Astrophysical Tidbits

Mark Pottenger

Whenever a new planet has been discovered, astrologers have worked to learn its meaning. Recent discoveries in astrophysics offer many new and strange objects for astrologers to study and play with.

In this column I will include in each issue the ecliptic positions of some interesting astronomical or astrophysical phenomena, and a brief description of their physical natures. (Keep in mind however, that when I state something as a fact I am really using shorthand. A full statement would be “astronomers have seen certain features in photographs or obtained instrument reading which they interpret to mean. . .”.) It will be up to you to find out what, if anything, they mean astrologically.

The various end products of stellar evolution are among the more fascinating phenomena available for study. What meaning might a supernova—a star exploding so violently it radiates as much energy as a whole galaxy—have in a chart? Supernovae are not common—none have been seen in our galaxy in the lifetime of anyone now living—but we can see them in other galaxies all the time (and we can see their remnants in this galaxy).

What about a white dwarf star—as massive as our Sun, but collapsed to the size of our own Earth? White dwarf stars are much hotter than our Sun, but their small radiating surface makes them very dim.

Neutron stars are made of matter so compressed that it cannot remain matter such as we are familiar with—protons and electrons are forced together to become neutrons. A neutron star is a ball of neutrons a few kilometers in diameter as massive as our Sun and rotating hundreds or thousands of times a second. Pulsars are neutron stars emitting bursts of radio energy (or light) thousands of times per second.

One of the most fascinating “objects” to come out of recent physics and astronomy is the black hole. This is the (current) final word in stellar collapse. So much matter comes together in so small a volume that gravity goes wild. The collapsing star can no longer exist as matter—the geometry of space is so distorted that nothing is left in this universe but a gravitational hole that won’t let anything (even light) out!

Shifting from stellar death to universal birth, what might be the meaning of quasars? If current theory is correct, quasars existed when the universe was several billion years younger, and nobody has come up with a satisfactory explanation for the source of their tremendous energy.

In this first issue of The Mutable Dilemma, I am including a sampling. In future issues I will give longer lists, but I want to see what is in a book being published by Heart Center to avoid too much duplication. I also hope to get suggestions from readers about what kinds of objects to list. If you’ve heard of something fascinating in astronomy, write and we will try (but not guarantee) to find it.

The white dwarf companion of Sirius was the first discovered and is the closest known. The star Sirius is one of the brightest in the sky. The pair offer an interesting contrast to try to read in a horoscope.

The Crab Nebula is the remnant of a supernova observed in 1054 (visible for 650 days). The central star is a pulsar—both radio and optical—and a neutron star. The nebula is also an X-ray source.

The celestial X-ray source Cygnus X-1 is believed to be the best available candidate for a black hole. While a black hole cannot itself be seen, it produces effects which can. If there is any matter near a black hole, it will suck it in. As the matter is drawn in, it compresses and heats to the point where it starts emitting electromagnetic radiation (in this case, because the temperatures reached are so high, we get X-rays).

One of the most distant known (as of this summer) quasars, and possibly the most distant object yet seen from Earth, is Q1442+101. One estimate places its distance at 10.63 billion light years (in other words, the light now reaching us from it has been traveling twice as long as our solar system has been in existence).

The positions for the four objects I have just described are:

Longitude Latitude Dec

Q1442+101 214°48’10” +24°41’17” +10’11

Crab Nebula 83°23’57” -1°18’03” +21’59

Cygnus X-1 312°56’24” +54°15’12” +35’04

Sirius 103°40’05” -39°35’53” -16’40

The Epoch for the first three is 1950.0. That for Sirius is 1970.0. The positions are given in degrees, minutes and seconds.

If you have any category of object you are particularly fond of, let us know and we will try to get positions to publish.

Copyright © 1977 Los Angeles Community Church of Religious Science, Inc.

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