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Archive


Astrology Articles
Article Title: Time-on-Station
Date Published:
- by James  Neely
An examination of the difficulty of an accurate determination of the time at which a planet’s motion becomes stationary. This has relevance to the timing of the coming conjunctions of Uranus and Neptune.
[Editor's note: This article first appeared in the 1992 Summer edition of "Matrix Journal."]

In 1978, in the "Ephemeris of Chiron," [James Neely and Erik Tarkington, Phenomena Publications, distributed by Samuel Weiser, Inc., P.O. Box 612, York Beach, ME 03910.] Erik Tarkington remarked that, "The calculation of stations is tremendously insensitive to time in amounts on the order of a few minutes or hours. In 1/100 of a day immediately after station, Chiron typically moves about 8/100,000,000 of a degree. This means that we must know Chiron's position to the nearest 8 x 10-8 degree in order to specify the actual time of station to within 0.01 of a day, and 0.01 of a day equals about 15 minutes!" This is a major reason why different programs can generate very accurate positions for astrological work, but can disagree radically on the time of occurrence of a planetary phenomenon.

Since I have access to the state of the art ephemeris (the DE-200 integration computed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory), I thought that it would be interesting to compute a table showing how long it takes each planet to move a discernible amount from its station.

First I generated a table of the time of occurrence and position of the retrograde and direct stations for each planet. Then I recorded the time duration in which the planet's position was indistinguishable from its station position, when rounded to the nearest 0".01, 0".1, or 1". These time durations for 1985 (1984 for Mars) are given in Table 1.

Table 1 – Planetary Time Duration at Stations (Rounded Positions)

Planet

Date

Retrograde Station

Date

Direct Station

   

-0".01

-0".1

-1"

 

+0".01

+0".1

+1

Me

3-24-85

0h20m

0h46m

2h02m

4-17-85

0h22m

0h36m

3h11m

Ve

3-13-85

0h32m

1h39m

4h30m

4-25-85

0h26m

1h44m

5h15m

Ma

4-05-84

0h47m

1h49m

4h22m

6-19-84

0h51m

2h38m

4h37m

Ju

6-04-85

1h37m

2h13m

13h38m

10-03-85

1h37m

2h54m

19h26m

Sa

3-07-85

2h17m

6h50m

21h28m

7-25-85

2h15m

1h05m

14h01m

Ur

3-22-85

2h53m

3h57m

19h30m

8-23-85

1h14m

10h44m

6h28m

Ne

4-05-85

2h24m

8h03m

36h52m

9-12-85

4h23m

12h19m

44h12m

Pl

2-05-85

4h07m

8h19m

31h39m

7-12-85

3h54m

11h42m

15h44m



An examination of Table 1…reveals that the duration of periods of indistinguishability is not as systematic as might be expected. In fact, it appears as though the table is in error for the 0".01 and 0".1 times at Saturn's direct station, and that there is a similar error for the 0".1 and 1" times at Uranus' direct station. This discrepancy turns out to be real, but yet is an artifact of the rounding mechanism which depends upon the planet's position. Table 2 provides details of times and positions at Saturn's station, where only the seconds and fractions of seconds of the direct position are shown in the table - for instance, an apparent ecliptic longitude of 231º 28'03".25 is displayed as 3".25.

Table 2 – Details of Saturn’s Direct Station

(Rounded Positions)

Time

0".001

0".01

0".1

1"

18h27m
18h28m

3".255
3".255

3".26
3".25

3".3
3".3

3"
3"

19h02m
19h03m

3".250
3".250

3".25
3".25

3".3
3".2

3"
3"

20h06m
20h07m

3".250
3".250

3".25
3".25

3".3
3".3

3"
3"

20h41m
20h42m

3".255
3".255

3".25
3".26

3".3
3".3

3"
3"



Even though a column showing Saturn's position rounded to the nearest 0".001 has been added to Table 2, complete detail is still lacking. If, for example, at 19h02m the position were 3".2501, it would round to 3".250, 3".25 and 3".3, whereas if the position at 19h03m were 3".2499, it would round to 3".250, 3".25 and 3".2. From the table it can be seen that Saturn spends more time at 3".25 than it does at 3".2.

Although the duration times given in Table 1 are correct, they are subject to the rounding artifact mentioned above. To get a truer picture of the time on station, I decided to do a second series of computations to arrive at what might be called a "worst case" scenario. Again a table of positions at the time of station was examined. Then I recorded the time duration in which the planet's position varied by 0".01, 0".10, and 1".00 from the stationary position. For example, if the stationary direct position was 26".391, then I recorded the time duration in which the body was within 26".401 (+0".01), 26".491 (+0".10), and 27".391 (+1".00), of the stationary position. The results are given in Table 3.

Table 3 – Planetary Time Duration at Stations (Absolute Positions)

Planet

Date

Retrograde Station

Date

Direct Station

   

-0".01

-0".1

-1"

 

+0".01

+0".1

+1

Me

3-24-85

0h20m

1h00m

3h06m

4-17-85

0h24m

1h13m

3h28m

Ve

3-13-85

0h35m

1h47m

5h37m

4-25-85

0h35m

1h44m

5h42m

Ma

4-05-84

0h59m

3h10m

10h14m

6-19-84

0h59m

2h59m

9h43m

Ju

6-04-85

2h00m

6h04m

19h59m

10-03-85

1h53m

5h59m

19h38m

Sa

3-07-85

2h40m

8h32m

27h19m

7-25-85

2h49m

8h40m

24h47m

Ur

3-22-85

3h40m

11h31m

38h00m

8-23-85

3h50m

12h02m

38h19m

Ne

4-05-85

4h51m

15h10m

48h26m

9-12-85

4h47m

14h57m

48h51m

Pl

2-05-85

4h30m

13h55m

45h24m

7-12-85

4h33m

14h16m

46h50m



It should be emphasized that these tables were computed only for the station times at the date given and do not in any way represent an average time for any particular planet. Table 3 reveals that for outer planets, it is extremely difficult to generate an accurate station time and even the most accurate ephemeredes are not really to be trusted. Certainly station time can be computed accurately with respect to a given ephemeris, but how accurate is the ephemeris? The most accurate ephemeris currently available is DE200, but according to the "Astronomical Almanac," "A satisfactory ephemeris for Uranus for the 1980's could be computed only by excluding observations made before 1900." This should serve as a reminder that accurate ephemeredes are computed for the express use of astronomers for astronomical purposes and that astrologers must use the results as best they can. Since the DE-200 ephemeris covers the years 1800-2050 but ignores all observations of Uranus prior to 1900, one might ask how accurate is a Uranus station time for 1853? Our answer would be to calculate the station time and then look at Table 3 and decide that the station time might be correct to within ±19 hours.




Copyright: James Neely


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