Can there be any truth in the traditional linkage of a total conjunction of planets and universal disaster or is this just arrant nonsense?“All that the earth inherits will … be consigned to flame when the planets, which now move in different orbits, all assemble in Cancer, so arranged in one row that a straight line may pass through their spheres. When the same gathering takes place in Capricorn, then we are in danger of the deluge.”
This statement is attributed to the Babylonian priest, Bēl-re’ušunu (3rd century BCE), better known as Berossus, and epitomises the once widespread astronomical concept of the ‘Great Year’. From the Roman Empire to China, ancient philosophers defined the ‘Great Year’ as a large cosmic cycle, completed when the five naked-eye planets, the sun and the moon appear in linear conjunction. It was thought that such complete conjunctions occasioned cosmic catastrophes – devastating floods and fires that destroyed the preceding cosmos and inaugurated a new world.
Standard astronomical models do not acknowledge any mechanisms accounting for global tides or fires in response to planetary conjunctions. While the tidal effects of the moon are satisfactorily explained with gravity, the same force cannot demonstrably be made to work for the planets, as has often been pointed out.
The crux is that this dismissal rests on the antiquated perception of interplanetary space as a vacuum, in which gravity is the only operational force. With the coming of the Space Age, this simplistic paradigm has been incontrovertibly refuted. It is now known that most of the interplanetary space, and of the entire cosmos, consists of plasma and almost every body in the solar system is enclosed in a plasma sheath, technically a double-layer structure that serves to shield the object inside from electric fields impinging on the shell.
Teardrop-shaped magnetotails, which are structurally comparable to the comas and ion tails of comets, extend out into space from the earth, Venus, and most other planets. These are often so long as to extend to the orbit of the next planet, sometimes ‘tickling’ the protective sheath around that object as they point away from the sun. The solar equivalent to these planetary magnetospheres is the solar wind, which is ultimately responsible for auroral displays on the earth and on other planets.
The physical composition and the interaction of these magnetospheres are extremely complex and scientists are only just beginning to get a handle on the subject. What is already clear, however, is that the possibility of the sun or any of the planets ‘influencing’ the electromagnetic weather on another body is no longer so remote.
As the plasma sheaths of different bodies brush against each other in the ecliptic plane, they effectively complete a giant electric circuit, allowing a transfer of electric charge between adjacent planets. Such discharging offers a straightforward explanation for the ‘forgotten’ Pythagorean conviction that ‘comets’ arise when planets form linear conjunctions. Can it also account for the destructions by fire and flood the ancients believed would happen when the planets line up?
To find out, it is necessary to make a careful distinction between apparent linear conjunctions as seen from a viewpoint on earth and actual linear conjunctions in space. …
The bottom line is that ancient speculations about a link between catastrophic events and planetary movements present a challenge that is well worth renewed attention. In this particular case, plasma physics offers an intellectually palatable way to vindicate the ‘astrological’ claim that the antics of the planets can affect the conditions of life on earth as a whole.