Reviews
Jumpdrives and Cantrips
Lisa Paitz Spindler’s Danger Gal Reviews
Michele Lee’s Book Love
Mostly Harmless Books
My Favourite Books
OF Blog of the Fallen
The Old Bat’s Belfry
Outside of a Dog
Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist
Reading the Leaves
Realms of Speculative Fiction
Rob’s Blog o’ Stuff
Robots and Vamps
Sci-Fi Songs [Musical Reviews]
Severian’s Fantastic Worlds
SFF World’s Book Reviews
Speculative Fiction Junkie
Sporadic Book Reviews
The Sword Review
Temple Library Reviews
Tor.com [also a publisher]
The Road Not Taken
Urban Fantasy Land
Vast and Cool and Unsympathetic
Walker of Worlds
Wands and Worlds
WJ Fantasy Reviews
The World in a Satin Bag
Foreign Language (other than English)
Cititor SF [Romanian, but with English Translation]
For those of you who are not reviewers, but who are looking to find good reviews of Science Fiction and Fantasy books so that you don't waste your valuable time, perhaps you would like to check out some of the Reviewers on this list.
Writing Science Fiction Romance
Real Love in a Real Future
Friday, December 12, 2008
All right! I lied. Mea culpa! In my The Pleiades Have Risen Post, I said that in my very next astronomy post I would tell you how Big Daddy Atlas protected the virtue of his precious, baby girls, the Pleiades, from the (presumably unwanted) attentions of Orion, the hunter. I simply had forgotten about the conjunction of Venus, Jupiter, and the Moon. I hope that you enjoyed the show.
As frequently happens after winter storm fronts pass, tonight, or rather, this morning the viewing was incredible, in spite of the full Moon. Most of the leaves are gone after the storm, and the moonlight and incredibly clear air made everything appear as if they were painted in blue and silver. I wouldn’t have seen all of this beauty except that MaxieCat chose 3 AM to demand to be let into the house. The Supreme Poodle Pasha Zackery exploded from under the covers barking his fool head off. As far as he is concerned, what his harem kitty wants, his harem kitty gets... except of course, for my lap, which she takes anyway. So out into the cold night we went to protect MaxieCat from who only knows what. If it weren’t for these wee beasties, I wonder how many stars I would ever see. There overhead, already receding into the West, was Orion. I immediately came back in from the cold to tell you all about it. :-)
Early on clear December evenings, you can see Orion rising in the East. For the rest of the winter, it dominates the sky with more bright stars, close together, than can be seen anywhere else, at any other time of the year. Orion is, by far, my favorite constellation. He’s also the randy guy Big Daddy Atlas was so worried about protecting his daughters from.
The Pleiades are now high in the sky. From the Pleiades, look straight down toward the eastern horizon. On the way, you’ll see a bright reddish star. That’s Aldebaran. It’s the angry eye of the constellation, Taurus. Taurus was the pet bull of Atlas, who held up the sky. The bull was very fierce, very big, and Big Daddy Atlas set him to guard his baby girls from the lusty Orion.
You have to wonder about a man who is so reluctant to have grandchildren that he would resort to such extremes. You have to wonder about a man that would even want seven wives, or more likely, just a fun night on the town. You also have to wonder about seven women who would put up with two such men. I think that those ancient Greeks could have benefited from a little therapy.
My next Astronomy Post will be about the Christmas Star.
Writing Science Fiction Romance
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Even though I was only seven years old, I still remember the green/orange sky of that evening... green from the tornedo, and orange from the fires. I have an older brother today, only because of a last minute decision by his group of rowdy friends to see a Roy Rogers movie (more manly, I guess) rather than that yucky "Botony Bay" showing at the other movie theater. The terror for me was that I didn't know if I still had a brother after the "little storm" downtown. My home town has never completely recovered. What had been a remarkably attractive and vibrant downtown was turned into a pile of rubble. Today, although once again attractive, as you can see, it still struggles to regain its former life spirit. I am very proud of those who have worked so hard to achieve the progress that has been made.
Last night, our annular tornadoes once again began their passes over us. Thank goodness, for as far as I know, there were no injuries. I will admit to being a little tense, though. After all, I am stormophobic. This morning when the great Pasha Zackery and I went outside, I found that all of my work creating proper drainage over the Summer had paid off. Although we had torrential rains, the drains held, I still have a garden, and I didn't lose any more of my hill. Yeah!