Music of the Spheres

Planetary synodic cycles and you.

Along with all the other fun and games that go along with following the motions of the Earth, Moon, and Sun, we shouldn’t forget about our friends the Planets, whirling around us like a dysfunctional family at a big fat Greco-Roman wedding.

I think that in keeping with the apparent motion of celestial bodies from our point of view on Earth (it’s all relativity, right?), I’d look primarily at the synodic cycle of the 2 inferior planets (Mercury and Venus), and the 5 superior planets (Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus [stop giggling], and Neptune). The synodic period for Mercury and Venus begins at Inferior Conjunction, when they are between the Sun and Earth; for the Superior Planets it begins at Conjunction, when they are on the opposite side of the Sun from Earth (this is traditional).

I’m using astro.com‘s online ephemeris for these calculations.

The following table lists the Gregorian dates the cycles begin – Cycle 0 in each case is the cycle underway when theAbysmal Calendar launches this December 21st 2012. Saturn and Mercury are, appropriately enough, the two planets that have yet to start their first synodic cycle of theAbysmal Calendar, and Venus began hers with the transit (which is quite serendipitous).

Planet

Average

(days)

Cycle 0

Date

Cycle 1

Date

Cycle 2

Date

Mercury

115.88

Nov 17

2012

Mar 4

2013

Jul 9

2013

Venus

583.92

Jun 6

2012

Jan 11

2014

Aug 15

2015

Mars

779.96

Feb 4

2011

Apr 18

2013

Jun 14

2015

Jupiter

398.88

May 13

2012

Jun 19

2013

Jul 24

2014

Saturn

378.09

Oct 25

2012

Nov 6

2013

Nov 18

2014

Uranus

396.66

Mar 24

2012

Mar 29

2013

Apr 2

2014

Neptune

367.49

Feb 19

2012

Feb 21

2013

Feb 23

2014

Solar Cycles

One Solar Cycle of sunspot activity takes about 23 years, and is usually divided into two lesser cycles of just over 11 years. Successive cycles begin in alternate hemispheres. Our current Solar Cycle 24 began January 4 2008, and we are entering into its peak of activity after a very slow start. I can’t figure out if the first sunspot of this cycle, Sunspot 981 for those keeping track. The previous cycle, 23 began in May 1996.

For the sake of convention, the current Solar Cycle 24 beginning Jan 4 2008 is theAbysmal’s Solar Cycle 0.

Precession of the Equinoxes

The apparent rotation of the stars due to a wobble in the Earth’s axis (and not that due to its rotation & orbit) shifts the constellations of the ecliptic by about 1 degree every 71 years or so. This means that as the Sun passes in front of the Constellation Aries starting on April 18th, it will continue to do so for another 71 years, after which it will pass in front of Aries beginning on April 17th. It will take close to 26,000 years for the Sun to pass in front of Aries starting on April 18th again.

Granted that these designations are arbitrary, and not every culture sees the same images in the stars, theAbysmal uses the boundaries established by the International Astronomical Union (at least, I hope I got them right). If my calculations are correct (let’s assume they are, because in the end, does it really matter if I’m off by a decade in the course of 26 millennia?), then the Sun will pass in front of Aries beginning on December 21st (theAbysmal New Year Day) in about 8,500 Years.

The reason to include these cycles is that they have been an intrinsic part of our timekeeping for as long as anyone can remember. These take longer periods of time into account, and are cycles that relate to how we see the celestial heavens from our home. If our great an intricate technology, which has let us peer into the furthest reaches of space should fail us, we will still be able to watch the heavens, and observe the dance of lights.

187 Days to Dec 21st 2012

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