Micro-Lesson #9: The Sun's Journey

I had a strong feeling that my previous micro-lesson shocked some of you as it offered a scientifically-looking picture and a little bit of astronomical jargon. Not that it was really complex to any degree, but many people have some kind of mental block against anything looking technical and scientific.

Today I am going to ask you: if you have such a mental block, please forget about it for a moment. Imagine that you need to help your kid, or someone else's kid, to do his or her homework. In fact, kids are learning a lot more complex things at school.

To be a confident astrologer, you need to learn some basic astronomy. This will become your key to understanding many important concepts. You wouldn't believe how many well-educated and experienced astrologers are unsure about some crucial things, like parallel of declination, only because they shun basic astronomy. And you can't do Magi Astrology if you don't know parallels.

The knowledge of the previous two lessons can be summarised in a single sentence: there is ecliptic, which is the yearly path of the Sun among the stars, and there is celestial equator, which is a projection onto the sky of the Earth's equator, and they intersect in two points, the Vernal Equinox and the Autumnal Equinox.

Today we are going to travel with the Sun along the ecliptic, which is a journey taking a whole year. One day, the Sun will arrive at the point of Vernal Equinox. You've probably guessed that this happens each year around the 21st of March. Why "around"? Because the precise moment when the Sun crosses the equator, which astronomers can define precisely up to a split of a second, is slightly different each year. What's typical for the day when this event takes place? The length of the day is equal to the length of the night in both hemispheres. That's because the Sun is exactly on the equator, and so sends equal amounts of warmth and light to the North and to the South.

A similar situation occurs when the Sun reaches the point of Autumnal Equinox around the 22nd of September. But let's return to the 21st of April for now.

After crossing the celestial equator in the point of Vernal Equinox, the Sun continues to travel along the ecliptic, and so it enters the Northern Hemisphere of the sky. This means that the Sun is sending more of its energy to the North, and so in the Northern Hemisphere the days are becoming longer and longer while the nights are becoming shorter and shorter.

Around the 22nd of June the Sun will reach the point that is marked as "Summer Solstice" in the picture. That's when the day in the Northern Hemisphere is the longest while the night is the shortest; in the Southern Hemisphere it's the opposite.

I will leave it to you as a homework to trace the Sun's journey along the rest of the ecliptic, through the Autumnal Equinox and the Winter Solstice, again to the Spring Equinox.

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