On 1 November 1977 at 1000 PST, at the Palomar Observatory in Pasadena CA, Charles T Kowal (b. 8 November1940, Buffalo NY) discovered Chiron, the first known example of what we now refer to as Centaurs, using the Schmidt telescope. The term "Centaurs" came about because Chiron's "half-comet, half-asteroid" characteristics reminded Kowal of these mythological half-man half-beast creatures. 

Provisionally called 1977 UB, this new and, at the time, unique object in the sky was between Saturn and Uranus, at 3° 8’ Taurus. It was found to have a diameter of 93-250 miles and its orbit had an inclination of 6.9°. It crossed the orbit of Saturn, approaching that of Jupiter and extending outwards almost to the orbit of Uranus. Its distance from the Sun was found to vary from between 8.5 and 18.9 AU, and its mean revolution period was 50.7 years, varying between 49-51 years.

Its highly eccentric orbit (0.3786) is greater than that of any other planet, including Pluto, so that it could spend 7-9 years in the signs of Pisces or Aries, and then only 1-2 years in Virgo or Libra. It spends half its time beyond Saturn, reaching aphelion near the orbit of Uranus in Aries, and half its time within Saturn’s boundary, reaching perihelion in Libra near the orbital path of Jupiter.

In 1660 BC it approached Saturn at a distance of 9.94 million miles, not far beyond the orbit of Saturn’s outermost moon, Phoebe, which it resembles, and probably then established its present orbit pattern in a slingshot encounter effect. Had it gone much closer, it could have ended up as one of Saturn’s moons, just as Phoebe herself may have done.

In November 1987, having just gone retrograde at around 28° Gemini, it began to brighten as it came nearer to the Sun and New Scientist reported (May 1989) that “A rather faint fuzzy patch of light to the south-east of Chiron was discerned at Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona during April 1989” - this was a coma about 5 seconds of arc across, half a magnitude greater than the brightening that was anticipated as Chiron approached perihelion. The coma of dust was unable to form a true cometary tail due to low temperature and high gravity, but did establish Chiron as being cometary in nature. This was despite its seeming too large to be a comet of any known kind and having been discovered in the “wrong” part of the sky, and it has since been reclassified as a quasi-dormant comet by astronomers.

This discovery led to its size being re-evaluated to the lower end of the 93-250 mile range. It also showed that Chiron is relatively young by cometary standards, or its outer layers would by now have been worn away, as has happened in the cases of the outer satellites of Jupiter and Saturn. Astronomers had long suspected that some asteroids could be inert, dormant or expired comets, and the discovery of Chiron’s cometary activity provided evidence of a comet entering its dormant phase. Giotto’s pictures of Halley’s Comet’s nucleus reinforced the hypothesis.

When it was first discovered, much of the American press mistakenly assumed Chiron to be the tenth planet. This obviously led to much astrological speculation, hence its inclusion in many American ephemeredes and astrology computer programs. As a result it is widely used by astrologers here and abroad who are unaware of its true nature, many of whom discount the effects of asteroids and comets, and have therefore been fooled into using Chiron, and yet are no doubt getting from it worthwhile results.

Chiron last came to perihelion on 14 July 1996 (9° 30’ Libra), when it was about 789 million miles from the Sun. When last at aphelion, 7 December 1970 (5° 57’ Aries), it was 1,739 million miles from the Sun. Its orbit may not be stable as no two are the same. In the future it may be hurled towards the Sun to break up in a dazzling fireball, or be expelled from the Solar System to spin towards infinity. Although Chiron has a surface layer which seems to vaporizes near perihelion like a comet, it could still be asteroidal, as Ceres, the largest asteroid, and Phobos, one of Mars’ two moons, are thought to display the same behaviour. Charles Kowal himself, Chiron’s discoverer, commented that Chiron was “Well, just Chiron!”


Kowal named Chiron after the first centaur in Greek mythology, a chthonic deity who symbolises the wisdom of nature and of the body itself. Chiron had the body and legs of a horse and the torso and arms of a man, and was the son of Saturn (Cronus) and the sea-nymph Philyra (daughter of Oceanus and Tethys) who considered him a monster. Apollo took him for the gods as a result of her pleas and she was turned into a lime tree. Chiron’s name means “hand-being”  (handyman, manual worker, craftsmen), and rather than being an academic he was a shaman, who taught warrior skills and horse riding, as well as the arts of healing. These included music, divination, prophecy, ethics and astrology, and were taught at his primitive earth dwelling in a cave beneath the summit of Mount Pelion, teaching each of his students one skill totally and just enough of the other for their survival. His pupils included Asclepius the physician, Jason the warrior and Achilles.

As reward for his services for the gods he became immortal, but then himself became accidentally wounded by one of his students, Heracles (Hercules to the Romans), from an arrow dipped in the Hydra’s blood. This was so poisonous that Chiron’s own healing skills could not cure him, and he was thereafter in perpetual pain. However, by trading places with Prometheus, who was imprisoned in Hades’ underworld Tartarus (with the help of Heracles’ mediations in some versions of the myth), and giving to Prometheus his immortality, he chose to die and end his suffering, while simultaneously freeing Prometheus from his. After nine days Zeus (Jupiter) immortalised him as the constellation Sagittarius. In Dante’s version, in his Inferno, Chiron becomes the keeper of the lake of boiling blood in Hell’s seventh circle. 

Chiron the Centaur came from another realm to teach, and left the human world when he had finished his teachings, just as Chiron the comet may have originated outside the Solar System and will eventually leave it.

There are three glyphs for Chiron. The first referred to Sagittarius, but the most popular shows a circle surplanted with the letter K. The K stands both for Chiron and its discoverer Charles Kowal, who is said to have Chiron on the Midheaven of his natal chart, though his time of birth does not appear to be generally available. The glyph resembles a key above the circle of spirit, with the potential to unlock and open doors.


Chiron entered into human consciousness as it was approaching 4° Taurus. It has been pointed out that the Sabian Symbol for this degree is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, and its phrase is, “Riches that come from linking the celestial and the earthly nature”. Chiron was also in Taurus at the times that both Uranus and Pluto were discovered.

Chiron is closely linked mythologically with Sagittarius, whose symbol is that of a centaur bearing an arrow, which is said to be pointing to 26.5° Sagittarius, the Galactic Centre. This is also the degree that is rising in Chiron’s discovery chart (set for Pasadena CA), thus emphasising Chiron’s inter-galactic and extra-terrestrial connections, and linking it to the widespread 20th century preoccupation with UFOs, extra-terrestrial life, inter-dimensional contacts and aliens from outer space. At the start of the new millennium Chiron and Pluto, both undiscovered less than a century before, were at conjunction in Sagittarius, whose esoteric ruler is Earth.

Had Chiron been identified initially as a comet, most astrologers would have been unlikely to research it at all; it is typically Chironian that incorrect information should lead to valuable findings. Some astrologers reject the use of Chiron altogether, either because they believe it can have no effect or because they believe it to be too soon for us to understand the nature of its influences. Others, such as Melanie Reinhart, Demetra George, Robert von Heeren and Dieter Koch, have published books or articles detailing the results of their researches and consider it quite vital to a comprehensive chart interpretation. They claim it provides information that cannot be discovered from the chart in any other way. Work regarding Chiron in astrology so far has focused on the mythological Chiron, the Wounded Healer, and while that has been found to be highly relevant, as with any other body it is not the whole story. A Chironic view of life, according to the astrologer Dennis Elwell, for example, is that it is a hazardous journey in which daunting tests have to be faced and passed to win the prize at the end. The jauntiness natural to Chiron comes out strongly in the new psychotherapy, he says, because it has been found that well-adjusted people usually hold beliefs about themselves that are better than the reality. The optimists are deluded and it is the pessimists who hold the accurate world perspective; in depression we lose the ability to see ourselves through rose-tinted spectacles. 

One of the main principles of Chiron revolves around the resolution of suffering, non-suffering and unsuffering, defined by Alan Candlish as having given up suffering (and thus ego/personality), surrendering ourselves entirely to creation (God). These areas could include the suffering of growing up; accepting pain and waking up to it; sharing suffering with others; handing up our suffering and exploring our own darkness.

Keywords and phrases for Chiron include the maverick; gambling; anybody can do anything; the trickster; audacity; roguishness; emotional, spiritual, physical and sexual healing; alternative therapy; ecology; animal welfare; education; knowledge-holding; training for life; jumping in at the deep end; height psychology; key; zeitgeist; spirit of the age. It also includes Superman; who dares wins; precipitation and eruption; the shaman or witch-doctor; giant killer or vampire slayer; demon-angel; the angel of the ludicrous; collective and historical trends pertaining to a period; lateral thinking; hero activity; rejection; disability; holistic health and education. 

Chiron teaches us that facing up to the truth of self is the start of healing, and is the wounder within ourselves as well as the wounded healer.

Since Chiron is found at the orbit of the transpersonal planet Uranus, but approaches that of Jupiter, a personal planet, it acts both as an intermediary between different realms and as a link between the Solar System and the rest of the Milky Way. It links the known (Saturn) and the unknown (Uranus); dodging between order, stability and limitation (Saturn) and anarchic individuality (Uranus). Chiron could either be a co-ruler of Sagittarius or Virgo - or it could, as a comet, rule nothing. It is thought to be exalted in Virgo, in detriment in Gemini, and in fall in Pisces.

The chart placement of Chiron can indicate a review of cycles of experience. For those with Chiron in the signs between Aries and Virgo, when it is beyond the realms of Saturn, it acts as transpersonal planet, while for those with Chiron in Libra to Pisces it becomes a personal planet. When an outer planet, its sign placement is more generational, whereas its house position is personal. Therefore, in interpretation, Chiron in the signs Aries to Virgo should be looked at first by house, since this will determine, for example, the kind of wound, and any benefit arising from it. With Chiron in the 7th house for example, emotional wounding could be in the area of relationships with others, whereas in the 2nd house the general feel could be described as “beam me up, Scotty!” Then should be considered, according to Melanie Reinhart, its sign, aspects, dispositor (including final dispositor, if there is one), ruler of its house, and any midpoint pictures. For those with Chiron in Libra to Pisces the sign and house can be given equal emphasis.

Chiron represents a spirit of philosophical independence, compassion and a sense of trust in our inner selves, and its discovery in 1977 is associated with the rapid spread of psychological counselling and therapy. Chiron is a knowledge holder who transmits higher teachings, either as an outer teacher (Saturn) or as an inner teacher or spirit guide (Uranus) to those who wish to discover a deeper purpose in life.

If Melanie Reinhart and others are right about the potent and profound effects of Chiron in the horoscope this poses the question, what if Chiron had become captured by an outer planet, such as Saturn, and had instead become a moon, like Phoebe? Would it have been prevented from having any influence by virtue of not being in orbit around the Sun? If so, on the same grounds, we would have to discount our Moon. If it continued to have effect, that effect would be perceived by us as being part of the whole of Saturn’s, and our reading of Saturn would perhaps more resemble that of a Saturn/Chiron conjunction, as has happened in the case of Pluto and its captured planetoid Charon.



Chiron was the first of a new type of comet to be discovered, a type now called Centaurs. These were part of the original molecular cloud that became our Solar System some 4.5 billion years ago. As they are in the same state now as they when the Solar System arose, they now comprise its most primitive objects. Many were expelled by the effects of Jupiter and Saturn into the Oort Cloud, but some, typically with enormous nuclei, far larger than in other comets, remain in the Kuiper Belt. It now seems that Pluto may belong to this class of object, and been the first of these to be seen. There is also evidence that Saturn's moon Phoebe may be a captured Centaur. Like Pluto, a Centaur will typically have an icy surface, usually bearing large amounts of water ice.

The name "Centaur" was proposed by the Minor Planet Center to refer to objects that have a perihelion beyond the orbit of Jupiter and with a semimajor axis inside the orbit of Neptune. The Centaur class of body was established with the discovery of the second Chiron-like object, Damocles (1991 DA), which orbits in the same general region as Chiron. Damocles is a lump of rock reflecting little light, 10 miles across, discovered in 1991. It used to cross Earth’s orbit and may well again in a few thousand years. It is tilted at over 60° to the main plane of the planetary system. Its 41-year orbit, constantly changing because of the pull of gravity, is more eccentric, and it crosses Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus, spending most of its time beyond Jupiter, though at its closest approach to the Sun it is near Mars.

On 9 January 1992, a second companion to Chiron, Pholus (1992 AD), was discovered in the outer Solar System, tentatively classified, like Chiron, as an icy sub-dwarf. This has now been given minor planet number 5145. Although near its perihelion, it had no comet-like coma. Its 120 mile wide surface does appear red; only Mars and Amalthea, a moon of Jupiter, are redder. It has been identified on photographs going back 15 years, and has a 93-year, unstable orbit which crosses those of Saturn, Uranus and Neptune (9-30 AU from the Sun), thus challenging Chiron as the most atypical of planetoids. It shows signs of extensive ammonia coverage and possibly water ices. One likely theory is that it is a comet nucleus that could not become a comet. A fourth centaur, 1993 HA2 (discovered 26 April 1993, 0645:46 UT, Kitt Peak, Tucson AZ), was officially named Nessus on 22 April 1997 (at 2210 UT, Cambridge MA, fact fiends).

Between 60 and 100 Centaurs had been provisionally identified by August 2005. Some, such as 1999 TD10 which was given asteroid number 29981, were to be re-classified as a Kuiper Belt Object because their elongated orbits disqualified their inclusion, but others like Elatus (1999 UG5), which was found the following day in 1999, did qualify as centaurs. Three of these had been given names by 2000: Asbolus (# 8405), Chariklo (# 10199), and Heracles. Another (1995 DW2) had first been given a minor planet number (10370), but subsequently became named Hylonome. 1998QM107 received the minor planet number 49036.

Preliminary indications from the Hubble space telescope suggest that there may be between 800 and 6,400 more of these Centaurs within the Kuiper Belt, extending beyond the orbit of Neptune.

Chariklo only has about three per cent of its surface covered by water ice, the rest being a very dark material, possibly similar to that forming carbonaceous chondrite meteorites, which are regarded as being representative of very early stages in Solar System history. Some carbon compounds can mimic terrestrial organic compounds, so the surface of Chariklo may throw light on the processes that led to life on Earth. 

2000 QB43 has its North node in Pisces and comes to perihelion in Aquarius, during its period of over 204 years. Bienor (2000 QC243) has both node and perihelion contacts in Pisces, and has a 66 year orbit. At the time of its naming in 2004 it was at 13 Pisces 34. Its node is at 7 Pisces 54 and at perihelion will be at 12 Leo 54. 2000 SN331 has its node in Gemini and is at perihelion in Scorpio on its 76 year orbit.

Thereus (2001PT13), found in 2001 when it was retrograde in Pisces, was the 31st known Centaur, and was found to have a 34.68-year orbit, a North Node of 25 Libra 18 and at perihelion is at 22 Capricorn 12. Centaur 2001KF77 was discovered on a photographic plate on May 22nd and announced a few weeks later when it was new to the sign of Scorpio. Though its orbital data was not yet calculable, its Node was at 15 Aries 24, and it had a perihelion tentatively put at 6 Leo 54. 2001SQ73 was found at a similar time, with a Node also in Aries. 2002 VQ94 has a highly eccentric orbit (0.6621) and is inclined at an extreme 68.62 degrees. Its node is at 3 Taurus 51.


Chiron was said to be the first Centaur, or “tamer of the bull”. These have the body and legs of a horse and the torso and arms of a man. Chiron was the king of the Centaurs, and was the wisest and most just of them. The Centaurs were an ancient race, inhabiting Mount Pelion in Thessaly, part of the cortege of the wine god Dionysius, and sometimes said to have been the offspring of Ixion and a cloud.  They were often represented in Greek art drawing the chariot of Dionysus. The Centaurs are instinctive and primal beings whose responses show heightened physical senses. They are variously described as vicious, rude, base, barbaric, savage, gross, lecherous, inhospitable and prone to drunkenness. Sometimes they are depicted as being bound and ridden by Eros, the god of love, an allusion to their libidinous conduct. Their general character was of a wild, lawless, and inhospitable nature; slaves to their animal passions. Though their good points are few, they are one of the few monsters of antiquity to have any good sides at all. They were gods of light and they occasionally enjoyed the companionship of man.

Damocles (born 370? BC) was a courtier of Dionysius the Elder, of Syracuse in Sicily. Horace and Cicero relate that when Damocles commented on the grandeur and happiness of rulers Dionysius later invited him to a luxurious banquet. Damocles was enjoying the feast when his attention was directed upward to a sharp sword hanging above him by a single horsehair. Damocles learned Dionysius’ lesson that insecurity threatens those who appear most fortunate.

Pholus (meaning “read”) was born to Silenus by an ash-nymph. Famed for his wisdom, he once entertained Heracles, a lion-skinned mortal tutored by Chiron, providing wine from the Centaurs’ original supply from Dionysius. It was during the following fight, using rough branches of trees as weapons when the Centaurs discovered the loss of the wine, that Chiron received the wound to his knee that left him howling in pain in his cave.

In a variant of this myth, the Centaurs became drunk at the wedding of Pirithous, son of Ixion, and tried to make off with his bride. Then they lost the ensuing battle with the Lapiths and were driven from Mount Pelion, with many Centaurs slain. Pholus himself died after examining a poison arrow belonging to Heracles while burying his slain kinsmen. He was later buried with honour by Heracles, at the foot of the mountain which now bears his name.

It was Asbolus who led the other Centaurs on the charge to taste this wine; having become intoxicated, through his acute sense of smell, by the aroma of the sacred wine, irreligiously opened. Normally he was a wise seer, counselling his peers, who took no notice, against unwise activities. On this occasion, having failed to take his own advice, he came to his demise.

Nessus (meaning “young bird or animal”) carried travellers across the river Evenus for a stated fee (a parallel with Charon). Heracles put his wife into the charge of Nessus as he crossed this river, but Nessus tried to make off with her. Heracles, hearing her cries as she was being violated, shot him through the heart. Before dying, Nessus advised Dejanira, the wife, to keep a portion of his spilled blood, claiming she could sprinkle it as a charm on Heracles’ robes to keep her him faithful, though actually it was a poison (when she later followed his instruction it led to both their deaths).



If the proponents of the use of Chiron in a chart are correct in their assumptions and claims, one wonders what the newly discovered centaurs such as Asbolus, Damocles, Pholus and Nessus, plus the short-period comets and asteroids (particularly those beyond Pluto), would also bring to our horoscope understanding. Apart from Melanie Reinhart, Phillip Sedgwick and a few other astrologers most have been slow to study these new bodies, although logically they can be no more or less valid than Chiron.

Pholus may have qualities similar to a Saturn/Neptune combination, whereas Nessus has a Saturn/Pluto - Venus/Pluto blend. Many are reddish in colour, which to a traditional astrologer would have suggested Mars-like qualities. The role of Asbolus may be to remind us of our intuitive powers, and to get us out of potentially dangerous situations early.

Writing in The Galactic Times (October 23 2000) of 2000 QB43, 2000 QC243 (Bienor) and 2000 SN331, Phillip Sedgwick said, “First, the last of the three Centaurs (2000 SN331) combines the surface stirring inquisitiveness of Gemini with depth probing, find the belch in the belly, Scorpionic traits. The quest of questioning fills the air. One thing here, though. When you ask a question and get an answer, will you accept the answer you get? When probing the Great Mystery, perhaps it's not a good idea to second-guess. More than likely some answers will disturb your psyche. But that would be the point. Unsettle lodged memories, patterns and pains to allow them to drift toward the surface breaking their bubble at the top of the waters of feeling.

“Given the above question and answer session, the use of 2000 QC243 (Bienor) with both critical orbit contacts in Pisces should help. This Centaur asks for compassion and understanding. Perhaps asking that you invoke these qualities exceeds your current ability. So be it. Simply do your best to invoke compassion and understanding with gentle acceptance only toward yourself. Done is done…Finally, 2000 QB243 offers a message of tolerance for those things different from ourselves. Perhaps we should strive to understand the animosity between Israel and Palestine...More importantly can we with non-judgment accept the views behind such acts? Can you accept that the United States is seen as a satanic force in the Middle East? Accepting it does not make it right, but it places a stone in the bridge crossing the gap of misunderstanding. Maybe concepts of money, God or relationships fit into the theme.”

Of Thereus in a later edition of the same newsletter Phillip Sedgwick wrote, “Here the theme of self assurance emerges with an object early in the deeply transformational sign of the Scorpion. The implication seems to be one of not fretting over old self perceptions.”

The Centaurs are mostly as they were at the birth of the Solar System and travel between the personal and transpersonal realms. Therefore their role seems to be to connect us to our origins and our destiny, making a bridge between our humble primordial origins and the achievements of our highest selves. They remind us to trust our basic instincts and senses, and wallow in the glorious sensation of being alive.

They could also bring the connection between ourselves and our as yet undiscovered neighbours in space. Perhaps they bear the lesson that the human being is not at the top of the evolutionary pyramid.

Copyright © 1989-2005 [Laurence Upton]. All rights reserved.
Last updated: September 03, 2005