By Kirsti Melto and Eric Francis
THIS FULL MOON looks quite spectacular! The Full Moon at 1+ degrees Gemini falls in exact conjunction with Comet 17P/Holmes, which has been regularly in the news and the skies since the late October. This is the famous comet that has blown up bigger than the Sun.
A comet is a small icy object with a coma and tail, orbiting the Sun in an elliptical orbit. The coma is generally made of ice and dust and it is formed when the comet passes close to the Sun and the comet warms. Both the comet and tail are illuminated by the sunlight when the comet travels through the inner solar system.
Comets are usually categorized as long-period and short-period. Astronomers believe that the Oort cloud — a reservoir of material and debris at the edge of our solar system — is the source of all long-period comets. Short-period comets are believed to originate from the Kuiper Belt, which is a region of space closer than the Oort Cloud. (Pluto, for example, is a Kuiper object.) They are also called Jupiter Family comets, because their orbits are controlled by the gravity of Jupiter.
Comet Holmes is a short period comet orbiting between Mars and Jupiter with an orbital period of 6.9 years. It was discovered in November 1892 by Edwin Holmes in London. It was closest to the Sun during last May and is now already quite far, moving away from the Sun. Comet Holmes is a peculiar one. It was first so faint that it couldn’t be seen without a telescope. Then suddenly around Oct. 23-24 it dramatically brightened and became visible to the naked eye. The change of brightness was in a scale about a half million times, and is the largest known outburst by a comet. At the time of its discovery in 1892 comet Holmes very likely was undergoing the same kind of outburst. Astronomers are puzzled why the comet suddenly brightened now that it’s already on its way back to cold space.
Comet Holmes looks very different than any other comet we have seen. It doesn’t seem to have a visible tail and it looks like a big fuzzy ball. At the moment the coma has dispersed to an area larger than the Sun thus making the comet the largest object in the solar system! And it continues to expand.
In astrology, comets tend to have had a bad reputation, likely associated with one factor: they are unpredictable. The logic goes, if it’s not in the ephemeris, it’s not a good thing. Or, the old-styled reasoning goes, if it comes from the region outside the safe boundary of Saturn, we cannot really trust it. Saturn is the ‘safe boundary’ that protects us from the wild and woolly cosmos…the wall around the city which must be locked at night and where, outside, live the wild things, the barbarians and the Centaurs.
They seem to be portents of change, which sometimes means progress and sometimes not — usually it is up to those who take the opportunity of change to seek their fortunes. Western astrology has not made a science of comet divination, though Chinese astrology has. The first comet to be taken seriously by Western astrology has been Chiron, which is categorized as a Centaur planet and as a proto-comet. For a comet nucleus, it is extremely large, about 160 to 180 km — but despite its size, it’s definitely a comet.
Restless, curious and talkative, the Moon in Gemini welcomes the change that is awaiting. Mercury, the ruler of Gemini is a planet of mind and it is squaring Neptune tightly and trining Uranus, another planet associated with intellectual and creative advances. Uranus is also associated with change and awakenings. An aspect between Mercury and Uranus can indicate intellectual brilliance.
Mercury has been out of the echo phase about a week now and Uranus stations direct only some hours before this Full Moon, giving a super boost for flashes of insight and mental creativity. The square between Mercury and Neptune could indicate that someone is telling lies, but fortunately Mercury is also making a trine to Varuna, a trans-Neptunian minor planet which is named after a Vedic sky god watching every movement of men, and punishing liars and those who violate contracts. This is a good sign that the truth is not only welcome, it is necessary. But it is also a reminder that it’s easier to honor agreements or negotiate new ones, than it is to violate them.
The Sun in Sagittarius is conjunct the Centaur planet Hylonome, which is associated with the healing of senseless grief. Hylonome works on an individual level and also on a collective one, as “the cry of the people.” She is saying that we need to listen to one another. Venus in Libra trines Neptune (nice for the imagination) and squares Vesta (pointing to where conventional ideas about femininity have a tense relationship to more liberated ones). The Moon, when full, forms a novile aspect to now retrograding Mars in Cancer (a novile is one-ninth of the full zodiac, or a 40-degree connection). The Moon is also parallel with Mars, enhancing this aspect.
The Sun and Moon, in opposition, are closely squaring the lunar nodes. This may have the echo of an eclipse, because Sun + Moon + nodes = an eclipse — when the Sun is conjunct one of the nodes. Now the Sun is square the nodes and we have a Full Moon, so it’s like we get a taste of the energy: a point of no return, a threshold, a push forward, a break in continuity.
There are planets involved. On the North Node we have a protective image of Pallas Athene, goddess of wisdom and strategy. The second-discovered asteroid (technically called 2 Pallas), she is the planet of the mind, having been born out of the head of Zeus in full armor. Pallas was the protector of the city of Athens, whose government leaders were apparently every bit as foppish as our own, but she did her best. She has excellent negotiating skills and in a natal chart (somewhat astonishingly) frequently represents constructive involvement with government or politics; and the ability to be a leader in one’s community.
She was born in full armor from the forehead of her father, Zeus. Astrologically, Pallas is a symbol of protection, strategy and wisdom, and she represents political and negotiating skills. However, not being created by sexual reproduction, she has a cool touch, having given up a major aspect of her femininity.
There is one more implication of the mental emphasis of this chart. Jupiter is still in square aspect to Logos, a binary trans-Neptunian planet. A “binary” is a pair of planets that are similar in mass and orbit one another around a point that resides outside of either of the two bodies. The point is called a barycenter. In English, the word logos is the root of ‘log’ (as in record) and of ‘logic’. Heraclitus (ca. 535 – 475 BCE) established the term ‘logos’ in Western philosophy. His main doctrine was the unity of opposites. He thought that all things are composed of opposites, and because the opposites are at strife with one another, all things are in constant change. The change is governed by logos, a principle of order.
Jupiter is approaching a conjunction to Pluto and the Galactic Core. The exact conjunction — a major event of the decade — takes place in December.
The conjunction of Eris and 1992 QB1, which has been mentioned several times previously in this blog, is exact to the minute on this Full Moon. These are two very slow-moving bodies and their conjunction is extremely rare, occurring perhaps once per millennium. This is the second of three exact passes for this cycle, the other two being April 24, 2007 and Jan. 29, 2008.
Another aspect involving one of the binary TNOs mentioned here before is Uranus opposite Typhon, the first binary Centaur. Strictly speaking, Typhon is not a Centaur-class body, but some astronomers use a broader definition of Centaur that also includes planets with Typhon-type orbits. In mythology Typhon was said to be the cause of volcanic eruptions and the father of hot storm winds. According to Philip Sedgwick his positive traits astrologically are “balance of parts and wholes, sense of details and big picture, ability to reduce overwhelming tasks into manageable steps.”
Good advice as usual from Mr. Sedgwick — particularly with all this mental activity afoot, and a big comet showing up for a visit.