Planets, the Nature of the Wanderers

Pre-Dawn Star Gazing
Framework of Time
Heaven on Earth
Planets, the wanderers
Catastrophe! Precession
It's Written in the Stars
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Viewing Planets
Easiest to see:
  Sun & Moon of course!

Next easiest are:
  Venus, Jupiter, & Mars

Often the first 'star' you see at sunset is really one of these.

Hardest to see:
  Mercury because it is always so close to the sun

Seven bright ones dance across the stars
These are the classical seven planets: sun, moon, mercury, venus, mars, jupiter, saturn,

The name planet means wanderer. The wanderers move in relation to each other and the stars, but they don't wander all over. They stay in roughly the same orbital plane and are seen in the sky against that band of stars termed the zodiac. In mythology this zodiacal plane is termed the earth.

The planets bear the names and attributes of the gods. Their independent motions suggest great power and strength and intelligence.

Names and attributes of planetary gods vary from culture to culture, but there are certain similarities across many cultures. These are not arbitrary or obscure they relate to the observable nature of each planet.

In modern English, we call most of them by the names of Roman gods who were associated with those planets.

Each planet is associated with a day of the week. Sunday, Monday, and Saturday are obvious enough. The associations of the other days are more obvious to the English speaker in the Spanish or French day names which are closer to Latin and the Roman planet names we are most familiar with. These other day names, in English, are based on the corresponding Germanic gods.

  Planetary Days
  Sunday - Sun - (God's Day) - Dimanche, Domingo
Monday - Moon - (Luna) - Lundi, Lunes
Tuesday - Tiw - Mars - Mardi, Martes
Wednesday - Woden - Mercury - Mercredi, Miercoles
Thursday - Thor - Jupiter (Jove) - Jeudi, Jueves
Friday - Freya - Venus - Vendredi, Viernes
Saturday - Saturn - (Sabbath) - Samedi,Sabado
Sun Sunlight is so powerful it blots out the view of the other stars. All our energy ultimately comes from (or came from at the earth's forming) the sun.

In the northern temperate regions, the Sun is always somewhat to the south. At midwinter when the days are short and cold, the Sun is as far south as it gets and does not rise as high in the sky. At midsummer it reaches its northernmost point and rises higher in the sky.

In the tropics depending on your latitude the Sun actually passes directly over head either once or twice per year.

We get our definition of a year from the Sun's cycle.

Sun's Personality: ranges from a bright, sunny personality to a fierce, scorching one, depending on climate and time of year. Associated with leadership and life.

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Moon Next brightest is the Moon which is bright enough to be visible during the day. The full Moon lights up the night.

The Moon's dramatic cycle

  • from invisible (up with the sun)
  • through setting crescent at sunrise
  • through rising full at sunset,
  • to rising predawn crescent,
  • and invisible once more,
is the period of time on which we originally based months.

Lunar eclipses, which only happen on full moons, are common. Visible solar eclipses which happen on new moons are rarer.

The Moon's pull causes the tides of the seas. The cycle of the Moon is roughly the same length as most women's menstrual cycles.

Moon's Personality: lunatic, fluctuating, associated with the sea and with women.

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Mercury Fast-moving Mercury always sticks close to the sun, and it appears to go backwards (retrograde) quite frequently.

Mercury's Personality: mercurial, sudden changes, messenger, trickery, and cleverness.

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Venus Venus also stays fairly close to the sun, but it can stray farther. Venus is larger, brighter, and easier to see than Mercury.

The pattern of Venus-Sun conjunctions marks out the points of a five-pointed star around the sky every eight years.

Venus follows a complex cycle as it switches between being a morning and an evening star. One segment of the cycle is the same length of time as the average human gestation period.

The book "Stairway to the Stars" describes Venus's cycles in some detail.

Venus's Personality: venereal, sex, love, relationships

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Mars Mars is called the 'red planet' because it does indeed look red. Mars moves slower than Venus, but much faster than Jupiter.

Unlike Venus, Mars does not stay always by the Sun, but wanders to the opposite side of the sky in its dance.

Mars Personality: martial, warfare, discipline

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Jupiter Much larger than the other planets Jupiter can appear to have a slightly bluish tint. Jupiter moves sedately through the sky taking about 12 years to return to the same place in the sky.

Jupiter's Personality: jovial, expansive, generous, establishment

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Saturn Although large, Saturn is dim for a planet.

Slow moving Saturn takes about 28 years to complete a full circuit. About a human generation.

However every twenty years there is a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn. These conjunctions occur approximately one third of a turn through the stars, so every 60 years they trace a sort of triangle in the sky. Because the conjunctions are not exactly 120 degrees apart, it takes 2400 years for the conjunction to occur in the same part of the sky.

These conjunctions allow storytellers to describe the time in which their tales are set. The lesser cycle being approximately a lifetime, the larger one approximately a world age.

Saturn's personality: saturnine, stern teacher, giver of laws, old one

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