Tag: transit (page 1 of 4)

‘Hats Off’ To HATS-6b: Discovery of ‘puffy’ new planet brings scientists closer to finding new life in outer space

An artist's impression of the planet HATS-6b, orbiting the star, HATS-6. (Supplied: ANU) Excerpt from abc.net.au A "puffy" new planet orbiting a small, cool star has been discovered 500 light years away from Earth, by a team of scientists c...

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A Complete Guide to the March 20th Total Solar Eclipse


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Totality! The 2012 total solar eclipse as seen from Australia. Credit and copyright: www.hughca.com.



Excerpt from universetoday.com



The first of two eclipse seasons for the year is upon us this month, and kicks off with the only total solar eclipse for 2015 on Friday, March 20th.

And what a bizarre eclipse it is. Not only does this eclipse begin just 15 hours prior to the March equinox marking the beginning of astronomical spring in the northern hemisphere, but the shadow of totality also beats path through the high Arctic and ends over the North Pole.


Credit:
An animation of the March 20th eclipse. Credit: NASA/GSFC/AT Sinclair.


Already, umbraphiles — those who chase eclipses — are converging on the two small tracts of terra firma where the umbra of the Moon makes landfall: the Faroe and Svalbard islands. All of Europe, the northern swath of the African continent, north-central Asia and the Middle East will see a partial solar eclipse, and the eclipse will be deeper percentage-wise the farther north you are .
2015 features four eclipses in all: two total lunars and two solars, with one total solar and one partial solar eclipse. Four is the minimum number of eclipses that can occur in a calendar year, and although North America misses out on the solar eclipse action this time ’round, most of the continent gets a front row seat to the two final total lunar eclipses of the ongoing tetrad on April 4th and September 28th.

How rare is a total solar eclipse on the vernal equinox? Well, the last total solar eclipse on the March equinox occurred back in 1662 on March 20th. There was also a hybrid eclipse — an eclipse which was annular along a portion of the track, and total along another — on March 20th, 1681. But you won’t have to wait that long for the next, as another eclipse falls on the northward equinox on March 20th, 2034.


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The path of the March 20th eclipse across Europe, including start times for the partial phases, and the path of totality, click to enlarge. For more maps showing the percentage of occlusion, elevation, and more, click here. Credit: Michael Zeiler/GreatAmercianEclipse.com.


Note that in the 21st century, the March equinox falls on March 20th, and will start occasionally falling on March 19th in 2044. We’re also in that wacky time of year where North America has shifted back to ye ‘ole Daylight Saving (or Summer) Time, while Europe makes the change after the eclipse on March 29th. It really can wreak havoc with those cross-time zone plans, we know…
The March 20th eclipse also occurs only a day after lunar perigee, which falls on March 19th at 19:39 UT. This is also one of the closer lunar perigees for 2015 at 357,583 kilometres distant, though the maximum duration of totality for this eclipse is only 2 minutes and 47 seconds just northeast of the Faroe Islands.


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Views from selected locales in Europe and Africa. Credit: Stellarium.



This eclipse is number 61 of 71 in solar saros series 120, which runs from 933 to 2754 AD. It’s also the second to last total in the series, with the final total solar eclipse for the saros cycle occurring one saros later on March 30th, 2033.



What would it look like to sit at the North Pole and watch a total solar eclipse on the first day of Spring? It would be a remarkable sight, as the disk of the Sun skims just above the horizon for the first time since the September 2014 equinox. Does this eclipse occur at sunrise or sunset as seen from the pole? It would be a rare spectacle indeed!


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An equinoctal eclipse as simulated from the North Pole. Credit: Stellarium.






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Practicing eclipse safety in Africa. Credit: Michael Zeiler/GreatAmericanEclipse.com


Safety is paramount when observing the Sun and a solar eclipse. Eye protection is mandatory during all partial phases across Europe, northern Asia, North Africa and the Middle East. A proper solar filter mask constructed of Baader safety film is easy to construct, and should fit snugly over the front aperture of a telescope. No. 14 welder’s goggles are also dense enough to look at the Sun, as are safety glasses specifically designed for eclipse viewing. Observing the Sun via projection or by using a pinhole projector is safe and easy to do.


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A solar filtered scope ready to go in Tucson, Arizona. Credit: photo by author.

Weather is always the big variable in the days leading up to any eclipse. Unfortunately, March in the North Atlantic typically hosts stormy skies, and the low elevation of the eclipse in the sky may hamper observations as well. From the Faroe Islands, the Sun sits 18 degrees above the horizon during totality, while from the Svalbard Islands it’s even lower at 12 degrees in elevation. Much of Svalbard is also mountainous, making for sunless pockets of terrain that will be masked in shadow on eclipse day. Mean cloud amounts for both locales run in the 70% range, and the Eclipser website hosts a great in-depth climatology discussion for this and every eclipse.


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The view of totality and the planets as seen from the Faroe Islands. Credit: Starry Night.


But don’t despair: you only need a clear view of the Sun to witness an eclipse!

Solar activity is also another big variable. Witnesses to the October 23rd, 2014 partial solar eclipse over the U.S. southwest will recall that we had a massive and very photogenic sunspot turned Earthward at the time. The Sun has been remarkably calm as of late, though active sunspot region 2297 is developing nicely. It will have rotated to the solar limb come eclipse day, and we should have a good grasp on what solar activity during the eclipse will look like come early next week.

And speaking of which: could an auroral display be in the cards for those brief few minutes of totality? It’s not out of the question, assuming the Sun cooperates.  Of course, the pearly white corona of the Sun still gives off a considerable amount of light during totality, equal to about half the brightness of a Full Moon. Still, witnessing two of nature’s grandest spectacles — a total solar eclipse and the aurora borealis — simultaneously would be an unforgettable sight, and to our knowledge, has never been documented!

We also put together some simulations of the eclipse as seen from Earth and space:




Note that an area of southern Spain may witness a transit of the International Space Station during the partial phase of the eclipse. This projection is tentative, as the orbit of the ISS evolves over time. Be sure to check CALSky for accurate predictions in the days leading up to the eclipse.


Credit
The ISS transits the Sun during the eclipse around 9:05 UT as seen from southern Spain. Credit: Starry Night.


Can’t make it to the eclipse? Live in the wrong hemisphere? There are already a few planned webcasts for the March 20th eclipse:


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Mayday! Mayday! Mars One a ‘suicide mission’, warn leading space scientists




By Victoria Weldon

IT'S been described as science fiction made real - but now, just as the final selection process gets under way for the folk with the right stuff to make a manned mission to Mars, scientists have dashed the dreams of planet Earth by warning the journey will probably never happen and will end in disaster if it does.
Privately run space exploration programme Mars One wants to send four people to the red planet for the rest of their (probably not very long) lives and film it for reality TV in order to help finance the endeavour.

Thousands have set their sights on becoming the first settlers to land on the planet - and have now been whittled down to a short list of 100, including a Scottish PhD student - but with questionable technology, a lack of funding and an unrealistic timeframe, experts claim it is a "suicide mission".

Mars One believes it can achieve a manned mission in 2024 - sooner than NASA, the European Space Agency, the Russians or Chinese, and on a fraction of their budgets.

If the project does go ahead, the crew would have to make it through nine months of interplanetary travel without being killed by mishap, radiation - or each other.

And even then, a recent study suggested they will only last 68 days on Mars before dying - due to lack of food and water.

However, Anu Ojha OBE, director of the UK National Space Academy Programme, has warned the applicants not to get their hopes up as the mission is unlikely to ever leave the ground.

Ojha said: "Obviously this is something that has captured the public's imagination, and Mars One obviously has a great PR team, but space engineering obeys the laws of physics not PR."
Mars One is the brainchild of Dutch entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp who was inspired by the images of Mars sent back by the Sojourner rover in 1997, when he was a student.

Lansdorp, who will not make the journey himself, has an impressive team working on the project including former NASA employees Dr Norbert Kraft, who specialises in the physiological and psychological effects of space travel and space architect Kristian von Bengtson.

Physicist Arno Wielders, who previously worked for Dutch Space, is also on board, as well as a number of other advisers from around the world with backgrounds in space engineering, science and technology, marketing, design and television production.

The ultimate aim is to see a large, self-sustaining colony on Mars, but Ojha, who is also a director at the National Space Centre in Leicester, said there are three major stumbling blocks for the mission: technology, funding and human psychology.

"In terms of technology, it's pushing the absolute boundaries and there seems to be a lot of technological naivety on the part of the people running it", he said.

"There are some elements that seem reasonable, but overall it's concerning, and the timescales are also questionable."

While Mars One is planning the one way mission for 2024, NASA, with its long established expertise and technology, is looking to be able to send humans to Mars and bring them back again by the mid 2030s.

This is estimated to cost up to as much as £100 billion (£64.9bn) for the space agency, while Mars One believes it can do it for an optimistic $6 billion (£3.9bn) - and there are even questions over whether or not they will be able to achieve that much funding.
The private enterprise is hoping to raise money through a TV deal and additional funding from the exposure that will bring the project.

Last year it said it had teamed up with programme makers Endemol, but the Big Brother creators recently pulled out of the deal claiming they were "unable to reach agreement on the details of the contract".

Mars One did not respond to questioning by the Sunday Herald over its funding, but its website showed that as at January this year, it had raised just $759,816 from donations, merchandising, and a crowdfunding campaign.

It is unclear what other funding the project has.

Ojha said: "The business model has so many holes in it, it's shaky to say the least. And when you ask them how much money they have raised, they say it's still ongoing. The time scales and the business model - they're completely unrealistic."

Mars One plans to send several unmanned rockets to Mars ahead of the 2024 mission, with the first of these scheduled to take place in 2018.

These will include missions with robots to find a suitable location for a base and assemble it ahead of the humans' arrival.
The project claims it will use only existing technology for the mission, buying in materials from proven suppliers including Lockheed Martin or SpaceX.

The equipment involved includes several simulation outposts for training, a rocket launcher, a transit vehicle to take the crew to Mars, a Mars landing capsule, two rovers, a Mars suit and a communications system.

However, experts have warned that much of this equipment has not been fully tested. 

Physicist professor Todd Huffman is a big supporter of attempting a manned mission to Mars, but he also has serious concerns about Mars One, claiming it is "scientifically irresponsible".

He said: "The plan stretches the technology in many places.
"The launch vehicle they want to use has not actually ever launched yet, let alone make a trip to Mars.

"The living spaces have not been made nor has it been tested whether they can be robotically assembled and by what kind of robot.

"A suitable site would also need to be found for the living spaces and the details of how water extraction will take place have not been understood.

"If you assign a 90 per cent chance to success to each of those things, all of which are necessary for human survival, you end up with about a 50 per cent chance of failure, ending in the death of the colonists - and that would likely not make good television."
He added: "Unless we [wait for] quite a lot of technology and exploration to happen first, it is basically worse than a one-way ticket for the colonists - it is almost surely a suicide mission if carried out within this next decade."

Although most scientists believe the mission will not go ahead, some have also warned of the psychological impact on the people selected for the mission if it does.

Ojha said: "The thing that's really captured the public's imagination is this idea of it being a one way trip, but this brings another set of problems in terms of human psychology.

"The longest period a human has spent in space is 438 days - they're talking about sending people on a one way trip.
"Lots of the people I've seen interviewed, they're really excited about taking part, but have they really thought about what they're doing and what the implications are?

"I would tell them to go to Antarctica for six months in the middle of winter and that's about 1 per cent of what they'll be experiencing on Mars.

"Human psychology is far more fragile than we think."

However, while many scientists warn of the dangers and do not believe the mission will proceed, they have praised Mars One for sparking the public's interest in planetary science.

Dr John Bridges, of the Space Research Centre in Leicester, said: "It's a very interesting and innovative project, but the time scales are very challenging.

"I believe they're planning for 2024 and it's 2015 now. So for something as major as this, it's a very challenging timescale
"But it's fantastic that people are thinking about this, that industry is getting involved and raising awareness of planetary science."

Ojha added: "Mars One has been great in a way because it's once again drawn people's imagination to the idea of space engineering and exploration. 

"But the reality is that there are serious concerns about the project's space engineering, funding and medical implications."

Lansdorp has previously said that most people are "surprised to hear that the manned missions will be happening in ten years time, with a budget ten times less than Nasa".

He added: "But I think that if you really spend time studying Mars One, you cannot believe there is not a good chance we will make it.
"At the same time, it's a hugely ambitious plan, there's many things that can go wrong with such a big plan.

"But I believe we have a good plan and we can overcome the challenges."

However, he has also conceded that the current plans are an "optimum schedule", adding: "If one rocket doesn't launch, or a lander doesn't work on Mars before a human goes, any major malfunctions will result in a two year delay."

Mars One declined the Sunday Herald's request to interview someone from the project and failed to answer any of our questions.

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How Obama wants to spend Americans’ money next year: an agency-by-agency look


PHOTO: President Barack Obama's new $4 trillion budget plan is distributed by the Senate Budget Committee as it arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington, early Monday, Feb. 02, 2015. The fiscal blueprint for the budget year that begins Oct. 1, seeks to raise taxes on wealthier Americans and corporations and use the extra income to lift the fortunes of families who have felt squeezed during tough economic times. Republicans, who now hold the power in Congress, are accusing the president of seeking to revert to tax-and-spend policies that will harm the economy while failing to do anything about soaring spending on government benefit programs. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
President Barack Obama's new $4 trillion budget plan is distributed by the Senate Budget Committee as it arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington, early Monday, Feb. 02, 2015. The fiscal blueprint for the budget year that begins Oct. 1, seeks to raise taxes on wealthier Americans and corporations and use the extra income to lift the fortunes of families who have felt squeezed during tough economic times. Republicans, who now hold the power in Congress, are accusing the president of seeking to revert to tax-and-spend policies that will harm the economy while failing to do anything about soaring spending on government benefit programs. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)


Excerpt from therepublic.com 

WASHINGTON — Sure, $4 trillion sounds like a lot. But it goes fast when your budget stretches from aging highways to medical care to space travel and more.

Here's an agency-by-agency look at how President Barack Obama would spend Americans' money in the 2016 budget year beginning Oct. 1:


HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES
Up or down? Up 4.3 percent
What's new? Medicare could negotiate prices for cutting-edge drugs.
Highlights:
— The president's proposed health care budget asks Congress to authorize Medicare to negotiate what it pays for high-cost prescription drugs and for biologics, including advanced medications for diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. Currently, private insurers bargain on behalf of Medicare beneficiaries. Drug makers have beaten back prior proposals to give Medicare direct pricing power. But the introduction of a $1,000-a-pill hepatitis-C drug last year may have shifted the debate.
— Tobacco taxes would nearly double, to extend health insurance for low-income children. The federal cigarette tax would rise from just under $1.01 per pack to about $1.95 per pack. Taxes on other tobacco products also would go up. That would provide financing to pay for the Children's Health Insurance Program through 2019. The federal-state program serves about 8 million children, and funding technically expires Sept. 30. The tobacco tax hike would take effect in 2016.
— Starting in 2019, the proposal increases Medicare premiums for high-income beneficiaries and adds charges for new enrollees. The charges for new enrollees include a home health copayment, changes to the Part B deductible, and a premium surcharge for seniors who've also purchased a kind of supplemental insurance whose generous benefits are seen as encouraging overuse of Medicare services.
— There's full funding for ongoing implementation of Obama's health care law.
—The plan would end the budget sequester's 2 percent cut in Medicare payments to service providers and repeal another budget formula that otherwise will result in sharply lower payments for doctors. But what one hand gives, the other hand takes away. The budget also calls for Medicare cuts to hospitals, insurers, drug companies and other service providers.
The numbers:
Total spending: $1.1 trillion, including about $1 trillion on benefit programs including Medicare and Medicaid, already required by law.
Spending that needs Congress' annual approval: $80 billion.

NASA
Up or down? Up 2.9 percent
What's new? Not much. Just more money for planned missions.
Highlights:
—The exploration budget — which includes NASA's plans to grab either an asteroid or a chunk of an asteroid and haul it closer to Earth for exploration by astronauts — gets a slight bump in funding. But the details within the overall exploration proposal are key. The Obama plan would put more money into cutting-edge non-rocket space technology; give a 54 percent spending jump to money sent to private firms to develop ships to taxi astronauts to the International Space Station; and cut by nearly 12 percent spending to build the next government big rocket and capsule to carry astronauts. Congress in the past has cut the president's proposed spending on the private firms and technology and boosted the spending on the government big rocket and capsule.
—The president's 0.8 percent proposed increase in NASA science spending is his first proposed jump in that category in four years. It's also the first proposed jump in years in exploring other planets. It includes extra money for a 2020 unmanned Martian rover and continued funding for an eventual robotic mission to Jupiter's moon Europa. But the biggest extra science spending goes to study Earth.
— Obama's budget would cut aeronautics research 12 percent from current spending and slash NASA's educational spending by 25 percent. It also slightly trims the annual spending to build the over-budget multi-billion dollar James Webb Space Telescope, which will eventually replace the Hubble Space Telescope and is scheduled to launch in 2018.
The numbers:
Total spending: $18.5 billion
Spending that needs Congress' annual approval: $18.5 billion

TRANSPORTATION
Up or down? Up 31 percent
What's new? A plan to tackle an estimated $2 trillion in deferred maintenance for the nation's aging infrastructure by boosting highway and transit spending to $478 billion over six years.
Highlights:
— The six-year highway and transit plan would get a one-time $238 billion infusion from the general treasury. Some of the money would be offset by taxing the profits of U.S. companies that haven't been paying taxes on income made overseas. That infusion comes on top of the $35 billion a year that normally comes from gasoline and diesel taxes and other transportation fees.
— The proposal also includes tax incentives to encourage private investment in infrastructure, and an infrastructure investment bank to help finance major transportation projects.
— The new infrastructure investment would be front-loaded. The budget proposes to spend the money over six years and pay for the programs over 10 years.
— The proposal also includes a new Interagency Infrastructure Permitting Improvement Center to coordinate efforts across nearly 20 federal agencies and bureaus to speed up the permitting process. For example, the Coast Guard, Corps of Engineers and Transportation Department are trying to synchronize their reviews of projects such as bridges that cross navigation channels.
The numbers:
Total spending: $94.5 billion, including more than $80 billion already required by law, mostly for highway and transit aid to states and improvement grants to airports.
Spending that needs Congress' annual approval: $14.3 billion.

Associated Press writers Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Seth Borenstein, Joan Lowy and Connie Cass contributed to this report.

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New Telescope in Chile Now Searching for Alien Planets

The NGTS telescopes operating at ESO Paranal, Chile (Credit: ESO/ G. Lambert)


Excerpt from  space.com

A new alien-planet–hunting telescope has just come online in Chile, and it could help scientists peer into the atmospheres of relatively small planets circling nearby stars.

The Next-Generation Transit Survey (NGTS for short) — located at the European Southern Observatory's (ESO) Paranal Observatory — is designed to seek out planets two to eight times the diameter of Earth as they pass in front of their stars. Such a planet will cause the light of the star to dip ever so slightly when passing in front of it, allowing the telescope to detect the planet during its transit.

"We are excited to begin our search for small planets around nearby stars," Peter Wheatley, an NGTS project lead from the University of Warwick, U.K., said in as statement. "The NGTS discoveries, and follow-up observations by telescopes on the ground and in space, will be important steps in our quest to study the atmospheres and composition of small planets such as the Earth."
The instrument is designed to measure the brightness of stars more accurately than any other ground-based wide-field survey, ESO officials said. The NGTS is made up of 12 telescopes that will operate robotically, according to ESO. Astronomers using the survey hope to find small, bright planets in order to learn more about the densities of them.

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5 Sky Events To Enjoy this Week



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Skychart by A. Fazekas/SkySafari


Excerpt from 

Green Giant, Lunar Triangle and Jovian Shadows A planetary pairing and moon dances take center stage in the heavens this week.

Neptune meets Mars this week for stargazers, while Jupiter's retinue plays shadow games.

Neptune and Mars. About an hour after sunset on Monday, January 19, look towards the southwestern sky for Venus and Mercury hanging near the horizon. Look higher up to see the ruddy beacon of Mars.

Telescopes trained on the red planet will reveal the very faint and tiny aquamarine disk of Neptune only 0.2 degrees north. The distant ice giant present quite a color contrast with ruddy Mars.

A stunning celestial trio low in the southwest sky forms this week with the crescent moon, Venus and Mercury.
Lunar Triangle. Just after the sun sets on Wednesday, January 21, gaze towards the thin crescent moon, which rests low in the sky toward the western horizon.

Joining it in a stunning triangular formation, and particularly eye-catching through binoculars, are the two innermost planets in our solar system, Mercury and Venus.

The waxing moon acts as a wonderfully convenient guide to spotting these two worlds.

Moon meets Mars. On Thursday, January 22, Earth’s lone natural satellite rises higher in the sky and pays a visit to the red planet. The curl of the moon's crescent will almost seem to point to Mars, just off to its left.

And wait just one more day, on Friday, January 23, when the moon will continue its journey across the sky, climbing higher to form a straight line connection with Mars and Venus. The dawn star will hang below its two companions, just above the horizon.

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This skychart shows the moon pointing to Uranus in the early morning western sky.
Skychart by A. Fazekas/SkySafari


Moon and Uranus. After night falls on Sunday, January 25, look for the moon pairing up with the seventh planet from the sun, Uranus.

The two solar system objects will reside only 7 degrees apart, making them just fit into the same field of view in binoculars.

ALT
Look for Jupiter in the early morning southeast sky and with a telescope soak in a triple Jovian moon shadow transit.
Skychart by A. Fazekas/SkySafari


Triplet Jovian Eclipse. In the early morning hours of Saturday, January 24, telescopes will reveal a trio of tiny black dots trekking across the face of Jupiter.

Three of the gas giant’s moons, Calisto, Io, and Europa all cast their shadows tight on the cloud tops of Jupiter at once starting at 1:27 am EST to 1:53 am .
Happy hunting!

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Kepler Space Telescope Finds More Earth-like Planets ~ Learn how to join the search


 


Excerpt from
waaytv.com

NASA's Kepler Space Telescope has been hunting the cosmos for exoplanets since March of 2009.  In its nearly five years of searching the stars, it has found thousands of possible candidates.  Scientists recently verified the thousandth planet Kepler had found, and even more exciting, they announced that Kepler had found three more Earth-like planets.
Those three planets bring Kepler's Earth-like planet count to a total of eight.  In order to qualify as "Earth-like," these exoplanets must be less than twice the size of the Earth and orbit their own sun within the habitable zone.  This "Goldilocks zone" is a belt in solar systems where it's neither too hot nor too cold for liquid water to exist.

"Each result from the planet-hunting Kepler mission's treasure trove of data takes us another step closer to answering the question of whether we are alone in the Universe," said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. “The Kepler team and its science community continue to produce impressive results with the data from this venerable explorer."

The Kepler team has also found super-Earths and gas giants like Jupiter around other stars.  NASA artists compiled retro-style travel posters from three discovered planets.
Kepler finds planets by watching distant stars for fluctuation in light.  If the light hitting the telescope drops dramatically and then returns to normal levels, chances are a planet came in between the star and Kepler.  Scientists can analyze the data and light filtered by the candidate planet's atmosphere to make guesses at the size, mass and composition.

"With each new discovery of these small, possibly rocky worlds, our confidence strengthens in the determination of the true frequency of planets like Earth," said co-author Doug Caldwell, SETI Institute Kepler scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, California. "The day is on the horizon when we’ll know how common temperate, rocky planets like Earth are.”

The space telescope actually has two crippled stabilizing gyros.  But instead of giving up on the mission, engineers are using pressure from photons emitted by the sun to stabilize the telescope.  The first space telescope looking for alien worlds is literally balancing on a sunbeam to continue its mission, and that's not science fiction, that's science fact.

Citizen scientists can also participate in the mission.  The website PlanetHunters.org contains catalogs of data from K1, the original Kepler mission, and K2, the extended mission making use of the sun to balance the telescope.  The K2 data has been sorted through, but Planet Hunters still needs help sifting through the K1 data.
The website's instructions read:

"As the planet passes in front of (or transits) a star, it blocks out a small amount of the star’s light, making the star appear a little bit dimmer. You’re looking for points on the light curve that appear lower than the rest. When you spot a potential transit, mark each one on the light curve."

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Ground-based telescope spots alien ‘Super-Earth’

An artist's conception shows the size of super-Earth 55 Cancri e compared to Earth. A ground-based telescope in Spain was able to identify 55 Cancri e, which suggests that telescopes on the ground help in the search for habitable planets around other stars.


Excerpt from csmonitor.com

A telescope on the Canary Islands has spotted a planet twice the size of Earth as it passed in front of a star, the first time a planet in this category has been detected by a ground-based telescope.

Finding Earthlike planets beyond our solar system has largely been the work of space-based telescopes, but new observations from a remote island suggest that could change.

The Nordic Optical Telescope on La Palma — one of the Canary Islands off the west coast of Africa — observed 55 Cancri e, a planet twice the size of Earth, as it passed in front of its parent star and caused a dip in the star's brightness, according to a new study. This is the first time a planet in this "super-Earth" size category orbiting a sunlike star has been observed by a ground-based telescope using this detection method, the researchers say.

First identified in 2004 by a space-based telescope, 55 Cancri e has a diameter of about 16,000 miles (26,000 kilometers) — about twice that of Earth. The alien world is eight times as massive as Earth, making it a so-called super-Earth, a planet more massive than Earth but significantly smaller than gas giants like Neptune and Uranus. While not habitable, the planet's size and position around a sunlike star make it similar to planets that might support life, researchers say. 

The planet's detection with the Nordic telescope shows that observatories on the ground could use what's called the transit method — watching for dips in the brightness of a star to indicate a planet passing in front of it — to assist space-based telescopes in follow-up studies of super-Earths or Earthlike exoplanets, scientists say.

Nearly 2,000 exoplanets have now been confirmed, and upcoming exoplanet searches promise to expand that catalog. 

"We expect these surveys to find so many nearby terrestrial worlds that space telescopes simply won't be able to follow up on all of them. Future ground-based instrumentation will be key, and this study shows it can be done," Mercedes Lopez-Morales, co-author of the new research and a researcher at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA), said in a statement.

Five exoplanets orbit the star 55 Cancri, which is located 40 light-years from Earth and is visible to the naked eye. The closest-orbiting of those five is 55 Cancri e, which completes one lap around the star every 18 hours. When the planet passes between Earth and the parent star, 55 Cancri appears to dim by 1/2000th (or 0.05 percent) for almost 2 hours, researchers said.


Daytime temperatures on 55 Cancri e likely reach higher than 3,100 degrees Fahrenheit (1,700 degrees Celsius) — hot enough to melt metal and much too hot to support life. But scientists involved with the study say this approach could help characterize the atmosphere of more hospitable Earthlike or super-Earth planets.


After its initial detection, 55 Cancri e also became the first super-Earth seen by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, using light directly from the planet. Thus, it has now served twice as a litmus test for super-Earth detection methods. 

In addition to the wealth of planets identified by NASA's Kepler Space Telescope, the space agency's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) mission, scheduled for launch in 2017, is expected to "discover thousands of exoplanets in orbit around the brightest stars in the sky," according to the TESS website. The European Space Agency's Planetary Transits and Oscillations of stars (PLATO) mission, planned for launch in 2024, will also search for a large number of exoplanets.

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Does Astrology Work? The Testimonial of a Scientist Turned Astrologer




Does astrology work ? It is quite a perilous exercise to write an article stating a few truths drawn from actual experience, a risky but interesting challenge for the author of this site. But without danger, where would the adrenaline be? It is so good to try to talk about astrology upstream, and not only to discuss how it functions, for a person who has spent a lot of time using its techniques.
This is what we have done for Astrotheme's visitors, trying to use everyday words devoid of technical jargon, with no historical or specialised argumentation, and with the only aim to reach to as many persons as possible, yet without proselytizing. Just a few judgments coming from experience, a pragmatic vision of this tool for knowledge, which is what astrology is all about.
For the illustration of this non-technical article, it became rapidly obvious that astronomy images are needed... The staggering sight of certain galaxies or nebulae is not only splendid but enables to open one's mind towards... more consciousness and a more intense feeling of being alive.
For the illustration of this non-technical article, it became rapidly obvious that astronomy images are needed... The staggering sight of certain galaxies or nebulae is not only splendid but enables to open one's mind towards... more consciousness and a more intense feeling of being alive.

Incidentally, this article was written in slightly more than two hours, with no preparation and no plan. For this subject, and for some reason which probably lies in my subconscious and comes from the desire for purity and complete spontaneity, I was most eager to express a sort of rough opinion, a testimony coming from… the guts and sheer experience; it is easy to realise it when a text is written as it comes, and for the author, it is a rewarding exercise because genuineness always has a unique sparkle. For the reader, it is also a token of sincerity.
Of course, the purpose is not to convince. Indeed, in politics as well as in spirituality, to change direction is a complex issue. As far as the quite bizarre field of astrology is concerned, irrational behaviours occur quickly, usually with a little disdainful smile from those who, obviously, have been beyond the naive propensity to believe anything, to dream blissfully, and to delude themselves about a necessarily silly system because it offers off the beaten path possibilities, which other human disciplines do not.
The list of the authors of scornful smiles towards astrology is quite long, just as long as the list of more open-minded people who, either have tried themselves to learn this tool which astrology is – which, like psychology or history, is not a science – and became convinced that it works or at least has some degree of efficiency, or because they no time or no interest, leave the door open, thinking "finally, why not?", after all, one does not know much, would it be solely in the area of the spouting of the thought – WHO handles thought at the moment it emerges... - or about physical laws for which the 21th century is mere prehistory, as all scientists know. Indeed, life is evolution, knowledge is not static, and the only mistake which must not be made is to gorge oneself with certainties, including that which consists in associating "too good" results with absolute scientific impossibility.
I believe that my experience is quite similar to that of everybody, i.e. that of a person who, a priori, before discovering it, was "against" astrology and considered it... crap meant for gullible people, or in the best case, an idle fancy with a tinge of poetry in which all the intellectual energy spent was finally used to create a nice virtual world and arouse pleasure.
Paradoxically enough, relatively few astrologers are interested in astronomy. This is not my case. I even dreamed I would become an astronomer when I was small, and nowadays I feel the need to have a telescope at home, even though... I seldom use it because, unfortunately, the sky above the region of Paris is too polluted.
Paradoxically enough, relatively few astrologers are interested in astronomy. This is not my case. I even dreamed I would become an astronomer when I was small, and nowadays I feel the need to have a telescope at home, even though... I seldom use it because, unfortunately, the sky above the region of Paris is too polluted.

As luck would have it, I was in the bookstore where I used to go several times a week to get all sorts of books according to my quite strong curiosity and my need to understand hidden things, and I stumbled on an astrology treatise, the famous one authored by André Barbault (André Barbault is a respected French astrologer and author who devised a computer-generated astrological portrait in the early '70s.).
As I flicked through the pages, I was a bit amused to see the natal charts of historical personages, quite rigorous rules, an apparently sound functioning, and I thought that for once, I ought to read an astrology book, and at least, this one does not seem too naive.
In addition, there were a few recipes for the compatibility of couples, and since I was in love of one of my school comrades, in that Terminale C class (In the French education system, the last year of secondary school with a maths option), I thought, well, I am going to have fun and see whether, according to astrology, my compatibility with this beautiful brunette, the sight of whom would pierce my heart, is good or not!
With a good dose of scepticism and quite negative preconceptions, I started to learn to erect a natal chart, interpret it, and become initiated into all the predictive techniques, synastry, and other relishes having the charm of that which is unknown.
Since this article is not a book, it is necessary to get to the heart of the matter. Actually, I realised quickly that among the concepts of signs, houses, planets, houses in signs, planets in signs, rulership, aspects, nature of the planets, etc. it would take some time before being rewarded, venturing into uncertain territory alone, and interpreting charts without opening astrology books every thirty seconds.
Indeed, to my view, the first obstacle for anyone willing to get an idea about astrology is the huge contrast between serious astrology on the one hand, and on the other hand, the ordinary media and its horoscopes by signs or by decans – which are of no value, it is necessary to say so, absolute void, and the biggest hoax because a natal chart cannot be reduced to the position of the Sun in one of the zodiacal signs. Absurd columns with equally stupid predictions – here again, and it is difficult to refrain from giving names, be it to quote people who saw Kerry as the winner of the American elections in Telestar (A popular French television weekly) or in other magazines, or in general a little bit everywhere because it cannot be repeated often enough that there are two types of astrology, that of horoscopes in magazines which are nonsense, a mere commercial lottery. From this perspective, it is easier to understand the disdainful smiles of those mentioned earlier, and I particularly think of Guy Carlier (A French TV presenter and humorist), whom I nevertheless find quite pleasant, and of Alain Gillot-Pétré (He was a French TV meteo presenter), a declared enemy of astrologers. I remember for instance a TV programme featuring Paco Rabanne (He became famous as a fashion designer. He is not an astrologer but a weird visionary, also quite nice), and gorgeous Elisabeth Tessier (A professional French astrologer whom the late President François Mitterrand consulted. The thesis she defended at La Sorbonne University was the subject of a hot controversy) who was castigated by Guy Carlier... Thus, there is a big discrepancy between junk astrology and genuine astrology. The latter consists in extracting information from an exact natal chart based on a date of birth and location, and whenever possible a time of birth, and to deduct relevant results from this chart.
The weird and unique feeling of infinity which emerges from the sky when one gazes into space is one of the numerous methods for starting a meditation on the purpose of one's life.
The weird and unique feeling of infinity which emerges from the sky when one gazes into space is one of the numerous methods for starting a meditation on the purpose of one's life.

Indeed, commercial astrology and horoscopes published in the media are nonsense and above all, unfounded, but genuine astrology, which includes several schools and requires many years of learning, is difficult to grasp.
Therefore, a lot of time is required because without learning by rote numerous dozens of basic notions, it is very difficult not to get lost. Of course, one can have fun, but if one expects some degree of proficiency or just wants to be able to follow the rules of this tool, one will have to spend several months studying.
I shall briefly address a few other obstacles which claim so-called scientific bases and may prompt doubts, discouraging people who are curious about astrology even before they get a chance to start studying it. I think for instance of such a statement as "astrology is bullshit since everyone knows that owing to the precession of the equinoxes, and when one says that the Sun is in Aries although in fact, it's been a long time since it has left this constellation." This is obviously stupid because by definition, in astrology, signs do not represent the constellations bearing the same name, but they refer to the immutable cycle of the seasons. Thus, the sign of Aries corresponds to the spring equinox in the Northern hemisphere, and not to the stretch of space occupied by the constellation of Aries.
But I will not elaborate any further on these technical details because they are not the focus of this article, the purpose of which is only to give a testimony and to state that astrology works, in the light of an experience and a practice which cover a span of thirty years plus.
So, after a few weeks, astrology became clearer for me. Actually, I understood that finally, there were three essential functions and a fourth one as the wild card, if I may say so. First, there is the astrology which analyses the personality, the character, the motivations, the typology, and the behaviour. Then, there is a second astrology, well-known, which checks the past and analyses the present by superimposing the positions of the planets at a given period on the planets of the natal chart, using various techniques such as transits, solar revolutions, progressions, etc. Lastly, there is the astrology which compares two charts in order to understand the relations between two individuals who may be more or less compatible.
After the feeling of infinite in space, the questioning about... whatever pre-existed automatically arises.  The sensation of the infinity of time, the research of the causes, and the voyage back beyond them necessarily makes a normally constituted human being feel dizzy. Such vertigo arouses a stronger desire to understand the meaning of all this and therefore, the commencement of spiritual quest.
After the feeling of infinite in space, the questioning about... whatever pre-existed automatically arises. The sensation of the infinity of time, the research of the causes, and the voyage back beyond them necessarily makes a normally constituted human being feel dizzy. Such vertigo arouses a stronger desire to understand the meaning of all this and therefore, the commencement of spiritual quest.

These three types of astrology, or rather, these three functions of astrology, are the three major sections of this discipline. The fourth one, which I referred to as the "wild card" earlier, is mundane astrology which forecasts or explains certain global events such as wars and peace between countries, periods of growth or periods favourable for the evolution of a given area – science, humanism, religion, spirituality, etc. - assassination attempts, natural disasters, inventions, etc.
For all four sections, it is clear that people don't have the same propensity to "believe" or not. Many people have no problem acknowledging that astrological portraits are mind-boggling because they are so accurate. I leave out the cases which present no problems, i.e. most of them, or the cases of people of good faith, again the majority, and I address only the case of sceptical people.
Regarding forecasts, it is slightly more delicate. Recalcitrant people are usually more numerous, and there are even some astrologers who want to limit astrology to the functions of personality analysis and are adamant about this. The good-looking and talented Françoise Hardy (A famous French composer and singer of the '60s. She authored a book on astrology) is one of those people. The other sections of astrology seem too risky or difficult to them, unless they deem them... impossible for x reasons known to themselves only.
Regarding couple's compatibility, also referred to as synastry, the subject is less known and better accepted because if one considers that astrology can analyse the personality, why couldn't it analyse two personalities and see if those two get along well or not...
Astrology is a mere set of efficient techniques for those who practice it and those who seek advice from it. However, although astrology and spirituality are disjoint, questions on human being, which the former necessarily indirectly arises, create... a bridge towards the quest for Reality.
Astrology is a mere set of efficient techniques for those who practice it and those who seek advice from it. However, although astrology and spirituality are disjoint, questions on human being, which the former necessarily indirectly arises, create... a bridge towards the quest for Reality.

Lastly, there is mundane astrology, which is the most difficult one. It must be acknowledged that using astrology to forecast global events equates to taking up an almost impossible challenge. Certain facts are mind-boggling, but I would only say that, to my view, this field pertains to research, and it is important that one does not believe what one reads here and there... Those who talk rubbish are definitely more numerous than those who really make predictions. Does this mean that mundane astrology does not work? Not necessarily, but there still is a long way to go. It is probably too early for our time, at least this is my opinion, formed after 35 years of experience and hindsight.
Let's get back to astrology learning. Once the two obstacles mentioned above are overcome, i.e. the venom of the ignorant mass and its bitter judgment, castigating with a conceited smile any effort made towards the shameful direction in which astrology is, and the fact that many long months will have to be spent to understand and master the concepts and the rules – actually, in my view, this is not enough, and I believe that after a whole year of reading and practice, one gets a good idea. After 5 years, one is able to make a few interpretations, after 15 years, one has good bases, and after 30 years, although one still keeps on learning, one has some good reflexes which enable to avoid making mistakes. It is after this period that amazement starts...
Bewilderment starts with the portraits. The hurdle lies in establishing the hierarchy of values and discarding whatever is superfluous. Indeed, the beginner tends to look at tons of details and get lost in a whole set of numerous meanings. Once this difficulty is solved, it is true that, if the sceptical person has paid the price and dedicated his time to learning, he usually loses his incredulity and the self-satisfied smile of the person who cannot be taken for a ride...
Having said this, unless one is particularly sensitive and vulnerable, getting to know oneself better, or having an idea about the meteorology, is rather helpful for evolving more rapidly. So, astrology would not be useless.
Having said this, unless one is particularly sensitive and vulnerable, getting to know oneself better, or having an idea about the meteorology, is rather helpful for evolving more rapidly. So, astrology would not be useless.

I wish to reassure those who are starting to learn. Actually, within a few days, as one reads the charts of acquaintances, one finds it mind-boggling. But once all the notions are well understood, one rapidly enjoys astrology and its batch of wonderments.
This is precisely what happened to me after a few months. Then, if one does not want to stop while on such a good path, one buys books and learn... during years. To me, astrology is a tool, and not a religion or something important. It is one discipline among others, such as history or psychology. Of course, it is more helpful and somehow prompts to ask questions upstream. This is what constitutes its charm, even though in no circumstances, does it answer these questions.
Astrology is anything except a spiritual path, a religion, or a moral code. It is just a tool which enables to understand our personality, our compatibility with people, and, with caution, to forecast climates, the meteorology of our evolution.
Some people have understood that astrology worked well and prefer… to avoid predictions. However, they are very few. There is indeed the auto-suggestion issue whereby the very fear of an unfortunate event might trigger it. Although there may be some truth in it, the amount of risk is minimal.
Some people have understood that astrology worked well and prefer… to avoid predictions. However, they are very few. There is indeed the auto-suggestion issue whereby the very fear of an unfortunate event might trigger it. Although there may be some truth in it, the amount of risk is minimal.

In my experience, right from the beginning, I observed that it worked. As everyone, one starts to read the charts of one's close friends and relatives, then one looks at the compatibilities, and above all, one plays at being God and analyses the future after having analysed the past. To understand the past, using the transits or any other techniques with a view to validating the rules, constitutes the best method.
Regarding this last point, my opinion is simple: forecasts work fine, provided that two major conditions, absolutely impossible to ignore, are met:
This recalls the nice philosophical tale of Samarkand which can be summed up as follows: a Vizier walks across the city to work at the Sultan's palace. He sees an ominous woman dressed in black, the sight of whom makes his blood curdle... As she gets nearer, he notices her glare and her expression and understands that she is Death. He is in a state of terror and thinks that she is coming to take him... more below
This recalls the nice philosophical tale of Samarkand which can be summed up as follows: a Vizier walks across the city to work at the Sultan's palace. He sees an ominous woman dressed in black, the sight of whom makes his blood curdle... As she gets nearer, he notices her glare and her expression and understands that she is Death. He is in a state of terror and thinks that she is coming to take him... more below

The first one is that when you analyse a period of time, many interactions or influences are noticeable. But all of them are far from being equally important. One thing that we must never hesitate to say is that "strong" events are obvious, even though the way in which they will manifest does not always exactly match what we think. Nevertheless, the general tendency can be described accurately, assuming the practitioner is seasoned enough.
Regarding minor, or "average" events, caution is required. There is a "scattering" of results, as if some people were more or less sensitive to certain transits etc. There are evidences that astrology should not be thrown out the window. The effects of very important forces at play are practically always noticeable. This is something I have observed on thousands, or perhaps tens of thousands cases, and each time, it is mind blowing because it completely rules out a vision at random of the period concerned. One must experience it to believe it: it is the number of disconcerting facts, totally incompatible with coincidence, which prompts to understand that one is not wasting time with this discipline. If one remains humble enough to accept that for less important events, or forces at play, there is some degree of uncertainty, and that one deals with probabilities of more or less favourable tendencies regarding such or such point, then, one remains on the safe side.
Does it mean that astrology is deterministic and fatalistic? No, definitely. Everything unfolds as if there was a "tendency", some sort of more or less imposed, yet partial, structure. It seems that free will enables to react differently to the planetary climates undergone, and as the old saying goes, "The stars impel but do not compel". Many questions obviously arise on this subject, but the purpose of these lines is to share my practical experience, in all simplicity, without starting to give a structured explanation for each concept addressed, which would require several books.
Thus, he is terrified and starts to run like a madman to the palace, where he arrives out of breath to see the Sultan. "What's wrong with you my friend?" said the Sultan. "My Lordship, I saw Death! She came to fetch me, I am very sure... I don't want to die, I am too young, I have a family. Would you allow me to take a dozen days off and go somewhere very far because I don't want her to find me, I don't want to die!" "No problem", answered the generous and nice sultan. "You have always been loyal and reliable. Go to Samarkand, it is such a beautiful city, it will take your mind off things.
Thus, he is terrified and starts to run like a madman to the palace, where he arrives out of breath to see the Sultan. "What's wrong with you my friend?" said the Sultan. "My Lordship, I saw Death! She came to fetch me, I am very sure... I don't want to die, I am too young, I have a family. Would you allow me to take a dozen days off and go somewhere very far because I don't want her to find me, I don't want to die!" "No problem", answered the generous and nice sultan. "You have always been loyal and reliable. Go to Samarkand, it is such a beautiful city, it will take your mind off things.

The other necessary and unavoidable condition, too often overlooked by many practitioners, is that our destiny develops only according to... what we are and therefore, according to what the natal chart describes, a natal chart which evolves, I need to underline this. Astrology obviously integrates this notion of evolution. There is no static state, no irreversible or fatalistic conditioning. A natal chart is mobile, and the human being is meant to blossom according to his basic characteristics, definitely with some degree of free will.
In plain words, it means that the astrological natal chart is fundamental. Predictive techniques use two charts, the natal chart, which represents our personality, our earthly self with its usual features: affectivity, intellect, capacity of action, inter-personal capacity, vitality, sexuality, behaviour, psychological facets, blockages, etc.
The Vizier sets off straight away with a few servants, a dozen camels. During four days and four nights, he hastily heads towards mythical Samarkand, fleeing the woman in black and running away from what he believes to be his fateful destiny. After four days, he eventually reaches Samarkand, a splendid city bathing in an extraordinarily beautiful light... He quickly takes a bath, changes clothes, and, without taking any rest, he gets out to have a mint tea and visit the city.
The Vizier sets off straight away with a few servants, a dozen camels. During four days and four nights, he hastily heads towards mythical Samarkand, fleeing the woman in black and running away from what he believes to be his fateful destiny. After four days, he eventually reaches Samarkand, a splendid city bathing in an extraordinarily beautiful light... He quickly takes a bath, changes clothes, and, without taking any rest, he gets out to have a mint tea and visit the city.

By superimposing the chart – or planets' positions – of the period analysed on the natal chart, one identifies the forces at play, in hierarchy and categories, which have an intrinsic meaning but which, at the same time, depend mainly on the natal chart; this is what is often referred to as "resonance" with the natal chart.
Let's take a concrete predictive case using transits for instance. One of the rules of thumb for predictions is to understand that transiting influences will fully manifest only if they are also found in the natal chart. Let's consider the difficult case of a transit of Uranus squaring natal Mars, with Mars in the 2nd House in Aries, and Uranus in the 11th House in Capricorn. These two planets are the most energetic ones, and at some time, their square triggers a blow-up in terms of behaviours or events, because the balance is too hard to maintain by the chart owner and meant to explode since the vibration does not correspond to his nature. Therefore, this explosive transit indicates that there is a probability that the financial area, or the way one earns a living, undergoes a very strong and unexpected jolt when the transit becomes exact or during Uranus' various passages as it retrogrades and squares natal Mars. This jolt may involve friends – it would be necessary to look at the rulerships. Now, there are two alternatives: if Uranus and Mars are connected in the natal chart, transiting Uranus will resonate with the natal chart, and it is most likely that important events, or the way they are felt by the chart owner, will be strongly experienced. The other alternative is that Uranus and Mars are not linked to each other in the natal chart, in which case it is clear that the effects of transiting Uranus, though violent, will have a less significant impact than in the first case.
The sun lights up the picturesque narrow streets, females are good-looking, and the shadows stretching their darker shape at this time of the afternoon increase the charm of the mythical city. The Vizier walks, deliriously happy to have escaped his fate. As he strolls and looks aside, he does not watch his steps and bumps into somebody! He immediately turns around and, to his stupefaction...
The sun lights up the picturesque narrow streets, females are good-looking, and the shadows stretching their darker shape at this time of the afternoon increase the charm of the mythical city. The Vizier walks, deliriously happy to have escaped his fate. As he strolls and looks aside, he does not watch his steps and bumps into somebody! He immediately turns around and, to his stupefaction...

Similarly, a stern, wise and sometimes slightly solitary Saturnian, meaning a person with Saturn in his planetary dominant, who has an upcoming transit of Jupiter passing over his Venus will not turn into Julio Iglesias or Rocco Siffredi during the few weeks of this very nice transit!
Provided these two conditions are met, i.e. some level of analogy with the natal chart, and caution whenever the influences at play are not very strong, astrology never disappoints, or almost never, as far as predictions are concerned.
Regarding couple's compatibility, there are very important rules. It is not because a synastry is exceptionally good that it means, on the one hand, that one will fall in fall, and on the other hand, that the relationship will be successful. Let me explain:
When one analyses the chart of a couple, one actually analyses three charts: the natal chart of each partner and the chart of the relationship. The latter is compared to the two natal charts and assessed using various possible techniques (composite chart, mid-space / mid-time chart, mutual planets-houses interactions, etc.). In addition of course, one must take into account the planetary climate of each partner, which is not simple.
In couple's compatibility, here are the principles that must be borne in mind:
Firstly, a fantastic compatibility between two persons never implies that they will fall in love with each other. Indeed, synastry only reflects how easy a relationship is in various areas. Conversely, a disastrous synastry does not mean that two persons will not fall in love with each other!
It is important to highlight the above because a host of visitors wonder and sometimes e-mail us asking "I met with so and so, our rate was 80% but nothing happened, the relationship has not materialised, etc.", which is normal! Astrology, at least synastry, is unable to determine whether two persons will love each other. Love eludes the comparison of charts!
Once again, if and only if, a relationship has already started, synastry will tell whether it will flow smoothly or not. In my view, that's already quite considerable!
A gorgeous and very pale lady, all dressed in black, stares at him with an almost astonished look and said, "Well, well, it's you, you are early. I did not expect you before several days yet." As she takes him by the hand, the Vizier, in a state of complete terror and at the same time strangely resigned, does not resist and follows Death, in great distress and without any possibility to rebel.
A gorgeous and very pale lady, all dressed in black, stares at him with an almost astonished look and said, "Well, well, it's you, you are early. I did not expect you before several days yet." As she takes him by the hand, the Vizier, in a state of complete terror and at the same time strangely resigned, does not resist and follows Death, in great distress and without any possibility to rebel.

Now, like with predictions, it is necessary to take natal charts into account. It is simple to understand: if in his natal chart, anyone has a difficult affective structure, as in the case of a man having an exact Saturn-Moon square, with the Moon in the 7th House and Saturn in the Midheaven, and for instance, Venus square Pluto. His marriage should a priori take place late – if he ever marries, which is not quite sure – and the context of the marriage should not be very easy. Besides, it is most likely that in the affective area, he imagines nice things and that in real life, he undergoes a few disappointments. Although it is true that there are no such things as good charts or bad charts, there are still a few tendencies which are noticeable on the manifested plane.
Let's imagine that this gentleman meets a lady with whom the compatibility is extraordinarily good. What would happen?
If he falls in love, and his feelings are reciprocated, the odds are that things will not develop smoothly. Actually, because the synastry is good, which is the hypothesis we have chosen, in order that his destiny unfolds according to his natal chart, certain obstacles will crop up. Such hurdles probably obey some necessity in terms of evolution etc., but this is another topic... Nevertheless, the relationship is most likely to be pleasant and easy. The rest of the context will have to be assessed: what are the active transits of the moment for both partners, what is the natal chart of the lady in question, etc.
As we can see, a relationship is a whole entity, a juxtaposition of five factors which already form a whole when taken separately: two natal charts, two forecasts or current planetary climates, and one synastry or couple report.
The analysis of these five factors is the only process which enables to understand and offer predictions about what is to follow, and even then... solely if the magical spark is born between them. Regarding the spark, let's say that transits enable to forecast whether the chart owner is likely to fall in love during the considered period.
It is true that one can try to bail out of what is deemed ineluctable, especially during loaded periods such as under Uranus' tensed transits. However, as one believes that one is escaping one's fate, one might also jump into it with one's feet together even faster!
It is true that one can try to bail out of what is deemed ineluctable, especially during loaded periods such as under Uranus' tensed transits. However, as one believes that one is escaping one's fate, one might also jump into it with one's feet together even faster!

The lines above emphasise, I hope, how difficult it is to make a diagnosis and the large scope of the work it requires.
My experience, once again with regard to this third section – since we have already addressed personality analysis and predictions – is that astrology works, provided that the natal chart is taken into account along with transits, progressions and solar revolution influences.
Which experience? It is simple. When one is interested in this tool, one quite quickly makes interpretations, thousands of charts in several years. Therefore, each time one gets the confirmation that "heavy" or major events occur according to the rules used, and that in most cases, portraits are quite accurate although of course, certain scattered charts are much more difficult to interpret than others. One also knows that humility is a must and that for lighter things, i.e. minor aspects, less important or fast transits, one really deals only with probabilities, but... that's already quite appreciable.
The last section, that of mundane forecast, is unrewarding. I will not enter into the details of the methods used, and I will only say that once again, my experience is quite a pessimistic one. Individual astrology offers results ranging from satisfactory to very satisfactory, but mundane astrology seems risky to me and, to state it clearly, not yet perfected enough.
There may be a fifth section, that of prediction of success for business companies, projects, etc. The principle is to take the exact date of creation of a project as its moment of birth and cast a chart exactly as it is done for a human being. This method can also be applied to an animal, why not.
As expounded in this article, my experience prompts me to think that there are two types of outer events: the fundamental ones, which are very rare through a lifetime, and the others. The former seem to bear some form of determinism affecting the way events unfold, because the way we experience them in our inner self is a different thing and gives our free will every latitude in making decisions, including that to grant them importance or not.
As expounded in this article, my experience prompts me to think that there are two types of outer events: the fundamental ones, which are very rare through a lifetime, and the others. The former seem to bear some form of determinism affecting the way events unfold, because the way we experience them in our inner self is a different thing and gives our free will every latitude in making decisions, including that to grant them importance or not.

The fans of this technique are often optimistic. Now, in my opinion, the real difficulty lies in identifying the exact date and time of the beginning of the project or a company. Let's take for instance the creation of a company, and why not, in France, the most difficult country regarding this topic, owing to all kinds of administrative hurdles: firstly, the date, time, and place of the "idea". Then, the determination of the name of the company. There may be also the date at which all the partners reached an agreement. Or the date at which the company's capital was deposited into the bank, or the date of the application or the official registration of its statutes! Or else, the date at which the premises for its head office are found...
Actually, if one ponders a little bit more, for every case, the same questions apply because the exact date and time are not really significant. The same holds true also for the birth of a country, etc.
As a result, examples are not easy to study, even though they are interesting for the astrologer as a matter of curiosity. I believe that great caution is needed in this area.
Getting back to the example given at the beginning of this article, you may want to ask about the young lady, "So, was she compatible with you?" According to the analysis of the time, no! And actually, nothing happened, except in my head. Thus, astrology started to work well in those remote days despite the sadness of the conclusion.
More seriously, the purpose of these lines is to say that the irrational refusal of some people, be they scientists or not, to consider that there might be something accurate in this discipline constitutes a real sign of laughable blockages on their part.
These questions would take us too far… Nevertheless, the Samarkand tale is a classic which tends to show the limits of free will in the field of real experiences. It is important to add that, as far as death is concerned, even though there are techniques which try to determine its date, no serious astrologer will claim to be able to do so. Why? Because, and it cannot be reiterated strongly enough, astrology describes a climate and probabilities, and nothing else. I would also add that this is at the same helpful, crucial, and an excellent thing. Nothing would be worse than absolute fate and shutting the door on hope.
These questions would take us too far… Nevertheless, the Samarkand tale is a classic which tends to show the limits of free will in the field of real experiences. It is important to add that, as far as death is concerned, even though there are techniques which try to determine its date, no serious astrologer will claim to be able to do so. Why? Because, and it cannot be reiterated strongly enough, astrology describes a climate and probabilities, and nothing else. I would also add that this is at the same helpful, crucial, and an excellent thing. Nothing would be worse than absolute fate and shutting the door on hope.

Obviously, it is easy to understand its cause, which is certainly somehow the issue of how astrology works.
Here, I have talked about concrete topics and experience, and not at all about the "why". Actually, being a scientist myself, in the beginning, what I wanted to know above all was whether astrology worked.
Over 35 years of experience have answered my question although after six months or one year, I already got the answer, thus positive, just in case some visitors would directly start to read from this point on.
The topic of why it works is completely different. Here are my impressions, given in a personal capacity: at first, I would consider astrology to be a small square of life, a bit like a helpful discipline, but without –let's say, directly – spiritual connotation.
It is efficient, useful, but it offers no answer to the real questions of life, under no circumstances. What are we, what are we made of, what is Reality? Beneath thought, feelings, sensations, there is the consciousness of being, which is the only real thing, upstream. The intellect is unable to understand itself. A blind man cannot describe the colour red. Similarly, the intellect can but go round in circles when it comes to asking "who am I?", since we are not our thought and we are upstream of it or... of them, because one can rather talk about thoughts in the plural, which are like bees continuously buzzing, with an actor behind who undergoes and at the same time has the illusion of control... Of course, there is a link between these thoughts and our consciousness to exist, but... I should stop here... This is just to show that astrology answers none of these questions, that its field applies to the earthly sphere, to human psychology, to the explanation of behaviour, to the cautious forecast of the meteorology of events, and to the assessment of the smoothness, if any, of a relationship in a couple.
There is also the topic of the astrologer who analyses his future. Can he really change it? The wisest answer is that yes, one can strengthen the periods of invulnerability and thus, one's successes etc. One can also be careful and thus lessen the impact of risky periods, for practically all events.
There is also the topic of the astrologer who analyses his future. Can he really change it? The wisest answer is that yes, one can strengthen the periods of invulnerability and thus, one's successes etc. One can also be careful and thus lessen the impact of risky periods, for practically all events.

I would say, and I believe so, that this is already quite considerable. The fact that it works is sufficient in itself, even though one would like to understand the whys in terms or physics or energy etc.
Second reflection: we know only four forces in the universe: strong interactions (the cohesion forces of atomic nuclei), weak interactions (the cohesion forces of nuclei and particles), gravitational forces, and electro-magnetic forces. We are able neither to define the consciousness of being, nor to give a definition of thought and of ourselves. To imagine giving an answer to the whys of the functioning of astrology would require a better understanding of these two planes: the first one is that of physics, which is not as advanced as it is believed to be. The second plane is that of knowledge of human nature, which does not seem too advanced either...
The first answer is that indeed, there is no known physical explanation as of today.
There are statistics, sometimes disputed, and astrologers' experience dating back to the dawn of time – and the different schools, etc. which I have not addressed here of course – which are dismissed by detractors of astrology who are so stupidly and mechanically indoctrinated with their own certainties that they self-intoxicate themselves with their own rubbishes when... they do not act in bad faith.
Regarding major events, which can probably be counted on the fingers of the two hands throughout a lifetime, I think that the astrologer himself cannot avoid a few compulsory chapters of his destiny. This may be found disgruntling or laughable, but those who make numerous predictions are aware that it is difficult, or practically impossible, to escape very powerful configurations, be they harmonious or tricky. It should be borne in mind that what is tricky brings about awareness whereas on the contrary, what is felt as nice often yields spiritual numbness. Nothing is good, and nothing is bad; there is only a succession of tests, happy or unfortunate, and the will, or lack of, to increase one's consciousness of existing with them.
Regarding major events, which can probably be counted on the fingers of the two hands throughout a lifetime, I think that the astrologer himself cannot avoid a few compulsory chapters of his destiny. This may be found disgruntling or laughable, but those who make numerous predictions are aware that it is difficult, or practically impossible, to escape very powerful configurations, be they harmonious or tricky. It should be borne in mind that what is tricky brings about awareness whereas on the contrary, what is felt as nice often yields spiritual numbness. Nothing is good, and nothing is bad; there is only a succession of tests, happy or unfortunate, and the will, or lack of, to increase one's consciousness of existing with them.

Of course, if anyone says to you "You practice astrology because you are in a fog, your mind is weak, you are indoctrinated, or you are Machiavellian, you do it for money, you are a poor insane person", there is nothing to answer since this blindness probably stems from a very irrational behaviour and above all from a pre-determined choice.
Some detractors of astrology, perhaps less obtuse than others, may imagine, during a too short-lived stroke of intuition, that not all astrologers are in a complete fog, not all malevolent, not all interested in power or money, and even that the majority do not waste their time, simply because hands-on experience has shown them the evidence, that is does work, provided due caution is observed as mentioned earlier.
Therefore, for these people, the following problem remains: "Well, let's suppose that it works and that there is some truth in it, but since there are no explanations to it, it cannot work, can it?"
A logical mind would answer back "It works of course. It is not because we don't know yet why, that it can't work, since on the contrary experience proves that it does work..."
Besides, the fact that one possesses a few assets like knowledge of astrology, or the mere fact of seeking advice from it, is part of the protections which can be found in the natal chart. The person who never doubts anything, who remains narrow-minded and keeps on his superior smile in front of concealed knowledge –astrology is not the only one – this person usually has several tensions in fixed signs in his natal chart. Indeed, fixed signs are excellent and often endow with a strong will and persuasion power, to the detriment however of open-mindedness, or rather, the swiftness to precisely adjust to whatever is new to him. Once adjustment is achieved, he will become a fierce defendant of the very cause which he fought in the first place, at least in the best cases (smile).
Besides, the fact that one possesses a few assets like knowledge of astrology, or the mere fact of seeking advice from it, is part of the protections which can be found in the natal chart. The person who never doubts anything, who remains narrow-minded and keeps on his superior smile in front of concealed knowledge –astrology is not the only one – this person usually has several tensions in fixed signs in his natal chart. Indeed, fixed signs are excellent and often endow with a strong will and persuasion power, to the detriment however of open-mindedness, or rather, the swiftness to precisely adjust to whatever is new to him. Once adjustment is achieved, he will become a fierce defendant of the very cause which he fought in the first place, at least in the best cases (smile).

The tradition does not hesitate to put forward such answers as "As above, so below.". This explanation is based on symbolism, the human being partly incarnated and partly spirit, and there is a connection between these two worlds, etc. But obviously, this is not an explanation.
Astrology works although we still don't have its explanation in terms of forces. My opinion is that it will come. It constitutes an interesting subject, but not a fundamental one. The main point is to avoid talking nonsense and to be pragmatic. It seems to me that being open-minded is the only correct attitude.
Although one can live without astrology, its offers much help to those who practice it or to those who seek advice from it. It is already very appreciable. Indeed, although astrology claims neither to give an answer about the purpose of life, nor to be absolutely reliable, and in spite of the fact that the explanation of its functioning is unknown... it nevertheless delivers obvious results.
This is what justifies its practice. To my view, the only good attitudes are, either to use it with caution if it is helpful on a punctual basis or more, or to ignore it and ask "Why not, but in any case, I am not interested." The only totally ridiculous attitude is to display the self-satisfied smile of those who cannot be taken for a ride...

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