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Orbs of Aspects in Astrology

Unfortunately there are two meanings and usages for the word "orb." The first one is how far apart two planets in aspect can be for that aspect to still be in effect. The more precise term for this usage could be the theoretical "maximum allowable orb" for that aspect, and is listed for each aspect in the 5th and 6th table columns below. A particular's aspect's maximum allowable orb is greater when either the Sun or the Moon is involved (column 5) than when not (column 6). Maximum allowable orbs are largest for the Sun and Moon, smaller for the inner planets, and smallest for the outer planets. Maximum allowable orbs also decrease as an aspect’s harmonic number (column 1) increases.

The second usage of the word "orb" refers to the "actual orb" between planets. If two planets are 92° apart, for example, they are said to be in a 90° aspect (a square) with a 2° orb; or if they are 177° apart as in the book header below, they are in a 180° aspect (opposition) with a 3° orb. Actual orbs are expressed in degrees of deviation from exactness. 3° is the actual orb of the particular Sun-Moon opposition example below. But the opposition aspect itself has a maximum allowable orb of 8° to 12° depending on the planets involved and the interpreting astrologer's decision as to what its maximum allowable orb should be. This last point is a bone of contention among astrologers.

harm-

onic #

Aspect name

angle

fraction

of circle

orb: Sun & moon

orb:

planets

Aspect Description
1 conjunction 0°, 360° 1/1 12° 11° power, intensity, emphasis; harmonious or inharmonious depending on the energies of the planets involved in the conjunction.
2 opposition 180° 1/2 12° 11° change, polarity, awareness, objectivity, a style of relating; symbolizes a conflict between an internal energy and an apparently external one that one fails to see in oneself and projects onto the world; signifies others we bring into our life to externalize unconscious or rejected aspects of our being.
3 trine 120° 1/3 7° 30' harmony, ease, gifts, stability, creativity; often denotes inertia
4 square 90° 1/4 7° 30' obstacles and challenge creating dynamic inner tension leading to conflict and change; planets in square work at cross-purposes and resist, test and limit each other. Their energies are released when the aspect is resolved; not as exteriorized as opposition.
5 quintile 72° 1/5 the bringing together of the male and female within an individual, thus indicating marriage, creativity, and one’s art
5 biquintile 144° 2/5 same as the quintile
6 sextile 60° 1/6 4° 30' opportunity; unlike the trine, the sextile needs a little push from the will to activate its natural harmony
7 septile 51° 25.7' 1/7 1° 30' 1° 30' receptivity to inspiration, sacred and religious matters, creativity, children
7 biseptile 102°51.4' 2/7 1° 30' 1° 30' same as the septile
7 triseptile 154°17.1' 3/7 1° 30' 1° 30' same as the septile
8 semisquare 45° 1/8 2° 30' half square; challenge and resistance; like square but weaker
8 sesquiquadrate 135° 3/8 2° 30' similar to the semisquare: crisis, resistance to challenge
9 novile 40° 1/9
10 decile 36° 1/10
12 semisextile 30° 1/12 1° 30' similar to the quincunx
12 quincunx 150° 5/12 2° 30' unites signs with no natural relationship or connection to each other; discord, necessity for adjustment, or a forced choice between inharmonious conditions.

 

 

Sun opposed Moon text header

 

Both usages of "orb"—the actual orb and the theoretical maximum allowable orb—are employed in determining your aspects' strengths in the headers for each interpreted aspect in You and the Universe. The "Strength" header above lives up to its name; it computes the strength of each of your aspects based on both the actual planetary orb and the theoretical maximum allowable orb for that aspect and those planets. Notice that the Strength header ends with "orb = 3°/12°," or more generally, "orb = a/m." "a" is the first usage of the word "orb" above: how far apart the two planets actually are from being in exact aspect. In the example above the Sun and Moon are 177° apart, so their actual orb a is 3°.

As an astrologer I believe that an opposition between the Sun and the Moon can be as far as 12° (the Moon's daily motion) from 180° for the Sun and Moon to still be considered opposed. This is my maximum allowable orb for a Sun-Moon opposition. So my "m" for this aspect is 12. In this case, a/m is 3°/12°, and because 3° is significantly less than 12°—the two planets have a long way to go before they are no longer in opposition—this is a strong opposition; hence I have assigned this aspect a "Strength" of 91 out of 100. The maximum orb m for the first 12 aspects is given in columns 5 and 6 in the table above; it varies from 1° to 12° depending on the aspect, the planets involved, and the astrologer.

As its actual orb a decreases, an aspect’s strength increases, but its strength also depends on its maximum allowable orb m. As an aspect's actual orb a approaches its maximum allowable orb m, the strength of that aspect diminishes, and when a reaches or exceeds m the aspect is considered no longer in effect and its strength is 0.

Don't be misled by the apparent similarity between a/m orb fractions and the numerical fractions you're more familiar with. In fact, their values are exactly opposite. With  numerical fractions 12/12 is much bigger than 1/12, and 0/12 (which = 0) is smaller still. With orb fractions 12/12 is the weakest orb (because the actual orb a equals the maximum allowable orb m and the aspect barely obtains), 1/12 is a very strong orb, and 0/12 is perfect: the strongest that particular orb can be.

The higher m is (indicating major aspects like a conjunction, opposition, trine or square), the stronger the aspect for any actual orb a between planets. Consider for example a 3° actual orb. A 177° Sun-Moon opposition (maximum orb m=12°) with a 3° actual orb is stronger than a 123° trine (m=8°), and much stronger than a 57° sextile (m=5°). In fact, two planets in a 48° semisquare (3° orb) are not actually in a semisquare aspect because they are outside the maximum allowable orb for a semisquare. Maximum allowable orbs vary with the astrologer. The one's in the table above are those that have best mirrored reality for me over the years.

So an aspect’s strength depends on:

•  How small the aspect’s actual orb is: the smaller it (a) is, the greater the aspect’s strength;

•  How large the maximum allowable orb is: the larger it (m) is, the greater the strength;

•  Whether or not either planet is the Sun or the Moon; aspects involving either (and particularly both) are much more significant.

•  Whether or not either planet is "angular" (that is, whether or not it's in the 1st, 4th, 7th or 10th houses, or conjunct the ascendant, nadir, descendant or midheaven); the closer either planet is to an angle, the greater the aspect’s strength.

•  Independent of the aspect, the closer a planet is to an angle the stronger that planet's influence is in a chart. When a planet is within 2° of an angle it can easily become the most significant planet in the chart. In this regard the angles from strongest to weakest are: ascendant (first house cusp), midheaven or MC, (10th house cusp), descendant (seventh house cusp), and lastly the nadir or IC (fourth house cusp).

 

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