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MARS 2003 PERIGEE AND MARS RETROGRADE

by Gary Brand - written August 19, 2003,
published in the September 2003 edition of Echo* newspaper
y now, you've heard all about it - from the conventional news media, from astronomers and from astrologers.  Anyone who is interested in our solar system and who is not living in a cave or on a mountain top knows by now that the planet Mars is making a relatively close approach to Earth (on August 28) as this issue of Echo* newspaper hits the newsstands.  The estimates as to how often such a close approach (called a "double" perigee in traditional astrology) to Earth happens - I've read from "more than 2,000 years" to 70,000 years - but we don't really know, for a certainty, precisely where Mars was in its orbit 70,000 years ago or where it will be that length of time in the future.  This is not because today's astronomers and astrologers don't have computers accurate enough to predict such an event in the distant past or future.  Rather, it is because a cosmic event such as the nearby passage of a rouge comet or a body as massive as a star or a large asteroid striking Mars could alter the orbit of Mars or Earth's orbit during such a large expanse of time.

Part of the hype of this exceptionally close minimal perigee is that such an event is so rare.  The truth of the matter is that Mars makes a very similar close approach to Earth every 79 years, the most recent examples being August 22, 1924, August 18, 1845 and August 13, 1766.  How do I know this?  Because I am writing a book on the astronomical periods of the planets and one of the phenomena that I am researching is the periodicity of Mars' perigees.  In fact, Mars reaches a perigee, on average, every 25.6 months but only every 79 years and only in August or early September does it make a minimal perigee.  The minimal perigee of Mars on August 28, 2003 is less than one twentieth of the average distance between the Earth and Moon closer to Earth than the 1924 minimal perigee - not a difference worth all the hype accompanying this event.  Since no great Martian calamities befell the Earth when Mars made minimal perigees in 1924, 1845 or 1766, it is reasonable to conclude that the effects of the minimal perigee this August will be no more remarkable than its predecessors.  The loop that Mars made in the sky at the time of this very close approach to Earth is shown below with the astronomical and astrological events of that period.

For the technically inclined among my readers, here is a key to the above graph:  <AS = less than average speed, >AS = greater than average speed, T = Sun trine Mars (there are two), SR = stationary retrograde, Q = Sun quincunx Mars (there are two), HGL = heliocentric greatest celestial latitude, GPL = geocentric peak celestial latitude, Pg = perigee (closest approach to Earth), Op = Sun opposite Mars, Ph = perihelion (closest approach to the Sun), and SD = stationary direct.


Hebes Chasma is a canyon on Mars that is almost 8,000 meters (1¼ miles) deep, where water is believed to have once flowed.  The dark blue area is the deepest part of the canyon.  This is a closeup of a portion of a 3-D image taken on September 16, 2005 by the European Mars Express spacecraft.  Courtesy of ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G. Neukum).
The biggest electrical blackout in U.S. history, which affected 50 million people on August 14, 2003, was unlikely associated with this close approach of Mars because Mercury, Uranus and the Sun are associated with electric power, not Mars.  However, this blackout was related to Saturn conjunct the Sun (power and control of power) in the U.S. chart and, interestingly, transiting retrograde Mars was in a maximum intensity square to Uranus (electricity) in the U.S. chart the day of the blackout!  So while the alignment of Mars at that time (it squares U.S. Uranus every year) was possibly a contributing factor or trigger of the blackout, the proximity of Mars to Earth was probably not a factor.

What we can expect from any retrograde Mars (it reaches perigee, labeled "Pg" on the above graph, while retrograde) is that activities and energies, both Mars keywords, will slow down.  This is undoubtedly uncomfortable for those accustomed to immediate gratification.  Because of the close proximity of Mars, this is an unusually short retrograde period, only from July 29 - September 27, though the effective period extends before and after this time frame.  In addition, Mercury is retrograde from August 28 - September 20 and we will feel the effects during all of August and September.

One thing I've noticed about this Mars retrograde period is that the Universe is tempting me to get angry and bent out of shape (Mars) about clients canceling at the last moment or not showing (both retrograde manifestations) for appointments.  It is rare for me to have a cancellation or no show but I had three in one week of August.  Although I couldn't help but get mildly upset, I remembered that everything in this world changes all the time and, happily, the only client who owed me money (several hundred dollars) paid me the same week!  Mars retrograde in Pisces has to do with trust and faith in our actions, despite appearances.  It is also an opportunity to make amends or atone for past actions about which we feel regret or remorse.  Our karmic chickens come back to roost and don't be surprised if you have to do something over again.  Fatigue is a consequence of Mars retrograde and, since this one is in Pisces, getting enough sleep is essential.  Pisces also rules nighttime dreams, which are likely to be more disturbing during this retrograde.  For some people, it could mean eluding an action they need to take, for others it could mean defending some spiritual principle.

During September, retrograde Mars forms an opposition to Jupiter from September 1 - 15.  This is a time of exaggeration, high expectations, the need for freedom, overestimation, and encouragement from our teachers.  It can mean enlightened self-interest by helping others in need and, in helping them, we help ourselves.  It can also mean good timing that results in success.  Mars is also conjunct Uranus from September 1 - October 4, which signifies a period of sudden surprises, impulsive behaviors, and events happening without warning.  Freedom and independence are paramount so resistance to U.S. control of Iraq will likely escalate.  That war for non-existent weapons of mass destruction is apparently not over.  Carelessness or rash actions can lead to accidents or electrical shocks that could have been avoided with caution and attention to detail.  Avoid driving while angry.  Try innovative or new approaches to solving old problems.
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*Echo is a monthly newspaper about community, the environment, health, cuisine, and spirituality that is distributed in central Virginia.
Good Timing and Location are Keys to Success

Gary Brand, Traditional Astrologer
Tallahassee, Florida
850-656-5758


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