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Astro*Dictionary by Michael Erlewine





16 articles for "Celestial"

Celestial Body [Astro*Index]

Any body in space recognized, measured, or interpreted by astronomers or astrologers, such as a planet, star, moon, or asteroid.

See also:
♦ Astronomy
Celestial Coordinates [Prima]

A coordinate system is a way of locating points in space by referring them to certain fixed lines (or fixed points). In order to locate a point in space, it is necessary to have as many coordinates as there are dimensions in that space.

The most common coordinate system in astrology is spherical: Great circles on the surface of a sphere are used as reference lines, just as we use lines of longitude and latitude to fix places on a globe. The longitude, latitude, and distance from a fixed center serve to locate a point in three-dimensional space. Various particular systems of spherical coordinates have been developed for special terrestrial, astronomical or astrological purposes through the selection of convenient centers and reference circles.

Some believe that astrological charts calculated using different centers or axes at different inclinations bring out or emphasize different aspects of the same entity or event. Thus, in the opinion of astrologer Michael Erlewine, horizon coordinates are advantageous in the study of what is particular and accidental to us as individuals. Ecliptic coordinates (zodiacal coordinates) and geocentric astrology best define what different people have in common with respect as to their psychological type.

Equatorial coordinates in geocentric astrology (which differ from ecliptical coordinates only in the inclination of their axes) may pertain more to the political or mundane affairs upon the earth -- things that affect people generally.

Heliocentric coordinates relate even more generally to lifepaths and spirituality. Pursuing this line of thought, it is even possible to consider coordinate systems as being of perhaps even broader significance (such as the galactic and supergalactic systems).

The following systems use the following coordinates:

Ecliptic System:
    Longitude (celestial)
    Latitude (celestial)

Equatorial System:
    Right Ascension

Horizon System:


See also:
♦ Coordinate System ♦ Longitude (celestial) ♦ Latitude (celestial) ♦ Right Ascension ♦ Declination ♦ Azimuth ♦ Altitude
Celestial Equator [Astro*Index]

Great circle on the celestial sphere cut by a plane perpendicular to the spin axis of the Earth and passing through the Earth's center. Right ascension is the longitude measurement eastward along this circle from a specified vernal point. declination is measured along a great circle perpendicular to the celestial equator and passing through a body.

See also:
♦ Equatorial Coordinates ♦ Celestial Sphere ♦ Great Circle ♦ Right Ascension ♦ Declination ♦ Vernal Point ♦ Axial Rotation
Celestial Equator [Prima]

The projection of the Earth's equator onto the celestial sphere.

The celestial equator may also be defined as a great circle formed by the intersection of a plane perpendicular to the axis of rotation of the Earth, with the celestial sphere.

See also: Equatorial Coordinates: Right Ascension and Declination.

See also:
♦ Equatorial Coordinates ♦ Celestial Sphere ♦ Great Circle ♦ Right Ascension ♦ Declination ♦ Vernal Point ♦ Axial Rotation
Celestial Equator [Munkasey M.]

A great circle denoted by an extension of theEarth's Equator infinitely off into space. An important circle of reference for all types of astronomical work. The circle along which right ascension is measured.

See also:
♦ Equatorial Coordinates ♦ Celestial Sphere ♦ Great Circle ♦ Right Ascension ♦ Declination ♦ Vernal Point ♦ Axial Rotation
Celestial Horizon [Astro*Index]

Great circle on the celestial sphere cut by a plane perpendicular to the " Zenith - Nadir " axis of the current location.

See also:
♦ Horizon ♦ Celestial Sphere ♦ Great Circle ♦ Zenith ♦ Nadir
Celestial Latitude [Astro*Index]

A celestial body's position above or below the ecliptic measured as a portion of an arc passing through the body and the north and south ecliptic poles. Generally measured in degree, minutes, and seconds and not extending past roughly eight degrees either side of the ecliptic.

See also:
♦ Celestial Body ♦ Ecliptic
Celestial Longitude [Astro*Index]

A celestial body's position eastward along the ecliptic measured as the arc between a specified vernal point and where a meridian of longitude (perpendicular to the ecliptic, passing through its north and south poles) cuts the ecliptic. Generally measured in degrees, minutes, and seconds, either in zodiac or 360° notation.

See also:
♦ Celestial Body ♦ Vernal Point
Celestial Meridian [Astro*Index]

Great circle on the celestial sphere passing through an observer's zenith and the north and south celestial poles.

See also:
♦ Celestial Pole ♦ Celestial Sphere ♦ Great Circle ♦ Zenith
Celestial Meridian [Munkasey M.]

That half portion of the Great Circle passing through the observer's Zenith and Celestial Poles which is above the Horizon. It is the projection onto the Celestial Sphere of the plane of the Observer's Terrestrial Meridian. The Anti-Meridian is the name applied to the other half of the Celestial Meridian.

See also:
♦ Celestial Pole ♦ Celestial Sphere ♦ Great Circle ♦ Anti-Meridian ♦ Zenith
Celestial Pole [Astro*Index]

The intersection of the Earth's spin axis with the celestial sphere; one of two points about which the Celestial Sphere appears to rotate.

See also:
♦ Axial Rotation ♦ Celestial Sphere
Celestial Pole [Munkasey M.]

The poles which are associated with the CelestialEquator.

See also:
♦ Axial Rotation ♦ Celestial Sphere
Celestial Sphere [Astro*Index]

A hypothetical sphere without radial limit (whose center is the center of a celestial body from whose perspective the position of other celestial bodies is being measured) constructed for the purpose of deriving spherical trigonometric formulae with which the positions and motions of celestial objects are fixed and compared. It is a two-dimensional system, radial measurement ignored, all objects considered to be on its surface. Three- dimensional phenomena in astronomy such as parallax are treated by other means.

See also:
♦ Coordinate System ♦ Celestial Body
Celestial Sphere [Prima]

The imaginary sphere of immense ("infinite") size whose center is the center of the Earth or the observer, and against which the fixed stars, planets, Sun, Moon, and zodiac are projected.

It allows the reader to visualize the heavens from a variety of viewing conditions. It is normally drawn as viewed from "outside" the surface of the sphere. The actual radial distances of the various points are ignored, with all objects considered to be positioned on its surface.

See also:
♦ Coordinate System ♦ Celestial Body
Celestial Sphere [Munkasey M.]

(1) That sphere which is formed if one were toinfinitely extend the "sphere" of the Earth into space.

(2) An imaginary sphere of infinite radius against which all celestial bodies are observed.

(3) The position of the planets as seen from Earth at a particular moment in time.

See also:
♦ Coordinate System ♦ Celestial Body
Celestial Sphere [DeVore]

If one pictures the sphere we call the Earth, enlarged to embrace the visible heavens, the resulting concept can be called the celestial sphere. If it is a true sphere, any circle drawn around it can be termed a circumference. To locate any particular circle as a circumference, implies the selection of some point of reference.

The Horizontal System.
If your particular location on the Earth is selected as your point of reference, the point directly overhead is the zenith. The opposite point, below the Earth, is the Nadir. At right angles to these is a plane which is called the Horizon: the extension to the Celestial circle of the line which, from the point you occupy, intersects earth and sky. These established, you have a Vertical circle running from the Zenith, through a middle point between East and West, to the Nadir; and similar circles running through each degree all around the horizon. The distance of each of these circles from your circle is measured by the arc at which the circles intersect at the Zenith-termed Azimuth. Parallel to the Horizon are Parallels of altitude. These are measured by the arc separating the radius of your horizon from a line drawn from the same center to a given parallel of altitude.

The trouble with this system is that a location based upon your position fails to describe the same location as viewed from any other point on the Earth's surface.

The Equator System.
This takes as a point of reference the diurnal rotation of the Earth around its axis. Extending the North and South poles, you have the North and South Celestial poles. Extending the Equator, you have the Celestial Equator. The Equator is intercepted by Hour Circles, whereby location is indicated in hours and minutes of Right Ascension, measured Eastward from the Zero Circle which passes through Greenwich. Parallel to the Equator are Parallels of Declination, indicated by their angular distance plus, if North of the Equator; and minus if South.

With your celestial sphere marked off on this system, it can be seen that the Sun does not travel around this Celestial equator; but instead, its orbit is inclined to that of the Equator some 23.5 degrees. The points at which the Sun's apparent orbit intersects the Equator are the Equinoxes, and the points of greatest separation are the Solstices. (These names have to do with an entirely different but coincidental factor. v. Precession.)

The Ecliptic System.
The path of the Sun, called the Ecliptic, is based on the annual revolution of the Earth around the Sun. Taking this apparent path of the Sun as a circumference, you have at right angles thereto the North and South poles of the Ecliptic: connected by vertical circles of Longitude measured in degrees Eastward from the Vernal Equinox. Circles parallel to the Ecliptic are measured in degrees of Latitude North or South.

Stretching for some 8 degrees on either side of the Ecliptic is a belt in which lie the orbits of all the solar system bodies, each inclined in various degrees to the Earth's orbit. Since Hipparchus (q.v.), the greatest of the ancient astronomers, this belt has been divided into twelve 30° arcs, or signs, measured from the Vernal Equinox; the signs named from the constellations which once coin- cided with these arcs, but which because of the Precession of the Equinoxial point now no longer coincide. The statement that this disproves astrology is sheer ignorance, for no modern astrologer ascribes the sign influences to their background of stars, but to conditions of momentum and gravitation within the earth by virtue of its annual revolution around the Sun. (v. Zodiac; Precession; Galactic Center.)

Many of these terms are loosely used by some astrologers, largely because they lack complete astronomical understanding of the factors on which their map of the heavens for a given moment is erected. (v. Map of the Heavens.)

Vertical Sphere.
The circle of observation in which one stands when facing South (probably so termed because it is the observer's horizon raised vertically and projected upon the heavens), is the circle that is presumably subdivided into twelve equal 2-hour segments as it passes over the horizon, which divisions are termed the Houses of a Nativity. On the Equator these Houses are equal in both time and arc, but they become increasingly unequal in arc as one passes N. or S. from the Equator. This results from the declination of the Poles, and the consequent inclination of the Ecliptic to the Equator. The planets which are posited in these signs pass obliquely through the semi-arc of the Ecliptic to the Mid-heaven-not the zenith. Therefore the position which a planet will occupy at some future moment, to which it is desired to direct it, must be calculated by Oblique Ascension.

In an effort to reconcile the rising or ascendant moment at which a planet passes above the horizon, with its oblique ascension along the Ecliptic to a mid-heaven point that is on the same longitudinal circle as the Zenith, but a considerable distance removed from it, various attempted compromises have resulted in several different systems of House Division (q.v.). The horizon system appears to yield the correct House positions of the planets in a birth map, but the directing (q.v.) of planets to the positions they will occupy at some future moment, requires the application of Oblique Ascension, both to the planets' places and to the progressed cusps.

For a concise classification of the term, note the appended table:


Circle of referenceHorizonCelestial EquatorEcliptic
Poles Zenith N. celestial poleMidheaven
Nadir S. celestial poleImmum Coeli
Secondary Circles Vertical circlesHour CirclesLatitude circles
Parallels of altitudeParallels of declinationParallels of Latitude Coordinates Altitude Declination Celes.
Latitude AzimuthRight AscensionCeles. Longitude
Zero Circle thru V. Vertical c. thru S. Hour c. thru Ver. Latit. c.
point Equinox Equinox.
Direction of first coordinate Through WestEastward Eastward


See also:
♦ Precession ♦ Zodiac ♦ Galactic Center ♦ Coordinate System ♦ Celestial Body


Astro*Index Copyright © 1997 Michael Erlewine


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