Last night we saw Jupiter and Saturn at exactly the same place in the sky. It was roughly thirty degrees from the Sun — the Sun, being at the winter solstice, is on the Sagittarius/Capricorn cusp, and Jupiter and Saturn, having just migrated into Aquarius over the last week, is still on the Capricorn/Aquarius cusp. Being only thirty degrees from the Sun, and given that the Sun has to migrate 10-15 degrees below the horizon before it’s completely dark, made the window open to seeing Jupiter/Saturn really only during the first 1 1/2 hours of the night.
(As an aside, Saturn is about a billion miles from the Sun, Jupiter slightly more than half of that. Our nearest stars are 4 light years away, or 24 TRILLION miles — many that we can see are much further away than that. To put this in perspective, the distance to our nearest star is 24,000 times the distance to Saturn. Or, to put it another way, if you create a scale of the Sun, at 1 millimeter in size, and the Earth is 93 millimeters away — or about 3 1/2 inches, and Saturn is 1 billion miles away, or about 1 meter — then our closest star is 24 KILOMETERS away, or about 15 miles. Why are we able to see these stars at all?)
Jupiter and Saturn, to be sure, are conjunct. But they’re conjunct every twenty years or so. Why now are they in the same place in the sky?
One indirect way of answering this question is that the Moon’s orbit around the Earth is slightly tilted relative to the Earth’s orbit around the Sun — about 5 degrees, and if it wasn’t tilted we’d have a solar eclipse every month and a lunar eclipse every month. Usually though, at least partial eclipses happen on average once every 6 months, or less often than that. This is why we have the Moon’s node — the parts on the Moon’s orbit where the plane of the Moon’s orbit intersects with the plane of the Earth’s orbit.
The term ‘declination’ is often used; but, regardless of the terminology, the planetary orbits are slightly tilted so they two have nodes. Pluto’s orbit is the most radically tilted, but the other planets have slight tilts. If you have a planet near either the Sagittarius/Capricorn cusp or the Gemini/Cancer cusp, and the tilt is in a certain direction, those planets can be ‘out of bounds’ — in other words above the Tropic of Cancer (if near the Gemini/Cancer cusp) or below the Tropic of Capricorn (if near the Sagittarius/Capricorn cusp).
I have two planets that are at 1 degree Capricorn and 2 degrees Capricorn, respectively — and those planets are indeed out of bounds for me. Out of bounds planets usually indicate personality traits having to do with that planet that are completely out of the norm and that we don’t try to hide.
Regardless, Jupiter’s tilt in its orbit is the same as Saturn’s tilt of its orbit. Their nodes are in the same place. In most cases when they’re conjunct, they’re up to two degrees away. But finally, after about six centuries, their nodes are exact.
David Cochrane, who I studied under, discussed the idea of what do we do when planets are nowhere near the ‘ecliptic’, or the Sun’s path around the earth’s rotation and orbit around the sun. Most planets have about a 2 or 3 degree possibility, Pluto far more. What he discovered through his research was that the most accurate astrological interpretation is when these planets are ‘projected’ onto the ecliptic. A line perpendicular to the ecliptic is drawn to that planet, and the planet will be projected onto that spot.
As far as I know no one knows why this turns out to be the case, but it in fact is the case. Empirical research showed it. The age old philosophical debate between empiricism and rationalism rambles on, but astrology tends to favor the empirical, especially in this case because it doesn’t make a lot of sense. This also brings us to the debate between the Zodiacal versus In Mundo approaches to drawing astrological maps.
Zodiacal includes the projection, In Mundo the actual place of the planets, no matter how far off the elliptical they are. Astrologers are having this debate, and no one’s sure who’s right, but every relocation astrologer or astrocartographer has to make that decision of which one to use when trying to guide their client.