(Astrology Explored)The internet site RT Question More made a spectacular report on January 18, 2016 that five planets would align during the month of January and remain that way through February. They called event called “rare” and a “quirk” in the solar system. They based their report off an Earth Sky report of the same phenomenon. They say:
Stargazers will be able to catch a rare space show this month as five planets are due to align – although they’ll have to wake up early to see it.
According to EarthSky, Mercury, Venus, Saturn, Mars, and Jupiter will string across the sky from 20 January for around a month.
It’s the first time in more than a decade that the stellar positioning will be visible with the naked eye from Earth.
Researcher at Swinburne University in Melbourne, Dr Alan Duffy told Australian Geographic that the phenomenon is “essentially a quirk” of the universe as the five planets have different yearly cycles.
They even show a picture they grabbed off of Twitter:
Only, as every astrologer and astronomer knows there is no quirk in the solar system that magically produces an alignment of any kind. The solar system runs very nicely and very regularly as the various planets in our solar system spin around our sun. From time to time planets will come together in the sky at relatively the same time. They may even form an alignment stretching over a sky. Seeing that “alignment” means “to form a straight line” this report may seem accurate, but it is not.
Let’s forget for a minute the word “align” has an additional meaning in astrology. We’ll get to that. Do the planets actually align on these dates?
Space.com explains what happens:
Mercury is well placed low in the western sky at the beginning of the month for observers in the northern hemisphere. It passes inferior conjunction on the 14th, and is then well placed in the eastern sky at the end of the month for observers in the southern hemisphere.
Venus continues to shine brightly at dawn all month, but is dropping towards the sun. It passes close to Saturn on the morning of the 9th.
Mars, in the morning sky, moves eastward against the starry background, but westward in the sky. It passes from Virgo to Libra on the 17th.
Jupiter shines brightly in eastern Leo, rising in the late evening.
Saturn reappears in the dawn sky in Ophiuchus.
And this is what really happens. From any vantage spot on earth we can see half of the ecliptic at any time. The constellations slide around around us, so that at this time of the year we can see from Capricorn to Cancer.
From an astrologer’s perspective, these planets aren’t aligned at all. We think of alignment as being conjunct in the same zodiac sign. During this month, in the sidereal zodiac, (not tropical astrologers, I’m comparing apples to apples on the ecliptic here) Mercury and Venus is in Sagittarius, Saturn is in Scorpio, Mars is in Libra, and Jupiter is in Leo.
Here is what it looks like on a horoscope chart:
So what we see are these planets sharing the lower half of the astrology chart. And this is what we see in the sky, the planets visible sharing the sky but not aligned.
It’s not just RT Question More that’s on the band wagon with calling this event rare. Another internet journal by the name of Science Alert calls it a rare oddity and says:
It’s been a long time since the orbits of all five planets have brought them together to the same patch of sky.
Well, that’s inprecise, isn’t it?
However Earth Sky report tells us:
The last time that all five visible planets (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn) appeared in the same sky together was over 10 years ago, from December 15, 2004, to January 15, 2005.
When will it happen again? We’ve had a number of people ask us when the next presentation of the five visible planets in the same sky will take place. It will be possible to view all five in the evening sky from about August 13 to 19, 2016. However, Mercury and Venus will be sitting low in the west at dusk and not that easy to catch from northerly latitudes. The Southern Hemisphere definitely has the big advantage for spotting all five planets in the August, 2016 evening sky.
So rare? No. Doesn’t happen all that often? Yes.
The problem here is bad word smithery and bad reporting. The word “alignment” means adjusts to a straight line. Astrologers take this one step further and defines “alignment” as a number of planets in the same zodiac sign. But this is clearly not the case either way for the RT Question More report and others which makes it bad reporting.
So relax. The solar system isn’t quirky. But maybe the writing of some reporters is. After all, Mercury is retrograde.
Image Under the Stars published under a Creative Commons license as issued by Flickr user Marjan Lazarevski
Photo of Twitter post published here under Fair Use for commentary under the U.S. Copyright laws.
Horoscope chart by Starry Night Astrology