Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Down in dim woods the diamond delves

It's not my habit to read horoscopes, but as it's my time of the year my eye fell upon the featured advice for Virgos by the (London) Sunday Times astrologer Shelley von Strunckel:
In the run-up to the New Moon in your sign -- which takes place this Saturday -- you're likely to feel confused. Although you may not recognize how this is releasing you from restrictive situations -- personally, professionally and in close relationships -- that's what's going on...Keep your nerve, and when the stunning developments promised by early September's brilliant alliance between expansive Jupiter and canny Saturn, which is in Virgo, brings life-changing ideas, offer and opportunities, you'll be ideally positioned to make the best of them.
Now I know astrologers live in a sky all of their own, but what am I to make of this advice? OK, Saturday's new Moon is in Leo, not Virgo, but that's par for the astrologer's course; the fact that precession has shifted the Sun's circuit by a constellation since antiquity doesn't seem to bother them. And what's this alliance between Jupiter and Saturn? In Virgo? In early September, Jupiter is doing a bit of retrograde in Sagittarius, while Saturn is trucking along through Leo, a third of the way around the sky. It's clear I need a course in astrology.

I would have written:
In the run-up to Saturday's New Moon in Leo, you're likely to feel confused by Ms. von Strunckel's prognostications. Have a go instead at spotting the 75-hour-old Moon low in the southwest on September 2, to the left of Venus in the twilight. It won't be easy. This is the worst time of the year for new Moon spotting for observers in the northern hemisphere, so feel proud of yourself if you succeed. Observers south of the equator should have no trouble seeing a much thinner crescent on the evening of the 1st. Jupiter is fairly low in the south at dusk for northern observers, but still dominating the evening sky. Warm September nights are an ideal time to go star-watching with your sweetie. Sprawl on a blanket and let Jupiter be your guide. Saturn, alas, is in conjunction with the Sun in early September, and so unavailable. And speaking of romance, Mars, Venus and Mercury are tangled in a delightful menage a trois low in the western sky at sunset, but lost in the twilight for viewers in northern latitudes. If you live in southern climes, this will be a dance of planets not to be missed.
Polls show that half of Americans are open to astrological influences in their lives. It has always been a source of great mystery to me that people will take seriously the nonsense of horoscopes, yet won't step out the back door to observe the always changing delights of the real sky.