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INFOMAN

SUN

Astronomy

Although over 1,000 stars are known to lie within 43 light years of the Sun, historically it has never been classified as a part of a constellation. These were first designated by the ancients using a line-of-sight method of compilation, at a time when it was assumed that the Earth was the centre of the Universe and the Sun the most important object in the Heavens. It was not recognised as being a star but was regarded as unique.
The Sun is burning at 5,800C on its surface, yet its corona, or the flaring of its upper atmosphere, has temperatures of 1.6m C. Areas of the Sun of more than 60,000 miles can heat up or cool down significantly in a few minutes. It is 1.3 million times larger than Earth by volume.
The Sun, as with all other stars, is not stationary. A collection of stars, including our Sun, move around the centre of our galaxy, some having been captured from star clusters rotating about the Milky Way. Some of these, such as Barnard's Star, travel at high speeds in other directions to the common path. Our Sun has completed its own 220-million year orbit around the Galactic Centre, at a speed of about 240km per second, 20 times or so since its formation.
It came into being 4.5 billion years ago, probably in a nearby supernova explosion, formed from interstellar dust which originated from the nebula thrown from the death of previous stars. The Sun is therefore probably a fourth or fifth generation star.
In another 5 billion years it will swell up to become a red giant, engulfing the planets Mercury, Venus and Earth. Most of the planets found in close orbits to their central stars in other galaxies would also become engulfed when their star turns into a red giant, causing the red giant to orbit faster than those not containing ex- planets.
The latest calculations suggest that the distance from the Sun to the Galactic Centre is 23,000 light years (this is less than previously thought and also makes the Milky Way 15% smaller than previously calculated).
The Sun makes up 99.8% of all the matter in our solar system. Its magnetic fields, 4,000 times more powerful than those of the Earth, reverse polarity every 11 years, so completing its polarity cycle every 22 years. It emits radiation of radio and X-ray frequencies as well as sound and immense waves of gravity.
The Sun is on average between 92,955,900 and 94,509,400 miles away from Earth. The distance from the centre of Earth to the centre of Sun is used as a unit of measurement named an Astronomical Unit, and this was defined in 1938 as 92,955,807 miles. A solar day is equivalent to 25 Earth days.
If the Sun were to be switched off it would be 8 minutes 17 seconds before we were plunged into darkness. However, light at the Sun's core takes a million years just to reach its surface. To get to Saturn would take a solar ray one and a half hours. A Light Year, a measurement first introduced in March 1888, is the distance travelled by light (186,282.397 miles per second, or about 300,000 kilometres per hour) in one tropical year (365.24219878 mean solar days at January 1900, 0.12 hours ET), and is equivalent to 5,878,499,814,000 miles.
In 1998 a new type of solar activity was discovered on its surface. Earth-sized explosions, up to 3,000 at a time, equivalent to 100 million tons of TNT, are bubbling across the surface of the Sun, and tornadoes as wide as the Earth have been observed at both solar poles, travelling at 300,000 mph (560 miles per second). Loops of magnetic energy are thrown out from its surface into space, and then curved back together again, releasing vast amounts of energy. These could be causes of the solar winds and flares that at times disrupt our computers and communications. Solar explosions can be predicted by a sigmoid, an S-shaped structure that appears on the Sun's surface prior to an explosion. These sigmoids may be caused by the development of a twisted solar magnetic field. They were responsible for wiping out the atmosphere of Mercury, which is now bathed in radiation. Earth would have suffered the same fate had it not had its own protective magnetic field.
Evidence collected at the start of the 21st Century suggests that the Sun, not fossil fuels, may be the cause of global warming. The European Space Agency satellite Soho has gathered data suggesting that solar energy surges are creating more Ultra-Violet light, while the strength of the Sun's magnetic field has doubled, preventing cloud formation, and resulting in higher Earth temperatures.

The Sun's Galaxy

The Sun appears from the Earth to travel 360 in one year. The nearest star to Earth after the Sun is Proxima Centauri, discovered in 1915, 4.225 light years away.
Over half of all stars are now known to be double or multiple star systems. As far as we know, the Sun is a single star system, although in theory it could have a distant companion star. In fact, this would explain the periodic mass extinctions that seem to occur ever 26 million years. Hypothetically named Nemesis, after the goddess who reduced the rich and powerful to size, this second star would need to have an elongated orbit taking it up to 2 light years away. It would be visible to us only as a very faint star, its proximity revealed by a tiny proper motion, and would be practically undetectable since no one would know where to look.
Light from the Galactic Centre (at 26 50' Sagittarius in 1998 and moving roughly 8' every decade) takes 27,700 years to reach Earth (the Galactic Centre's present distance from the end of the observable universe is 14,000 million light years). Our view through the plane to the Galactic Centre is obscured, but a picture is being built up through infrared and radio wavelength studies. In 1997 astronomers at the University of California announced the discovery, made in mid-September using the Hubble space telescope, of the Pistol Star located at the Galactic Centre. A hot gas cloud called Sagittarius A containing a star cluster of 2.5 million stars has this intense radio source officially called Sagittarius A* (pronounced "A-star"), brighter than 10 million Suns, at its centre. Millions of times more massive than the Sun, it is a massive black hole, the largest known star in the universe. At the time of the announcement (7 October 1997, 1929 PDT, Los Angeles CA), the Moon was at 26 Sagittarius.
Our galaxy, the Milky Way, is part of a spiralling collection of 10 billion galaxies. It is classified 'Sb' (spiral with medium nucleus and moderately tight arms). Its arms are a mixture of short segments and long spiral arms, and contain O and B type stars. The Sun is in the inner edge of the Orion Arm (or Local Arm), one of the shorter arms. On its inside lies the Sagittarius Arm, while outside it lies the Perseus Arm, a full arm, the first to be seen when its stars were plotted in 1951.
The Galactic Centre is itself orbiting a Super Galactic Centre which is at approximately 1 35' Libra (1 5' 1950, 1 33' 1983). We orbit it at a mean distance of 29,700 light years with an orbital eccentricity of 0.07. Our Solar System is thought to be around 4,530 million years old, one third the age of the universe. It is a "second generation" system, developed from gases and dust produced as clouds by the "first generation" system. It may have been triggered by a nearby supernova explosion, as has been suggested from analysis of isotopes in some meteorites.
The furthest known galaxy, regarded as the grandfather of all galaxies, is CAS Fl0214+4724, some 13,000 million light years away. It is 30,000 times more brilliant than the Milky Way. If it were 2 million light years away it would be as bright as a full Moon. In 1998, it was announced that the Infrared Space Observer had discovered more new galaxies 10,000 million light years away.

Sunspots

The photosphere of the Sun can contain dark markings of between a few hundred miles and several times the size of the Earth across, called sunspots, from which flux flows from one to another. A Jesuit astronomer, who contacted Kepler and Galileo with his find, first noticed sunspots in 1612. These "blemishes", caused by distortions in the Sun's magnetic field, knocked a hole in the prevailing view that the Sun and the heavens were perfect, and therefore helped the passage of Copernican theories into acceptance.
These magnetically-induced spots are about 2,000 C cooler than the surrounding photosphere and last from a few hours to several months in the case of larger sunspots. They generate a "solar wind" of charged particles, which can affect Earth's atmosphere. The solar wind was found in 1960 by the Imp satellite to have a fourfold rotating sector structure. Solar wind flows along one sector, and back via another. The sunspot cycle has approximately 11 years between successive maxima or minima and reached the peak of its current cycle in 2000. At the time of its peak, once every 22 years, the Sun's magnetic poles are reversed. During minimum years, days and weeks can pass without the appearance of a sunspot, as happened between the years 1645 and 1715 (The "Maunder Minimum"). Plasma, the matter of the Sun, takes 2-3 days to reach Earth, and can circulate from the Sun as far as Pluto before returning to its source. It streams away from the Sun at nearly 1.9 million mph, accelerated by "surfing" waves in the Sun's atmosphere, becoming heated and accelerating into space as they spiral around magnetic field lines.
Until recently mankind was indifferent to the state of the solar cycle. However, the development of technological dependence, which is vulnerable to solar damage, has created a greater risk, and accordingly methods of tracking solar storms have come into being.
In 1951 RCA set up a commission to discover the cause of these sunspots, already known as an annoying source of radio interference. John H Nelson discovered that sunspots occurred whenever two or more of the planets Mars, Jupiter and Saturn were in conjunction, opposition or square, and was able to predict sunspots with ninety per cent accuracy. On 9 November 1999 the United States National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) launched a satellite called ACE, which will orbit Earth at a distance of a million miles, giving early warning of the approach of charged particles emitting from the Sun, so that satellite operators have notice to shut down communications satellites at risk, and power companies can take protective action.
Links have been noted between the sunspot cycle and the cycle of wars, revolution and mass unrest over the last 2,500 years. A link between sunspot activity and earthquakes has existed for the past 581 years. Connections with social anthropology have also been made. Incidentally, the greatest incidence of UFO sightings also occurs at times of highest sunspot activity. Some astronomers believe that Earth's climatic changes are due to sun spot activity, rather than global warming. Many American economists also believe there to be a strong connection between sunspots and stock market behavior, and some leading astrologers have researched this subject in recent years.

Mythology

The sigil for the Sun represents the circle of spirit containing the pivotal point of our consciousness: . The circle is also the symbol for infinity, without beginning or end, and the dot represents the point from which all light emanates.
In mythology the Sun is personified in virtually every culture as the all-pervading creative power in Nature, the masculine principle of fatherhood and authority. Awe and respect for this source of energy, light, heat and growth contrasted with the feared death-like cold and darkness of the night, naturally leading to widespread Sun-worship. The Sun was Brahma to the Hindus, Mithra to the Persians, Aton and Amun-Ra to the Egyptians, Bel to the Chaldeans, Adonai to the Phoenicians, Yod to the Hebrews, Hu to the Druids, Quetzalcoatl to the Aztecs and Sol to the Latins. The Greeks considered Apollo to be the god of solar light, and gave Apollo rulership of Gemini, but the Sun itself was personified by the special divinity, Helios. The first day of the week, Sunday, is named after its planetary ruler, the Sun.
Although it was popularly assumed and strongly defended until the Middle Ages that the Earth was at the centre of our Solar System, Aristarchus of Samous (b. 310 BC) described the visible Solar System as we know it, with the Sun at the centre and the visible planets in correct order with the Moon as our satellite.

Astrology

Despite being a minor star in an obscure corner of the Milky Way, one of perhaps 100,000 million stars in that one galaxy alone, the Sun is the most important body in astrology, because it is the centre of our Solar System. The Sun is our sole source of light and warmth, and sustains all life within it.
In astrology, the Sun is grouped as one of the planets, though of course it is actually not a planet at all, but a star. It represents the conscious element in our selves, and provides an index of the creative self-expression and integration of the personality. It symbolises the life force, the core of the individual; the ego; what we are at heart and what we are trying to achieve; our vitality, desires, destiny; the urge to power, recognition, honour and acclaim. It is the active life force, trying to develop all potential and available resources, sustained by the will to live. It works most profoundly on the cognitive left-side brain.
The left brain organises and structures information within a linear conceptual frame of reference, and in March 1992 was revealed to have been specially designed for language. This rational logical activity is the masculine or Yang polarity area of verbal, analytical, intellectual thinking. The Sun is Lord of the Day, ruling the day houses, and has rulership of Leo, both in traditional and esoteric astrology.
Detractors often point to the distance and lack of size of Pluto, our solar system's most distant planet, and contrast the importance accorded it by astrologers as evidence of its flawed ideology. Yet, since all the planets in our solar system are orbiting the Sun, and are held in place and controlled by its gravitational pull, the Sun is involved when we consider the effect of any planet, including Pluto, whether it is making an aspect to the Sun at that time or not, and as such the Sun must be considered the most important of all the "planets" in astrology. Pluto's vast distance vividly illustrates the immense influence of the Sun's gravitational field. We on Earth cross the paths of all the lines of radius vector to the outer planets. Perhaps the tropical astrological effect comes from the piece of string rather than the conker tied to the end.
Sun characteristics can relate to the way in which we present our conscious selves to the world. The Sun can be seen also as the transmitter through which the infinite primal energy of the universe reaches us. Planets in aspect to the Sun are greatly energised, infused and given initiative by its creative force.

Heliocentric Astrology

In heliocentric astrology, the Sun is drawn at the centre of the chart, and all aspects are shown relative to its, not the Earth's position. The inner planets Venus and Mercury can therefore form any aspect, unlike in normal geocentric astrology, where they will always be in a sign close to that of the Sun. Inevitably, Earth appears in this chart at the opposite degree to that which the Sun occupies in a normal topocentric chart.
Solar Returns
Every year the Sun returns to the same degree, minute and second that it occupied at the moment of our birth, completing a cycle, as seen from Earth. This always happens within a day of our birthday because a solar year is nearly equal to our calendar year. A chart can be cast for this Solar Return and will provide an overview of the following annual cycle. Each year the MC will jump ahead 3 signs and usually fall back a few degrees. As the MC slips back in the zodiac, as Mary Shea has pointed out, it causes the Sun to shift counter-clockwise through the houses. Consequently, the Sun jumps three houses clockwise in each successive solar return while slipping counter-clockwise very slowly through the angular houses into the succeedent and then cadent houses. This process of clockwise rotation and counter-clockwise slippage creates a 33 year cycle, at which point the (unrelocated) solar return angles should closely resemble those in the natal chart.

The Mid-Heaven

The point of the Zodiac where the upper meridian intersects the Ecliptic (its culminating degree) is the Mid-Heaven (Medium Coeli, or M.C.), and is where the Sun reaches its highest point in the sky when it is in the south. This will define local noon to the observer. The MC is a very important point in astrology, though its use has been called into a question, because the MC in a chart not set for midday has very little astronomical significance.
For example, in the Astrological Journal (Vo. 40, No. 2, pp 58-9), Mike Hermes writes, "Through a 24-hour period the line of the Zodiac (Ecliptic) in the sky will rise and fall. This is especially visible when studying the motion of the Moon and planets at night. During this period the Ecliptic will reach its highest elevation when the Gemini/Cancer cusp is overhead. For any moment in time the highest point of the Zodiac in the sky is halfway between the Ascendant and Descendant, i.e. the 10th House cusp of the Equal House system. This has been stated in many astrological works including Margaret Hone's Modern Text Book of Astrology first printed in 1951...
"I have not been able to get a clear picture of the origin of the use of the MC/IC axis in astrology. Porphyry, 232-304 CE, was one of the first to propound its use. Porphyry simply divided each of the unequal quadrants into three equal spaces. Since then there have been many methods propounded for the division of the unequal quadrants. I can't help feeling that the importance of a point due south is somehow a residue of solar clocks that worked on a shadow cast by a marker stuck vertically in the ground, and stems from a time when most charts were drawn for points near the equator."

Last updated 02 December 2003