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Archive for the 'Astronomy' Category

April 27th, 2012

Transit of Venus and Combustion

On June 06, 2012, in a very rare astronomical phenomenon, Venus will move across the disk of Sun and can be seen as a black spot if viewed properly through a telescope. It will be visible in India as per this map from NASA. It is a rare phenomenon because the frequency is very low and although the last transit happened in 2004, the next one would happen only in 22nd century – on 11th Dec 2117 to be precise.

On this day, longitude of Sun and Venus would be almost the same, approximately 21°40′ in the sign of Taurus. By definition, Venus would be combust. This is the period of deep combustion, but it would remain combust from May 30th to June 12th. Venus is retrograde throughout this period, and there are many opinions about the degree of combustion of retrograde Venus and hence the period mentioned here is approximate.

I turned to standard Vedic Astrology text books to learn more about combustion in general and Venus in particular. Combustion is not studied separately and is seen along with other parameters that indicate strength of planet in a janma kundali, i.e. a Vedic horoscope. I have observed in the past and would like to bring to your notice some inconsistencies in these texts.

Saravali and Jaatak Paarijaat

These books say that a combust (one that is lost in the radiance of Sun, अस्तंगत) planet is in a Vikala state (विकल अवस्था). Vikala is a sanskrit word that essentially carries these meanings “agitated”, “miserable”, “full of worries”. However, what needs to be notices is that both the books that I own are from Ranjan Publications, New Delhi and from the same editor/commentator Dr. Sureshchandra Mishra. Such a planet is supposed to make a person wander in far off lands and have a difficult life. He would be devoid of strength and have many enemies.

Brihat Parashara Hora Shashtra

The version that I have has a state “kopa” (कोप अवस्था) for a combust planet. This word means “angry” as well as “agitated”. In this book, Vikala (विकल) stands for a planet that is conjunct with a malefic.

Uttara Kalamrita

In the book Uttara Kalamrita, the author has mentioned the following degree difference for planets being combust.

Planet Moon Mars Mercury Jupiter Venus Saturn Retrograde Mercury Retrograde Venus
Degree Difference

12

17

13

11

9

15

12

8

Rahu and Ketu are naturally not a part of this list as they are shadowy planets. They rather cause distress to Sun (and Moon too) if they are close to Sun. It may be noted that eclipses occur due under such combinations that involve Rahu/Ketu and Sun and Moon.

A strong Venus is representative of material pleasure in a Vedic horoscope. A Venus, devoid of radiance and under a strong influence of Sun would turn the other way around and reject material pleasure, sensuality and sense of beauty. In other words, for male nativities, we are looking at deep disregard for the other sex. If married due to other factors, there would be an attitude of indifference towards the spouse. It is not a good combination for married life. It also indicates material loss, i.e. losses in business.

On this day, during the transit though, despite deep combustion, Venus is not completely devoid of shadbala in the janma kundali. If I am not wrong, it is reasonably powerful during the sunrise when the transit would occur in India. The overall bad effects would be muted. This combination will give health problems to children born during the transit, because Venus would be the lord of Lagna.

PS: Washington Post covers this event from a pure astronomical perspective…

On June 5 or 6, depending on the time zone, millions of people around the globe will watch Venus glide across the sun in a rare celestial event that won’t happen again until 2117. Because the planet is just 1/32nd the diameter of the sun, its silhouette will appear as a black speck during its six-plus hour passage.

November 16th, 2007

The Historical Rama

The horoscope of Lord Rama is presented in the article on Rama and Krishna. According to Ramayana, the date of birth of Rama is the Shukla Paksha Navami of Chaitra Masa. Unfortunately, there is no mention of any year or a reference to a date in present time through which an unambiguous claim can be made. Even more unfortunately, unambiguous in Kaliyuga means a reference to dates within the western calendar.

What is mentioned in the epic is the planetary combination and location of planets in various signs and houses at the moment the Lord was born. I came across a website The Historical Rama, which attempts to solve this puzzle of finding out a date where this planetary combination was possible. It uses a planetarium software (but does not mention which specific one) and arrives at 12:30 PM on 10th of January, 5114 BCE as the date and time of birth. Precession of Equinoxes takes care of moving the Ram Navami, which usually falls in April in present times, to January, in about 7000 years in the past.

It is a good attempt and I hope it helps to put an end to the discussion raging in our country on Rama and His existence. I was hoping it would clarify the position of Mercury in His chart – where I maintain that it is in eleventh house and some of the readers are of the opinion that there is a Budhaditya Yoga in the chart.

It would have been wonderful if it had some way of putting an end to the controversy of the place of birth as well.

Postscript as on May 4th 2012: The site of Historical Rama is not active anymore. The domain expired some time back and the owners did not bother to renew the domain. It is a nothing but a travesty… However, thanks to Wayback machine, it is possible to look at some expired pages. I have replaced the link with the Wayback link. The dates of various events is mentioned in this page – http://web.archive.org/web/20100609171913/http://historicalrama.org/dateevents.html. There is another site http://historicalrama.com/, but I am not sure if this is a 100% copy.

There is another site http://bharathgyan.com/ that has published a book on this topic – worth visiting. It maintains some articles on the site, but not as extensive as the main site that does not exist anymore.

Postscript on September 19th 2013: This is a good article on Speaking Tree about LORD RAMA MYTH OR HISTORICAL SUPER HERO. Please go through it. Very interesting and very informative.

November 26th, 2006

Rama and Krishna

Rama and Krishna are arguably the two most important heroes of Indian mythology.Rama's astrology chart However, little effort has been made to understand the real timelines when they could have walked on this earth, in flesh and blood. I usually do not like to express my political views in this forum, but I  am sorry to note that any attempt to find the truth about these historical figures is always discouraged by the so called secularists who are sitting in the upper echelons of education system in India.

The first chart presented here is the chart of Rama. He was the seventh avatar of Vishnu and was the prince of Ayodhya. His chart has five exalted planets – four of them in Kendras. The fifth planet, Venus, is exalted in the ninth house, which is considered the most important trine. This chart has three of Pancha Mahapurusha Yoga, which I will be talking about shortly. Mercury could not have been exalted along with Sun – it cannot be more than one house away. This is quite an extraordinary chart and probably that is the main reason why researchers have not even begun to try putting a date on it. But I think its ridiculous and if we look at dates in vicinity of 7000 BC, I am sure we would definitely find such a planetary combination.

Krishna's astrology chartThree months back, there was an article in Outlook India based on a research paper by Mr Arun Bansal, according to which Krishna was born on July 21, 3228 BC. A link to this article can be found on this Outlook India site. The chart of Sri Krishna comes out to be as shown here. You can read the various interesting interpretations of the chart in the article – the notable one being “You have great fancy for music, moonlight and money”.

Mr Bansal used a software to calculate the date and time of birth based on planetary positions, the other way around for how people use the birth chart calculation software on this website. So could he have used the software on this site? No way !! The software on my site is not that advanced. It would work well in three hundred year range up to 2100 AD. Beyond that, a lot of errors would creep in the exact positions of planets. Planets move around the sun in almost a circular path, which is purely a quadratic equation. However, these planets also exert gravitational influence on each other and thus matters become complicated. The equations in my software are also quadratic, but they make some assumptions and take care of few of these influences. These equations are then of the form longitude = at2 + bt + c, where a, b and c are pre-defined constants for a planet and t represents the Julian day. Due to the underlying assumptions, they would be useless in another hundred years or so.

PostScript as on May 4th 2012: The page on hvk.org is not available. There is an error referred to by 404, which means that the page was not found on the site. Again a travesty… If a site like HVK cannot maintain such data, then what can we say about others. 

August 27th, 2005

Western and Vedic Astrology

In this article, I would like to point out certain differences that exist between the two systems – Vedic and Western Astrology. I will not comment on Chinese system of Astrology, because there is nothing to compare. It is so different from others that any attempt would be futile.
Zodiac Signs: Both Vedic and Western Astrology systems work on 12 signs from Aries to Pisces.
Nakshatras: Western Astrology does not recognize any nakshatra. In Vedic Astrology, nakshatras have gained almost as much importance as the zodiac signs themselves.
Planets: Vedic Astrology works on Sun through Saturn and pair of shadowy planets Rahu/Ketu. Western Astrology works on Uranus, Neptune and Pluto along with the usual suspects Sun through Saturn. This system does not recognize Rahu and Ketu. Since these three planets were discovered recently, there is no historical (rather statistical, if you can appreciate the number of years Vedic astrology has gained over Western Systems. Naturally the number of charts being interpreted correctly by the Vedic system is way high) basis of associating properties with these planets.
Uranus is supposed to behave like Jupiter, Neptune like Saturn and Pluto has been given properties like Mars. It would be interesting to know what these astrologers would do once NASA withdraws planet status from Pluto :-)
Sun vs Moon and Ascendant: In Western Astrology, Sun is the main player. People are characterized as Leo, Scorpio types based on their Sun sign. In Vedic system, Sun does play a major role, but it comes behind Moon and Ascendant in importance. The Sun is the slowest among the three in its orbit around Earth (remember? we are still working on a geocentric system…) .
Ascendant changes sign once every two hours, Moon once in 2.5 days and Sun in approx 30 days. Giving more importance to Ascendant increases granularity and therefore accuracy. Otherwise, are all Scorpio men same?
Aspects: In Vedic astrology, it is called drishti. This means that a planet influences another planets or house through an angle. In Western Astrology, the aspects are conjunction, sextile, square, trine and opposition – i.e. 0, 60, 90, 120 and 180 degrees and this is the same for all planets. This does not fit exactly with the Vedic system. Individual planets have their own drishtis. e.g. Moon and Sun have only 7th house ( i.e. opposition ) drishi. Jupiter is capable of 120, 180 and 240 degree dristi. At this note, I would like to point out that dristis in Vedic Astrology are always forward looking unlike in Western astrology where both 120 and 240 are the same aspect which is called trine. Also, in Western Astrology, opposition is not considered a good aspect. It has separating influence. Planets in opposition are supposed to reduce each others strengths. In Vedic Astrology, opposition is considered good – opposition between Jupiter and Moon, Jupiter and Mercury is considered very auspicious.
Harmonic Charts: Western astrology does not have this concept at all.
Precession of Equinoxes: This is the biggest and most potent ammunition that the critics of Western Astrology have against the system. 2000 years ago when the sun was supposed to be in Aries, it was in Aries. Not any more… The earth keeps wobbling on its axis and this meant that in 2000 years, something drastic happened. Now when we say that the Sun is in Aries according to the western system, it may not be in Aries at all. It may very well be found within Pisces. Western astrology totally missed out on this concept. Naturally, the proponents of Western Astrology now discount the real zodiac and have build their system around an imaginary one – where first point of Aries is still around 21st March, called vernal Equinox, the first day of spring.
Merriam-Webster online dictionary describes precession as http://www.m-w.com/cgi-bin/dictionary?book=Dictionary&va=precession Etymology: New Latin praecession-, praecessio, from Medieval Latin, act of preceding, from Latin praecedere to precede : a comparatively slow gyration of the rotation axis of a spinning body about another line intersecting it so as to describe a cone.
 
Look at this figure. Ok, there is a mistake here – the direcion of rotation of Earth is wrong – but that is besides the point. The Earth’s axis gyrates as well, which makes the earth wobble. This changes the point of view – although only by about 50″ a year. At the face of it, it is not a lot. But it makes a huge difference in a period of 2000 years. The underlying formulae change completely and a lot of them would not be valid anymore. That is why, to bring in continuity, we need the Ayanamsha Correction.
The western astrology follows tropical zodiac – which the Vedic system follows a sidereal one. Throughout the history of astrology in India and other countries of Indian subcontinent, the capabilities of the sages in terms of observation made them realize that there is a slip, or a wobble in the earth’s axis. There was a need of introduction of a factor in calculations called Ayanamsha Correction. This mathematical correction, which amounts to the slip in zodiac over a period of time converts the system from tropical to sidereal. After application of this factor, things fall in place. Sun, according to the sidereal system can really be observed within the zodiac sign that the calculations point to.
The two zodiacs last coincided in about 285 A.D. Assuming that the slip is about 50″ a year, these two systems would be apart by 180 degrees approx in 285 + 180*60*60/50 = 13245 years. i.e. when the Western System would say that Sun is in Aries, we would actually see it in constellation of Libra ! That would actually be quite funny.
Precession of Equinox means that the equinoxes are moving backwards – the vernal equinox lies no longer in Aries, it has moved to the constellation of Pisces. It is not as if western system is totally unaware of this precession. They have introduced a concept of “World Ages” and we now live in the age of Pisces. We would be entering the age of Aquarius in a few centuries. Hence precession is important only in terms of world ages for the western system, but is at the center of all calculations in Vedic Astrology.
In my site http://www.planetarypositions.com/, I have used Chitrapaksha Ayanamsha which has a sound basis in Purans, i.e. Vedic historical texts.
Predictive Systems: Vedic astrology attempts prediction via dashas and gochara. Broadly, dasha systems assign a period where a particular planet or set of planets exerts its influence. The most well known of these – Vimshottari (cycle of 120 years) dasha is calculated using the longitude of moon. There are other systems – as explained in Brihat Parashara Hora Shashtra. The other system Vedic Astrology uses is based on the current position of planets as compared to the positions at the time of birth of an individual. This system is called Gochara. Western system lacks the concept of dashas. The only predictive system they have in place is similar to Gochara.
All in all, I personally believe the western system of astrology is in a way crude and more ad hoc. Vedic astrology takes a more disciplined approach – with enough room for creativity and research. Modern pundits like Shri B. V. Raman, Sanjay Rath, J. N. Bhasin and Dr. David Frawley have done a lot of work and proposed theories which are very imaginative but well within the confines of the Vedic system at the same time.

August 12th, 2005

Rahu/Ketu and Eclipses

When scientists announced discovery of a planet beyond Pluto, Times of India ran an editorial describing this as a failure of modern Astrology and it not being able to keep up with changing times.
I am of an opinion that this was totally unwarranted, especially in relation with Indian Astrology. Indian Astrology was concieved and developed when none of the outer planets, i.e. Uranus, Neptune and Pluto were discovered. It has withstood the tests of times and has been working well, if the ability of the astrologer in question is not suspect. Western Astrology did try to change its workings and did associate some qualities with these planets, but Indian astrologers stuck with the list of old planets. The new research, if it happens, is also based on the knowledge that is passed on from the old sages.
The Times of India article also ridiculed the practise of associating certain qualities with Rahu and Ketu as they are not real planets but are shadowy. They exist as mathematical entities and are given importance because they are instrumental in calculating eclipses, both Solar and Lunar. It is noteworthy that in Indian mythology, Rahu and Ketu were the demons that tormented Sun and Moon and caused eclipses. Astrologically both Rahu and Ketu tend to drain energy out of all planets, especially Sun and Moon.
 
You need to understand that as an observer on Earth, calculations done in Astronomy tend to be geocentric and not heliocentric. I know that this is kinda Greek and Latin :-) but in layperson’s language it means that although all planets revolve around Sun (heliocentric), to know the position in sky and to view them, we need to make calculations with respect to our position, which becomes geocentric. Anyway, consider the plane of orbit Sun around Earth (ok, you have been taught the other way in school, but remember, we are working in a geocentric system of coordinates). We give this plane a special name – the Ecliptic.
In the figure above, the ecliptic is denoted by the black dashed circle with Earth at the center. The plane of orbit of the Moon is at an angle to this ecliptic. The line at which these two planes intersect is the nodal axis, Rahu at one end and Ketu at the other end. Solar eclipse occurs on a new moon day when Moon comes between Sun and Earth. For an observer on Earth, they appear at the same point in space. Lunar eclipse occurs when Earth comes between Sun and Moon, on a full moon day, i.e. all three heavenly bodies are in the same plane, with Sun and Moon being diametrically opposite each other. Mathematically speaking, during Solar eclipse, the angular distance between Sun and Moon is almost zero degrees and during Lunar eclipse, this angular distance is almost 180 degrees. The angular distance between these two can be zero and a hundred and eighty on other days, but on the day of eclipse, both of them are on Ecliptic as well.
If you want to consult an ephemeris (i.e. the chart that displayes degrees of all planetary bodies) to predict an eclipse, you should remember that an eclipse occurs when Sun and Moon are conjunct and coincide with either Rahu or Ketu. Conjunction with Rahu and Ketu is important because all three bodies need to be in the same plane. Conjunction means that the degree associated with the planets is almost same. I keep saying almost because both Sun and Moon are not point objects. Even if they come close inasmuch as one disk brushing the other, an eclipse is caused. Now do you see the importance of these two shadowy planets?
 
Date Eclipse Type Sun’s Longitude Moon’s Longitude Associated Node Comments
Oct 24, 1995 Solar Eclipse 186.5 186.4 Rahu (182.82) Sun and Moon almost coinciding and conjunct with Rahu
Sept 27, 1996 Lunar eclipse 161.03 348.16 Ketu (344.3) Difference between Sun and Moon = 187 degrees. Rahu/Ketu also conjunct
Feb 26, 1998 Solar Eclipse 313.54 306.1 Rahu (316.5) Sun and Moon almost coinciding and conjunct with Rahu
Oct 28, 2004 Lunar Eclipse 191.18 11.8 Ketu (188.3) Difference between Sun and Moon = 180 degrees. Rahu/Ketu also conjunct
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The above table gives an example of the longitudes of Sun and Moon and that of Rahu and Ketu for some eclipses.

Update: August 23rd. Now that Pluto has been demoted to a category of dwarf planet, what happens to the Time of India editorial?

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