The Planetary Zodiac
Definition: [Zodiacs] A band of the heavens approximately 34° wide, centered on the Ecliptic, against which the planets are seen to move, as seen from the Earth. In comparison, the Lunar Zodiac band is 10° wide.
The planet Pluto's path around the Sun is tilted at an angle of approximately 17° to the Ecliptic. This is the maximum orbital tilt of any planet. Hence Pluto, as it orbits the Sun, can be seen, from Earth, against any of the signs of this 34° band.
[Note: the only accurate feature of this drawing is the angles. The planets, stars and the distances are not to scale. Pluto is more than forty times further from the Earth than Venus usually is. And the stars much further still. If the distances to the stars were drawn to scale you would not be able to see the planets. But to illustrate the different width of the zodiac bands, as seen from Earth, all you need to see are the different angles.]
How does the Planetary Zodiac differ from the Solar Zodiac? It has many more signs. Because of their orbital tilts, the planets can be found up to a maximum of 17° either side of the Ecliptic. Hence, fairly frequently, they stray out of the thirteen signs of the Real Solar Zodiac into other signs [as does the Moon in the Lunar Zodiac.]
As Pluto has the largest tilt and it can pass in front of 29 signs in the night sky. Mercury and all the others are seen against 20 or less signs.
Examples of the Planetary Zodiac: Below are two examples of the Planetary Zodiac. One star chart is for the planet Mercury in Orion, the Hunter [30 Jun 1994] and the other for the planet Pluto in Serpens Cauda, the Serpents Tail [21 Jun 05].
Table of Planetary Zodiac Signs: There are 29 signs in the Planetary Zodiac. However, 4 of these, Coma Berenices, Leo Minor, Sextans and Scutum, are not the original constellations of Claudius Ptolemy, the Father of Astrology. 25 planetary constellations would have been seen by the Classical Greek astrologers.
Ptolemy mentions Coma Berenices, Berenice's Hair, in Tetrabiblos, but does not include it as a separate constellation in Al Amagest star catalogue, where the stars are considered part of Leo, the Lion.
Planetary Zodiac Star Charts: Below you can find two Zodiac Charts - covering the whole of the night sky - for the band of the Planetary Zodiac.
Star chart of the planetary zodiac looking towards the Vernal Equinox point. The curved line is the Ecliptic. The horizontal line is the Celestial Equator. Original Classical Greek signs are colored blue.
Star chart of the planetary zodiac looking away from the Vernal Equinox point. The curved line is the Ecliptic. The horizontal line is the Celestial Equator. Original Ancient Greek signs are colored blue. Leo Minor, the Lesser Lion, Sextans the Sextant and Scutum, the Shield, were not constellations recognized by the Greek originators of astrology. Coma Berenices, Berenice's Hair, is not a Ptolemy constellation, though it predates Ptolemy by several centuries and is mentioned by him in Tetrabiblos.
The Zodiac and Astrology:
© Dr Shepherd Simpson, Astrological Historian
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