“A true hero isn’t measured by the size of his strength, but by the strength of his heart.” —Attributed to Hercules
Officially the Solar System now has, in decreasing order of size, four gas giant planets: Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, and Uranus; four rocky planets: Earth, Venus, Mars, and Mercury; five officially recognized dwarf planets: Eris, Pluto, Haumea, Makemake, and Ceres; and an enormous number of asteroids. Pluto was once the ninth planet but was demoted to a dwarf planet, a Plutoid, because of numerous objects in his neighborhood that could also become dwarf planets. Astronomers estimate that there may be 200 dwarf planets in the Kuiper Belt, the icy ring at the outer edge of the Solar System where Pluto lives, and more than 10,000 in the region beyond.
In January of 2016, Konstantin Batygin and Michael Brown, at the California Institute of Technology, announced calculation-based evidence of a massive planet in our Solar System—they dubbed the object “Planet Nine.” (Sorry, Pluto!) Batygin and Brown postulated the planet’s existence through mathematical modeling and computer simulations, but the newest member of the Solar System has not yet been directly observed.
While scientists were searching for Planet Nine in 2017, they discovered twelve new moons orbiting Jupiter, bringing the total to 79, the most known planetary moons, and increasing the official population of identified objects in the Solar System. Astronomers announced the discovery in July of 2018. Earlier, in March 2017, Jupiter was in the perfect location to be observed using the Blanco telescope at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile, which has the Dark Energy Camera and can survey the sky for faint objects. Astronomer Scott Sheppard, of the Carnegie Institution for Science, and his team were using the telescope to search the edge of the Solar System for evidence of Planet Nine and realized they could observe Jupiter at the same time.
Jupiter’s satellites orbit at three different distances. Closest to their parent planet are Jupiter’s largest Galilean moons—Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto. They are among the largest objects in the Solar System besides the Sun and eight planets. Ganymede is actually larger than Mercury, is only slightly smaller than Mars, and would be a planet if it orbited the Sun instead of Jupiter. Farther out are the prograde moons, orbiting in the same direction as Jupiter orbits the Sun. Much farther out is a massive group of small satellites whose orbits move in the opposite, or retrograde, direction. These small objects orbit Jupiter in three clusters. In addition, Jupiter has 4,800 “Trojan asteroids,” locked by orbital dynamics in what are called Lagrange points, where the gravity of the Sun and Jupiter are equal. With dozens of moons and thousands of other satellites, Jupiter is an enormous energetic collective that certainly must be much stronger in impact than just the planet.
Two of the newly discovered moons are closer to Jupiter and move within the prograde group, while nine of the new moons are part of the distant retrograde group and have orbits of about two years. The twelfth moon is an anomaly and has a totally unique orbit from other Jovian moons. This moon has been nicknamed Valetudo after the Roman goddess of health and hygiene—a great-granddaughter of Jupiter. Valetudo has a prograde orbit, but is very distant and at a different inclination, which means it actually crosses the plane of the other retrograde moons and moves in the opposite direction. Scott Sheppard likened it to a car driving the wrong way on a freeway. Scientists speculate that Valetudo is a remnant of a much larger prograde moon that collided with another object some time in the past.
Next to the Sun (and maybe Planet Nine) Jupiter is the largest object in the Solar System and has the most objects attached to its gravity. Jupiter’s myths encoded this idea of largesse and abundance thousands of years before we could see his moons. How did ancient mythology so accurately describe Jupiter’s characteristics without the aid of telescopes? There is still so much we don’t know about the influences of unseen energies. Perhaps there are modes of perception and understanding that operate in a realm beyond technology.
The Roman Jupiter was the earlier Greek Zeus and Egyptian Min-Amon. King of the gods, Zeus, was considered the god of light and therefore wisdom. As king of heaven Zeus/Jupiter ruled supreme over the Olympian gods, wielding his thunderbolts. According to myth, the infant Jupiter was raised on the milk of a goat whose horns continually overflowed with food and drink. This is the origin of the cornucopia, the horn of plenty, and mythically encodes Jupiter’s expansion and abundance and the idea of magical unending supply. This aligns with the presence of numerous moons and asteroids that are part of his family.
Symbolically, Jupiter wants more and bigger of everything. As ruler of wide-ranging Sagittarius, Jupiter wants to look through a telescope, exploring far and wide, expanding his vast knowledge, and eventually gaining wisdom through diverse experiences. Jupiter deals with the realm of superconsciousness and acts to expand, and hopefully enlighten, the area he visits. Jupiter’s positive qualities include a jovial expansiveness, a sporting approach to life, and an unquenchable optimism. His influence is generally seen as fortunate, benevolent, and generous. However, exaggerated or used unwisely, these same characteristics can become extremist in viewpoint, disregarding of resources, and trusting too much to luck, which leads to misfortune. Because Jupiter always wants to take the larger view, there is a risk of dismissing details as insignificant.
Sagittarius, the Archer, is depicted as a centaur. This mythical creature is half horse and half human, and in the case of the ninth zodiac sign, the centaur has a bow and arrow. How he is armed forms a critical component of his symbolism. The arrow implies the need for direction, and in order to hit the mark, the archer must take careful aim. The risk with exuberant Sagittarius energy is the potential for his arrows to take random flight and cause unintended harm. The centaur’s bow is meant to be aimed toward heaven and symbolizes the noble goal of liberation from his purely instinctual lower nature. He represents a phase of human experience that propels us to rise through our earthly sojourns and consciously choose targets to realize our potential on the higher planes.
Animal instinctual power, human will that is activated through arms and eyes, as well as the focused energy of the bow, if aimed properly, combine to send the arrow to the heart of its intended target. The symbolism implies an evolution of consciousness that builds on earlier levels of awareness to create a more potent vehicle of expression. Sagittarius represents the quest for wisdom that is gained through experience. Astrological tradition holds that those born in this sign spend the first half of their lives focused outwardly, trying to gather as many diverse experiences as possible. In the second half of life the exploration turns inward with the potential to find meaning. The key word for Sagittarius is perception. At an unconscious stage of awareness perception is highly relative and is usually based on pride and prejudice. As we evolve, spiritual perception develops through the faculty of enlightened intuition.
Since Jupiter is said to rule Sagittarius, the mythical sky god is in his own domain when he transits this sign. He is therefore at his most regal and perhaps most ostentatious. Jupiter in Sagittarius is big, bold, and brash. When Jupiter transits Sagittarius the Archer is filled with confidence that his arrows will hit the mark. Careful analysis of the correct target should accompany the light speed arrows that fly from his bow. Without foresight it’s ready, fire, and then aim. Jupiter in Sagittarius can also be “father knows best,” combining the archetypes of teacher and preacher—just because he thinks he’s right, doesn’t mean he always is.
Sagittarius is said to rule all the ways that we expand our horizons—long journeys, higher education, and foreign lands. Jupiter in Sagittarius loves to explore and speculate, but like an untamed stallion, this energy can be difficult to rein in and direct; after all, the centaurs were a rowdy bunch. Procrastination can be problematic, even with the best of intentions, the power of this positive energetic combination can be dissipated.
This transit can provide a much-needed sense of optimism and a widened philosophical view. Jupiter in Sagittarius engenders a love of freedom, an urge toward philanthropy, a heightened concern for the welfare of others, and a willingness to share blessings. Resources can be scattered, but they won’t be hoarded, as there is often a tendency toward a generosity that borders on extravagance. With this combination there’s an inherent belief that supply is endless and the tendency toward growth and expansion never seems to end. The risk is a rose-colored-glasses effect that perceives things as better than they are, basking in the imaginary glow of artificial light, and not dealing with matters at hand.
Sagittarius is the sign of the quest, an unending search for meaning. Jupiter in Sagittarius at its highest expression can be the quest for the fire of aspiration and inspiration. I believe Jupiter’s expansive search for truth can aid the evolution of consciousness that is currently taking place and shed the light of a higher ideal on what otherwise feels like a no-win standoff. There is potential to enhance intuitive faculties or mystical tendencies.
It’s interesting that during Jupiter’s transit through his own sign, Saturn and Neptune are also transiting their own signs of Capricorn and Pisces, which should amplify all of those planetary energies as they are “at home.” In a sense, this amplifies the energies of these gas giants to express their true natures. Jupiter in Sagittarius is free to expand and explore, Saturn in Capricorn structures our reality and disciplines our intentions, and Neptune in Pisces can lift us to a higher and more rarified realm, perhaps aiding the passage of the Age of Pisces. We live at the cusp of an age, a time when the previous dispensation must give way to a new infusion of archetypal energy. It’s always a time of crisis and upheaval. Pisces must give way to Aquarius, which will be characterized by a search for freedom and the impulse to cast off authority.
Technological advances are also part of the incoming Aquarian Age energies. As technology allows us to perceive more of the Solar System, the Milky Way, and the deep space beyond, we realize the vastness and complexity of the Universe of which we are but a tiny part. Science widens our vision and increases our knowledge but does not necessarily deepen wisdom and understanding. For that we must add meaning to measurement. Knowledge alone will not lead to illumination or engender a loving heart. At this stage of our development on our small planet we have a long way to go to express the qualities of love and light.
But we can set our sites on the highest we can envision and hope that humanity will ultimately outgrow its arrogance and hubris and reach the potential encoded in the divine plan. In the meantime, we must work in earnest with the spark that has the potential to one day become an eternal flame.