small Sun photo

Black Chancery text

small blue Moon glyph


Sitemap Book Tour Astrology Astronomy Mythology Order Sample Readings Testimonials About Carl




Glossary Header Letter S



A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I-L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U-W  X-Z


Sabian Symbols: a collection of 360 oracular images, one for each degree of the zodiac, created in 1925 through the collaboration of the astrologer Marc Edmund Jones and the psychic Elsie Wheeler. They read like an astrological I-Ching.

Saros cycle: an eclipse cycle of 18 years 11 days and 8 hours, after which period both lunar and solar eclipses repeat themselves. Since the extra 8 hours in a Saros cycle equal 1/3 of a day, after an eclipse the next eclipse occurs either at the same location/longitude 18 years 11 1/3 days later, or at the same time 18 years 11 days later but 1/3 of the world away (since a day is literally one complete rotation of the Earth on its axis). Three complete Saros cycles (a period of exactly 54 years and 31 days known as the Triple Saros—exeligmos in Greek for "turn of the wheel") are therefore necessary for an eclipse to occur at the same time of day and at the same longitude. Thus by recording all eclipses in a 54-year period, early astronomers (or more precisely, their followers) could predict future eclipses with certainty. This was very important to the Babylonians and Assyrians who regarded lunar eclipses as evil omens.

Saros series: a series of 69-87 eclipses over 1200-1550 years each separated by one saros period of 18 years 11 1/3 days. Although 2-5 solar eclipses occur every year, only those separated by multiples of 18 years 11 days and 8 hours are in the same series. Thus about 40 different saros series are in progress all the time.

satellite: any object in orbit about a larger body, as distinct from a moon which formed with the planet about which it revolves and was not captured later.

scattered disk: a poorly understood and distant region of our solar system, sparsely populated by icy planetoids known as scattered disk objects, or SDOs. The inner portion of the scattered disk coincides with the Kuiper belt; but it extends much further from the sun and farther north and south of the ecliptic. Prevailing astronomical opinion is that it is comprised of Kuiper belt objects scattered by gravitational interactions with the outer planets, principally Neptune, into highly inclined and/or eccentric orbits. SDOs are thought to have unstable orbits, and are eventually ejected into the Oort cloud or entirely from the solar system. Sedna and the newly discovered and quickly demoted tenth planet Eris/Xena are SDOs.

SDO: a scattered disk object (see above).

second (''): a unit of angular measure equal to 1/60 of a minute of arc. A second (or arcsecond) is the apparent diameter of a dime as seen from 2.3 miles away. Since there are 60 angular minutes (') in one degree, and 60 angular seconds (") in one angular minute, there are thus 3600 seconds in one degree. As seen from the Earth, Saturn and Uranus have angular diameters of 20" and 3" respectively. The closest star to us, Alpha Centauri, and the brightest star in the sky, Sirius, both have angular diameters of 0.007". The fastest moving star, Barnard’s star, has a proper motion of 10.6"/year across the sky as seen from Earth.

semi-major: in 1605 Johannes Kepler discovered that all astronomical bodies that revolve around a parent body do so in elliptical orbits; the parent body is at one focus and the other focus is empty. An ellipse can be defined as the locus of all points the sum of whose distances from two fixed points (the foci) is constant. Or, an ellipse is an oval or a two dimensional egg. Its long dimension is its major axis; half of that (like the radius of a circle) is its semi-major axis. And half of its short dimension is its semi-minor axis. All planetary orbits are ellipses (Kepler); but Mercury’s and Pluto’s orbits differ significantly from a circle. And Sedna’s orbit is even far more elliptical than theirs.

semisextile: an aspect of 30°, or 1/12th of the circle. It unites signs with no natural relationship or connection. The semisextile indicates discord, necessity for adjustment, and/or a forced choice between two inharmonious conditions. Some astrologers attribute second house qualities of resources and values to it; orb 1.5- 2°.

semisquare: the 45° aspect, or 1/8th of the circle. It denotes tension, or a planetary function in the service of collective forces; orb 2- 2.5°.

separating: said of an aspect after it is exact, when its orb increases with time. A separating aspect is said to be weaker than an applying aspect.

septile: an aspect of 1/7th =51.43°, 2/7th (biseptile =102.86°) or 3/7th (triseptile =154.29°) of the circle. The septile aspect indicates one’s receptivity to inspiration, sacred and religious matters, creativity and children; orb 1.5°.

sesquiquadrate: a 135° aspect the semisquare or 8th harmonic family; 3/8th or 5/8th of the circle; crisis, resistance to challenge; orb 2- 2.5°.

Seven Sages of Greece: 6th century BC philosophers, law-givers and statesmen later renowned for their wisdom. They were Solon of Athens, a famous legislator and reformer who framed the laws shaping Athenian democracy: "Keep everything with moderation." Thales of Miletus, the first well-known philosopher and mathematician; his advice "Know thyself" was engraved on the front façade of the Oracle of Apollo in Delphi. Periander of Corinth: the tyrant of Corinth under whom Corinth knew a golden age of unprecedented stability: "Be farsighted with everything." Chilon of Sparta, a politician responsible for the militarization of Spartan society: "You should not desire the impossible." Pittacus of Mytilene, governed Lesbos and tried to reduce the power of the nobility and govern with the support of the popular classes: "You should know which opportunities to choose." Cleobulus of Lindos, a tyrant governing in Rhodes: "Moderation is the best thing." Bias of Priene, politician and legislator: "Most men are bad."

sextile: a 60° aspect; or 1/6th of the circle, denoting opportunity. Unlike the trine, the sextile needs a little push from the individual’s will to activate the natural harmony of this aspect; orb 4-5°.

shield volcano: a large volcano whose sides have very gradual slopes; derived from an Icelandic shield volcano whose name means "broad shield." Many of the largest volcanoes on earth (the Hawaiian Islands) and on Mars are shield volcanoes.

sidereal: "of the stars;" said of astrologers who believe that the constellations rather than the signs are interpretively significant. Tropical astrologers believe the signs to be 12 equal divisions of the interval between successive vernal equinoxes, and that these 12 stages in the Earth’s light and dark cycle, not the constellations from which they derived their names, are interpretively significant.

sidereal month (sidereal=of stars+mensis=moon): a month calculated with respect to the stars; i.e., the period between successive returns of the moon to the same position among the fixed stars or on the celestial sphere. There are 27.321662 days in a sidereal month, as opposed to 27.321582 days in a tropical month, 29.530588 days in a synodic month or 27.212221 days in a draconic month

sidereal period: the time it takes a body to go once around the Sun relative to the stars (considered to be the true orbital period of the body).

sidereal year: the time it takes the Earth to orbit the Sun with respect to the fixed stars: 365.256363 days. This is 20 mins. 24½ secs. longer than the current mean tropical year of 365.242189 days.

sign: the type of energy a planet has at its disposal, or needs, for proper functioning. Signs qualify or color the energy of the planet(s) in them, and may show how the individual has used or misused that planetary function in past lives. Wise past use shows up as dignified planets or compatible sign placement. Planets in detriment or fall, incompatible sign placement or difficult aspects may indicate past misuse of that planetary energy.

Astronomically, a sign is any of 12 equal divisions in the ecliptic beginning when the Earth’s equatorial plane intersects the Sun marking the beginning of (northern hemispheric) spring. Since this definition contains a "when," the signs are not fixed in space as are the zodiacal constellations.

Astrologically, a sign is any of the 12 stages in the seasonal light and dark cycle, beginning about March 21st with the vernal equinox defining 0° of Aries. During the first sign Aries, light gains ascendancy over dark as day becomes longer than night. Around 0 AD, not only was the Sun at 0° of the sign Aries (as it always is when the vernal equinox occurs), but it was also at the beginning of the constellation (group of stars) Aries. Due to the precession of the equinoxes, however, the signs have moved out of synch with the constellations bearing their names. The signs may have picked up the attributes (and hence the names) of the constellations with which they were coincident between about 2000 B.C. and the birth of Christ. Tropical astrologers regard the signs as interpretively significant. Sidereal astrologers regard the constellations as interpretively significant.

singleton in hemisphere: a planet alone in the upper, lower, left or right half of the chart, accentuating its strength and some special capacity.

Socrates (c. 469-399 BC): a founder of Western phil-osophy known almost entirely through the writings of his students Plato and Xenophon and the plays of his contemporary Aristophanes. He developed the pedagogical (Socratic) method of asking questions to encourage reflective insight into the matter at hand. The one thing he claimed he had knowledge of was the "art of love," which he related to "the love of wisdom" (i.e., philosophy). Socrates said "I only know that I know nothing."

soft aspect: the trine and sextile (not semisextile); denotes stability; not conducive to change.

Sol: Latin name of the Sun. Planetary astronomers use "sol" as the length of a mean solar day on planets other than Earth. His full title was "Sol Invictus," the undefeated Sun, or even more fully "Deus Sol Invictus," the undefeated Sun god. Near the Roman empire’s end this name was apparently applied to three divinities: El Gabal, Mithras, and Sol. The first, "Elagabalus Sol Invictus," was introduced into Rome by the Emperor Elagabolis (203–222 AD) who cared little for Roman religion. Mithras, the central god of Mithraism, was borrowed from the Greeks and practiced in Rome from the first century B.C. to the fifth century A.D.

solar mass: the mass equal to that of our Sun; a comparative unit for "weighing" other galaxies.

solar nebula: First proposed by Immanuel Kant in 1775, current theory holds that our solar system formed from the collapse of a gaseous cloud called the solar nebula. Originally 2–3 times the mass of the Sun and 100 AU in diameter, some disturbance like a nearby supernova pressed our nebula inward. At that point gravitational forces overcame the internal gas’ outward pressure and the nebula began to collapse. If an ice skater pulls in her arms while spinning, her rate of spin increases. This is called conservation of angular momentum. So as our spinning solar nebula contracted, it spun faster. Now gravity, angular momentum, internal gas pressure and magnetic fields acted on our solar nebula causing it to flatten into a spinning, planet-forming disk of dust and clumps of matter, with the largest clump in the center (see art on pages 70-71).

Although space is a few degrees above absolute zero, the Sun’s radiation made the young inner solar system too warm for volatile molecules like methane and water to condense. Thus planetesimals accreting there were largely constituted of rocky or metallic compounds with high melting points. And because such compounds formed less than 1% of the solar nebula, such bodies were small. They eventually coalesced into the so-called terrestrial planets Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars.

solar wind: a stream of electrically charged particles emitted by the Sun (see pages 211-212). Flowing continuously outward at a million miles an hour, it causes comets’ tails to always point away from the Sun (preceding the comet when it leaves the Sun), radio interference, aurora borealis, power line surges on Earth, and disturbs the paths of spacecraft. As it expands out into space, the solar wind creates a magnetic bubble of hot plasma around the Sun called the heliosphere. It defines the limit of the Sun’s influence and, together with the Oort cloud, the limit of our solar system.

spectral type: All objects in the universe radiate energy in the form of fluctuating electric and magnetic fields. One characteristic of this electromagnetic (EM) radiation is its wavelength. A body’s total radiation can be separated into its component wavelengths by passing it through a prism or a set of microscopic, parallel lines ruled very closely together on transparent material (a "diffraction grating.") The entire collection of wavelengths a body radiates—as well as their dispersion into component wavelengths by a prism or a diffraction grating—is called that body’s "spectrum."

From longest to shortest wavelengths, the entire electromagnetic spectrum consists of radio waves, microwaves, infrared (heat), visible light, ultraviolet light (the shortest visible light), x-rays, gamma rays, and finally cosmic rays. The latter three pass through solids, their penetration increasing as their wavelength decreases. Stars radiate all wavelengths, visible light being just a tiny fraction of their entire EM spectra.

If an object is warm enough, it radiates in the part of the spectrum humans can see known as visible light. It turns out that incandescent solids and gases under high pressure radiate all visible wavelengths, known as a "continuous spectrum." The cores of stars are gases under immense pressure that emit just such continuous spectra of light, the white light from our Sun being an example.

The continuous emission spectrum from a star’s core is selectively absorbed on its journey to us by elements in both that star’s and our own atmosphere. The particular wavelengths absorbed are characteristic of the absorbing element and of its temperature. The resultant "absorption spectrum" is a continuous rainbow with dark lines or gaps in it where those particular wavelengths were absorbed. These absorption lines describe a star’s temperature, the makeup of its atmosphere, and, by any displacement of a line from the wavelength exactly characteristic of its absorbing element, the star’s velocity relative to us (its Doppler shift). Over 25,000 absorption lines are known that correspond to elements in stars.

Stars can be categorized by these spectral signatures characteristic of their surface temperature and directly related to their color, for the color of a star indicates its temperature and its place in its life cycle. From hottest and youngest to coolest and oldest, stars’ spectral types and associated colors are O and B (blue), type A (white), type F (yellow-white), type G like the Sun (yellow), K (orange), and M (red).

square: the 90° aspect, or ¼ of the circle; denotes obstacles and dynamic inner tension leading to conflict and change. Planets in square resist, test, limit, and work at cross-purposes to each other. When the square is resolved their energies are released and available. It is harder to be aware of or objectify the source of the tension with a square than with an opposition. Planets in square are usually both cardinal, fixed, or mutable; orb 6-8°.

station: the point at which a planet changes its apparent direction from direct to retrograde, or vice-versa. A station is the strongest point of energy release in a planet’s cycle.

stellium: at least four planets in the same sign or house, or if in different signs, within a 10° orb. The occupied house and/or sign contain a tremendous intensity and complexity of energies represented by the planets involved.

strong: said of a dignified, exalted, well-aspected or angular planet; or, of an aspect (even a minor one) that is close to exact.

succedent: said of the houses following the angular houses, namely the second, fifth, eighth and eleventh houses. Planets in succedent houses are thought to be associated with the one’s emotional and desire nature.

superior planets: Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, and, astrologically but not astronomically, all dwarf "planets" (because they are all farther from the Sun than the Earth).

synodic month: the lunar synodic period: 29.53 days.

synodic period: the time between two consecutive conjunctions of a body with a line between the Sun and the Earth. In regard to the Moon, it is the time for the Moon as seen from the Earth to return to the same illumination phase; astrologically, the time between two successive Sun-Moon conjunctions. The lunar synodic period is used for calculating eclipses and is 29.5306 days long.




Sitemap Book Tour Astrology Astronomy Mythology Order Sample Readings Testimonials About Carl





astrology book pages 2,3

Pages 2-3 from your astrology reading in a fine art, personalized astrology book: You and the Universe





author+astrology-astronomy instruments

The author, his instruments, poetry, awards, reviews and horoscope charts.







© Carl Woebcke, The Glossary: the Letter S, 1991-2017. All rights reserved.