Our Expanding Solar System

It’s not that our solar system is notably expanding. It’s more that our awareness of what actually exists in our solar system expands at a nearly exponential pace. Let’s not even consider what we’ve learned about extra-solar planets (planets orbiting other stars) since 1995 when it was discovered that the star 51 Pegasus held a planet captive. Forget about Soft Gamma Ray Repeaters discoveries or the expanding list of black hole candidates. An astrologer in today’s universe struggles to keep up with what astronomy continues to reveal.

Back in early 2003 we thought the planets and objects in our solar system extended only to the aphelion of Pluto – some 49.3 Astronomical Units (AU) from the Sun. That quickly changed with the discovery of the far reaching Sedna. With her most-distant retreat in space to 914 AU and her orbital period of 11,013 years based upon today’s data, our eyes were collectively yanked open to how vast our solar system actually is.

When Eris appeared and upset the planetary criteria’s apple cart, one astronomer suggested she not be considered a planet because with her 44.2 degree inclination she spends most of her orbital path out of the plane of the traditional ecliptic. Huh? She still orbits the Sun, is larger than Pluto and has hydrostatic equilibrium creating a round shape. It’s hard to stretch to include the new; it’s hard for astronomers and astrologers alike.

It gets even better. In late 2006, the body known as 2006 SQ372 came to our attention. This body retreats 2,089 astronomical units into space. Thus, since 2003 the known breadth of our solar system has expanded 42 times! This relatively small Scattered Disk Object – a subset of Kuiper Belt Objects known to be gravitationally perturbed probably by Neptune – orbits our Sun with a revolution of 34,267 years! Indeed, stuff orbiting our home star can possess staggeringly long revolutions.

In late 2008, during the U. S. Presidential Election when John McCain and Sarah Palin sold a double dose of political maverick, astronomers announced the discovery of true out of this world maverick (Chiron was originally dubbed a maverick body): 2008 KV42. The maverick clinching criterion: an inclination of 103.2 degrees, making it and Uranus two objects with retrograde revolutions.

Funny how it goes. When Chiron came to our attention in 1977, he wore number 2060 on his minor planet jersey. He was the 2,060th minor body object for which astronomers had determined a reliable orbit around the Sun; Ceres, incidentally, discovered in on New Years 1801, was number one. When the first Kuiper Belt Object came to our attention, 1992 QB1, he took the number 15,760. Sedna in 2003 became minor planet object 90377. The current posting of Trans-Neptunian objects now indicates more than 202 thousand minor bodies in our solar system orbiting our Sun! Can we keep up? Is there any choice?

Obviously many of these objects by whatever assessment standards one chooses are not very significant astrologically. Some are symbolically interesting. Some inspire mythic curiosity. Some such as Sedna, Eris, Makemake and Haumea have distinctive and potent delineation import.

It seems the challenge of every modern astrologer is to remain aware of the unending steam of discoveries about what our solar system is. From a linear-logical point of view, if an astrologer uses Chiron, she/he must also use Chariklo, Chiron’s wife, who in physical reality is larger than he. The same goes for Eris. She is larger than Pluto. Should an astrologer contend that Pluto must maintain planet status, it would be logically imprecise to discount Eris.

And so it goes. Perhaps within a decade we’ll know of a handful more dwarf planets and possibly even a big one or two. Whatever shall we do?

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