Meteor showers or as they’re sometimes called “shooting stars” were connected to comets in the nineteenth century by E.C. Herrick. A.S. Herschel engendered the first real record, which accurately forecast the next celestial shower. These scientist followed complex models of scientific study which yielded measurably significant results. But they were only engaged in astronomy, and paid little if any attention to astrology. While there is certainly no shame in their highly regarded area of study, it has become increasingly clear that astronomy was not yielding a complete portrait in understanding the meaning behind what observers could see with their eyes. The idea of meaning, or a larger understanding seemed beyond the reach of astronomy. Thus, I began to believe that the only way to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the celestial phenomenon that has spurred investigative curiosity since the beginning of written history, would necessitate an integration of both astronomy and astrology as they affect one or another specified and predictable celestial event. What better candidate than this weekends Orionid meteor shower to facilitate a greater understanding through an analysis that combines astronomy with astrology.
The 2012 Orionid meteor shower was cleared for safety by members of the scientific community, but if diviners are correct, the May 24, 2014 predicted celestial display of “shooting stars” could produce as many as 1,000 meteorites per hour to fill the northern sky with the kind of sparkling activity usually visible during manmade fourth of July festivities. In fact, some expert astronomers predict that the 2014 event will be a powerful meteor storm.
Scientist are unsure of the impact Comet 209/LINEAR will have on our planet. Unfortunately, it’s well beyond the orbit of Mars and a dauntingly faint 22nd magnitude; but with such a dramatic performance predicted for 2014, don’t be surprised if professional astronomers start slewing their best weapons its way in the coming months. This week, however, earthlings will provide a suitable audience for the brilliant and spectacular Orionid Meteor Shower that began around midnight October 20-21.
Comet Halley – or Halley’s Comet – will be putting on the show and the 2012 Orionid meteor shower will peak between 3 and 4 a.m.
What does this mean? Meteors will streak the sky in the predawn hours on Saturday, October 20 and Sunday, October 21. Sunday is said to be the better viewing option. Thanks to the waxing crescent moon setting well before the show, the sky will be plenty dark. But to merely settle upon this event as just an observer seems to minimize its importance. A more challenging approach to this weekend is to not only to enjoy the fireworks, but to also ask the question that seems to never get answered; that is, what’s the modern and ancient meaning behind the 2012 Orionid meteor shower.
To keep things in perspective, a meteor shower lit up skies last Wednesday night above the Bay Area and throughout California. According to Astronomy.com the fireballs were part of the Orionid meteor shower, which peaked from sundown Saturday through sunrise Sunday.
The meteor shower is so named, the site reported, because all of the meteors appear to radiate from the constellation Orion.
According to the site, Orionid meteors are the fastest of all meteor showers and strike the atmosphere at 148,000 mph, and many leave persistent trails.
Residents reported seeing the bright lights and hearing a loud boom throughout Northern California, with sightings as far as Santa Cruz County. Some reported feeling a thud, like an earthquake. Loud booms are often associated with meteor showers.
Reports of bright fireballs streaking across the skies were reported from as far north as Mendocino County. A cloud-free sky and the warm temperatures that are pushing out the clouds will make the showers more and more visible as the weekend approaches.
Some astronomers doubt that it was an Orionid because it reportedly traveled slowly across the sky and was followed by an exploding “boom” which is more typical of a stony or iron meteorite. NASA meteorite experts are currently investigating this fall which may have landed in the hills near Martinez, CA. The confusion seems quite interesting to say the least since these are the so called experts talking. How could they question the veracity of the report, for if the event was not an Orionid, what was it? Its frightening to think that we may have had a king size ruckus in the sky that scientist were unaware of, unless they’re suggesting that something may have happened in addition to the sparkling display. Nevertheless, that still wouldn’t explain what it was that slowly traveled across the sky; an exploding boom is one thing, but something unidentified traveling across the sky is another.
Nevertheless, just like all other meteor showers, the Orionids gets its name from the constellation from which its shooting stars appear to radiate—what astronomers call the shower’s radiant.
In this case observers can trace back the streaks of light to the area in the sky occupied by the mythical hunter Orion—all radiating out from a spot just above its bright orange star Betelgeuse.
The Orionid shower is caused when Earth slams into a debris field left behind by Halley’s comet, which won’t return to our neck of the woods for another five decades. (Find out why Halley’s comet has been hailed as an omen of doom.)
“Seeing Orionids is a little like getting a postcard from the comet, which only makes a local appearance every 76 years,” Cook said.
“While the Orionids are mostly caused by sand-grain-size pebbles shed by the famous comet in past centuries, it’s amazing to think that Halley’s itself will not be seen by eye until July of 2061, just less than 49 years from now.”
So much for the fun and the not so much fun technical aspect of this week’s rumbling in the universe.
It’s nice that modern scientists are wonderfully able to predict the day and time our universe decides to exhibit god’s magnificent unexplainable power. But I can’t help but to want to understand what the movement and ruckus in the heavens is all about. There are two question that an event like this gives rise to. Why does it occur, and what does it mean?
In some very important ways, an astronomer (a scientist who studies celestial bodies such as planets, stars and galaxies; not to be confused with an astrologer) does a phenomenal job in explaining why the Orionid occurs annually.
They tell us that a meteor shower happens when a comet has gone around the sun and it leaves dust according to Dr. Melissa Morris of ASU.
There area of expertise is based on sound science, which has determined why the Orionid meteor shower occurs annually. And they can say with astounding accuracy that this weekend marks the peak of a continuous stream of shooting stars seen just before the dawn. The astronomical phenomenon occurs every year in mid-to late October, when Earth orbits through the dusty debris of Halley’s Comet.
The streaks surround the constellation Orion, hence the shower’s name Orionid, in honor of the celestial collection of stars.
Nonetheless, by saying the event happens each year doesn’t really satisfy the why, especially for those with quite a large appetite for a more comprehensive understanding. In fact, I am of the opinion that you can never get at the why of this annual event unless you have at least a cursory understanding of what the ancients believed; yet to take such a position requires, at least a cursory understand of the often dismissed science of astrology.
The relationship between astronomy and astrology has been a continuous struggle for modern scholars, with astrology first taking a back seat to astronomy as we entered a brief period called the age of enlightenment and seamlessly transitioned into the Age of Reason. But as astronomy grew in expertise and sophistication, astrology got thrown of the bus altogether. Civilization swiftly moved through the period of Romanticism with its emphasis on emotion and imagination, and quest for higher knowledge beyond the logic of science. Naturalism was part of this movement, which emphasized man and his nature, but seemed to contradict or was rather the opposite of romanticism in that it viewed humans as a product of their own nature, ruled by circumstances beyond their control; just think of Thomas Hardy.
Then came realism, which focused on a true or real representation of reality. This was followed by existentialism, which specifically dealt with individual freedom, responsibility, and consequence of actions all within a framework of an indifferent universe, which included the idea that suffering is simply a part of the human condition.
With reason, logic, and especially free will emerging to define man’s condition, anything that interfered or contradicted these principles was brutally criticized.
So with the emergence of periods from the age of reason to existentialism, one could conclude that astrology began to decline as a result of modern scientific thinking, increased rationality and disenchantment.
Now disenchantment grew with the development of the telescope, as its use revealed that the stars were not permanently fixed. Such scientific revelations caused serious astronomers to reject astrology and freed them to increase their focus exclusively on astronomy.
Scientific attacks became greater after the nineteenth century, claiming astrology to be pseudo-scientific and dishonest.
The problem however with such a precipitous decline is that its cheating the curious appetite of modern students from trusting a science that was once an essential and worthwhile study and practice of ancient societies up until the eighteenth century.
Men like Thales, Pythagoras, Anaxagoras, Plato, Hippocrates, Aristotle, Ptolemy, Porphyry, Proclus, Nicolai Copernicus, Paracelsus, Michael Nostradamus, John Dee, Francis Bacon, Galileo Galilei, Kepler, and Sir Isaac Newton, were all respected students and practitioners of astrology. And without their important work in the field, it’s no telling where we’d be in our knowledge of the universe.
We can thank astronomers for discovering the day and year of the extraordinary meteor storm that is headed our way in 2014 and we can appreciate their efforts, which provided us with the specific hour the Orionid meteor shower would peak on October 20-21. But let’s also take a look at what the ancients had to say about the Orion constellation.
Most ancient astronomers viewed Orion as the “Hunter.” Orion is one of the most beautiful of all constellations, and one of the easiest to find. It looks like a large rectangle high in winter’s south-southeastern sky.
Two of the brightest stars in the evening sky lie at opposite corners of the rectangle: bright red Betelgeuse at the northeastern corner and even brighter Rigel at the southwest.
Near the center of the rectangle, look for a short diagonal line of three stars — Orion’s belt. And extending south from the belt, you’ll see another, fainter line of stars that forms Orion’s sword.
One of the objects in Orion’s sword isn’t a star at all. It’s a nebula — a cloud of gas and dust that’s like a giant fluorescent bulb. Hot young stars inside the nebula pump energy into its gas, causing the gas to glow.
More specifically, Orion was a giant huntsman in Greek mythology whom Zeus placed the stars as the constellation of Orion.
Stories of the death of Orion are numerous and conflicting. Astronomical mythographers such as Aratus, Eratosthenes and Hyginus were agreed that a scorpion was involved. In one version, told by Eratosthenes and Hyginus, Orion boasted that he was the greatest of hunters. He declared to Artemis, the goddess of hunting, and Leto, her mother, that he could kill any beast on Earth. The Earth shuddered indignantly and from a crack in the ground emerged a scorpion which stung the presumptuous giant to death.
Aratus, though, says that Orion attempted to ravish the virgin Artemis, and it was she who caused the Earth to open, bringing forth the scorpion. Ovid has still another account; he says that Orion was killed trying to save Leto from the scorpion. Even the location varies. Eratosthenes and Hyginus say that Orion’s death happened in Crete, but Aratus places it in Chios.
In both versions, the outcome was that Orion and the scorpion (the constellation Scorpius) were placed on opposite sides of the sky, so that as Scorpius rises in the east, Orion flees below the western horizon. ‘Wretched Orion still fears being wounded by the poisonous sting of the scorpion’, noted Germanicus Caesar.
A very different story, also recounted by Hyginus, is that Artemis loved Orion and was seriously considering giving up her vows of chastity to marry him. As the greatest male and female hunters they would have made a formidable couple. But Apollo, twin brother of Artemis, was against the match. One day, while Orion was swimming, Apollo challenged Artemis to demonstrate her skill at archery by hitting a small black object that he pointed out bobbing among the waves. Artemis pierced it with one shot – and was horrified to find that she had killed Orion. Grieving, she placed him among the constellations.
In reality, Orion is the most splendid of constellations, befitting a character who was in legend the tallest and most handsome of men. His right arm and left foot are marked by the brilliant stars Betelgeuse and Rigel, with a distinctive line of three stars forming his belt. ‘No other constellation more accurately represents the figure of a man’, says Germanicus Caesar.
Manilius calls it ‘golden Orion’ and ‘the mightiest of constellations’, and exaggerates its brilliance by saying that, when Orion rises, ‘night feigns the brightness of day and folds its dusky wings’. Manilius describes Orion as ‘stretching his arms over a vast expanse of sky and rising to the stars with no less huge a stride’. In fact, Orion is not an exceptionally large constellation, ranking only 26th in size (smaller, for instance, than Perseus according to the modern constellation boundaries), but the brilliance of its stars gives it the illusion of being much larger.
Orion is also one of the most ancient constellations, being among the few star groups known to the earliest Greek writers such as Homer and Hesiod. Even in the space age, Orion remains one of the few star patterns that non-astronomers can recognize.
It’s quite a lot to take in, but nonetheless, an interesting history and perhaps in time we might even view it as important information once understood in connection with its overall effect on our universe.
The Orion constellations is the group of stars astrologically and astronomically involved in this week’s spectacle.
The Orionid meteor shower undoubtedly had the complete attention of those interested in this weekend’s celestial event. However, it might be important to begin to think about the far-greater celestial firework display coming in 2014.
Only recently have scientist pointed to this new coming phenomenon. In fact, this predicted event was not discovered until 2004 when a periodic comet was discovered on Feb. 3, of that year.
Meteor experts Esko Lyytinen of Finland and Peter Jenniskens at NASA Ames Research Center were the first to announce that the Earth was on a collision course with a number of dusty debris trails shed by comet LINEAR which would cause an outburst of meteor activity. Their findings have since been independently confirmed by two meteor experts.
Jeremie Vaubaillon, of The Institut de Mecanique Celeste et de Calcul des Ephemerides in France, notes that: “So far,given the observations, we estimate a ZHR (zenithal hourly rate) of 100/hr to 400/hr, which is an excellent outburst! But this shower can become an exceptional one. Indeed, given the current orbit of the comet, all the trails ejected between 1803 and 1924 do fall in the Earth’s path in May 2014! As a consequence, this shower might as well be a storm.”
Another reputable meteor scientist, Mikhail Maslov of Russia, has made a “very cautious” estimate for a ZHR of 100/hr, but with the disclaimer: “It is difficult to estimate expected intensity of the outburst due to the lack of past observed cases of activity from the given comet meteor shower, as well as due to very small size of the comet itself and unknown level of its past activity … and it is very possible that real activity will turn to be much higher, which may have some saying, god forbid. Storm levels are also far from being excluded.”
Turning back to this weekend’s celestial event, you’ll want to know the best way to watch the Orionid meteor shower. All that is really necessary is to simply find a nice, dark place, with no street lights and as few trees as possible, and look up. The streaks could be anywhere in the sky, though they’ll all appear to come from the direction of Orion, which should be visible from any place with a clear sky and clear weather. If you want specifics, the Orion is in the northern hemisphere. But like I’ve said a clear unobstructed view to the sky will suffice.
On May 6, 2014, at a point 0.969 astronomical unit from the Sun and with Earth not far away, our earth will undergo a similar visit like this weekend’s from the heavens. This time however, predictions suggest we’ll be experiencing a powerful meteor storm. It would be interesting to know just what astrologers think about this upcoming event. Hopefully, this brief analysis will motivate you to take a look on your own. Perhaps by so doing, you can begin to truly demystify and debunk present beliefs that claim astrology is a pseudo-science.
Afterall, for more than five millenniums astrology was first among a list of prominent subjects that rounded out traditional scholarly study; wouldn’t it be great for students and educators alike if it were returned to the respectability it once enjoyed.