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Mars Max: The Red Planet Looms Large in the Sky, in the News, in Us
©2012 by Richard Nolle
last revised FEB 29, 2012

PLEASE NOTE: This article incorporates elements of (and refers to) my complete 2012 World Forecast Highlights (34 8-1/2 x 11” illustrated pages). If you’d like your own copy of the full 2012 World Forecast Highlights, it’s available in hard copy by mail ($75) or as a PDF document by email ($50). Orders may be phoned in (toll-free from anywhere in North America to 800-527-8761) and charged to any major credit card. PayPal orders may be placed direct from your own PayPal account page to rnolle@astropro.com – or by using the AstroPro PayPal order page.

Synodic Cycle of MarsAnother "Mars Max" cycle got underway in the fall of last year, and continues into summer of 2012. It began on October 28, 2011, when the Red Planet's daily apparent motion through Earth's sky dropped below its mean motion for the first time since May 25, 2010 at the end of the last Mars Max cycle. This relative slow-down is the precursor to the Red Planet retrograde that begins on January 24, 2012 and ends a few months later on April 14. Mars Max also marks the beginning of the biennial Mars perigee phase, as Mars and our home planet come together for their close approach during the Sun-Mars opposition of March 3, 2012. (See the accompanying animation.)

This proximity means that Mars gets brighter and bigger in the night sky, culminating in the March perigee and then slowly dimming back to normal. Likewise, all things pertaining to Mars loom larger and larger in human experience during this period: haste, heat, fire, danger, belligerence and conflict - literally and figuratively - are more and more on the rise during the October 2011-July 2012 Mars Max cycle. This means a spike across the whole spectrum of violence, from the individual to the collective, from domestic, school and workplace violence to mass murder and spree killings all the way to suicide bombings and other terrorist atrocities. Criminality, terrorism and military conflict are never rare, but they'll loom larger and larger in the news from late October 2011 into July of 2012. Not all of this happens with malice of forethought, mind you. Recklessness, haste and inattention are no less dangerous than evil intent, and can easily cause just as many fires, crashes, clashes and explosions. You know what copy writers say: "If it bleeds, it leads." They'll have plenty of material to work with as Mars looms large in the night sky.

The events so typical of Mars Max are the stuff of headlines, but they’re not just "out there" in the sky and in the news. They’re inside us as well. So if you feel yourself growing unusually impatient and short-tempered, if you feel the surge of adrenaline washing over you during this cycle, then slow down and get a grip – lest you end up in a headline somewhere yourself. While those of us born under significant Mars patterns, and in this case also significant Virgo-Libra placements (the signs where the Mars Max takes place) – e.g. President Obama - may be quicker on the trigger and more in the crosshairs than others, we’re all under the same sky as Mars looms large.

Let’s be clear on this: I am not forecasting that harm will befall the President. It is a possibility at times like this, when there’s danger around him under the aegis of the Mars Max in Virgo-Libra. There was a similar situation in his chart back in 2008-2009, when Saturn was activating the same part of his natal horoscope. Arguably, that was at least as ominous as the current Mars-Max activation. While there were threats then, the armed and dangerous people around the President were detected and detained in timely fashion.

President ObamaThe current Mars Max cycle was less than two weeks old when a threat to the President’s personal safety again started making headlines. It was Friday, November 11, 2011 that 21 year-old Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez fired nine shots at the White House. Ortega has said he believes that he is Jesus, and that President Obama is the Anti-Christ. Arrested the following Wednesday, Ortega has been charged with attempting to assassinate the President or his staff. The shots were fired just two weeks into the current Mars Max phase, just as Mars entered the sign Virgo – which is where the Red Planet was when Barack Obama was born. Ortega’s religious delusions are chillingly appropriate given the near-exact Mars-Neptune opposition on the day of his attempt to kill the President. These things tend to come in waves, and there are bound to be more such dangers to the President. This particular Mars Max includes transits over President Obama’s natal Mars from mid-January into early February (including a station within a degree of that point on January 24).

At the height of the Mars Max, as Earth and the Red Planet are in their close approach, occurs the Mars retrograde. Astrologers who only know from ephemerides miss the real meaning of retrogrades: they occur when a planet is nearest the Earth. When we step away from the ephemeris and out into the night sky, we see that the retrograde planet is as big and bright as it ever gets. Far from being ‘weakened’ – as those who don’t know better generally believe – a retrograde planet is in reality at its peak presence for those of us on Earth. Like a SuperMoon full moon, a retrograde planet is bigger and brighter than normal. The retrograde cycle, when the planet in question appears to reverse the direction of its apparent motion in our sky, is precisely when that planet is foremost – not debilitated at all, but exalted if anything. And that’s why Mars Max (and the retrograde it subsumes) is such an über Mars time.

Determining the beginning and end of one of these Mars Maximum cycles is a bit tricky. With the inferior planets, Mercury and Venus, it's pretty easy to tell when the close approach phase is active. It stretches from the maximum eastern elongation (evening star apparition) through the retrograde to the maximum western elongation (morning star). With superior planets - those from Mars outward - there's no similarly obvious astronomical cue. Over the years, I have experimented with using the geocentric Sun-Mars squares (90° and 270° arcs) as delimiters for the Mars Maximum cycle. I've also tried the heliocentric Earth-Mars squares. Nothing really quite fit. After some years observing and researching it, I am persuaded that a superior planet's close approach cycle effectively begins when its daily apparent motion drops below its mean value, extends through the retrograde, and continues until daily apparent motion surpasses the mean daily motion again. (See the online animation at my website to get a view of the cycle as a whole.)

January 24, 2012 Mars Station (Retrograde)I hasten to add that it's not enough just to use the mean daily motion for a superior planet's synodic cycle. That's too rough a measure, because it fails to take into account the relationship between Earth and the planet in question. Take Mars, for example. It makes one orbit in about the time Earth makes two. Mars' mean daily apparent motion for the entire cycle is 0° 31'. However, for roughly half of the Mars cycle, it is physically closer to Earth and therefore moving relatively slowly through our sky. During the other half of the Mars cycle, the Red Planet is on the far side of the Sun from Earth and therefore has a faster apparent motion. There are other factors affecting the daily apparent motion of Mars, such as its perihelion (close approach to the Sun, the faster end of its orbit) and aphelion (the opposite point); as well as Earth's perihelion and aphelion. To adjust for these variables, I calculate the mean daily apparent motion of the superior planet from its conjunction with the Sun to its solar opposition, and from opposition back to conjunction. Each of these halves of the cycle has its own mean daily motion. In the case of Mars, for example, its 2011-2012 close approach cycle begins on October 28, 2011, when the Red Planet's daily motion drops below its mean value (0° 32.7') for the period from the February 4, 2011Sun-Mars conjunction to the March 3, 2012 Sun-Mars opposition. The cycle continues until July 12, 2012, when the daily apparent motion of Mars finally gets back up to the mean daily motion (0° 32.9') for the period from the March 3, 2012 Sun-Mars opposition to the April 18, 2013 Sun-Mars conjunction. What to expect? Let's look at the record . . .

The last (2009-2010) Mars Max began the same day (September 23, 2009) that the US, Great Britain and France exposed and denounced Iran's secret nuclear facility - to which Iran responded within days by launching a barrage of ballistic missiles in what was termed an exercise unrelated to the nuclear program controversy. From that time forward, there was a surplus of "if it bleeds, it leads" headlines all the way through that particular Mars Max, which ended May 25, 2010. These included the Fort Hood massacre, the Christmas Day suicide bomber attack on a Northwest airliner, the February 12 start of the major offensive in Afghanistan (one of the target zones right under Mars, as mentioned in my 2010 forecast); as well as the mass murder at the University of Alabama Huntsville (UAH) and the kamikaze attack on the IRS office in Austin TX. (In both these latter two instances, the perpetrator was actually born under a Mars Max.) And then there was the attack on the South Korean corvette Cheonan, torpedoed and sunk with a loss of 46 crew by a North Korean submarine on March 26; and the female suicide bomber attacks on the Moscow subway system on March 29. Ironically, the very first female suicide bomber attack on the Moscow subway took place in July 2003 - during a previous Mars Max cycle. And likewise the Korean War began under a Mars Max as well. (You just can't make this stuff up.)

By far the most significant of the 2009-2010 Mars Max events - environmentally and economically, at least - was the catastrophic explosion of BP's Deepwater Horizon rig and the blowout of the Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico. It happened on April 20, in the midst of the Mars Max cycle described in my 2010 World Forecast Highlights as a harbinger of "fires, clashes, crashes and explosions . . . a disruption in the oil and natural gas supply chain." (And right in one of the particular Mars Max risk periods for April, as described in my online forecast for that month: "around the 22nd when the Moon aligns with Mars.")

March 3, 2012 Sun-Mars OppositionThe previous Mars Max heralded the September 6, 2007 Israel air attack on Syria's nuclear facility, which came just three days after Mars' daily motion dropped to below its mean value for the period between the October 23, 2006 Sun-Mars conjunction and the December 24, 2007 Sun-Mars opposition - three days before Pakistani Presidential candidate Benazir Bhutto was assassinated. (The mean daily motion for this period was 0° 34' of arc.) Before that came the Mars Super Maximum of 2003 (as the insurgency phase got underway in Gulf War II). The latter Mars alignment was historic, being the closest pass between Earth and Mars since Neanderthal Man shared the planet with our own species. It was chief among the factors that led to my 2003 World Forecast Highlights prediction that the Persian Gulf War II would break out that year, and then get really messy that summer: "Whoever thinks a swiftly concluded Persian Gulf War II settles the world into a Pax Americana early in 2003 is tragically mistaken. This late summer super Mars thing says peace and quiet remains far away, that danger and conflict are close at hand."

The September 11, 2001 terrorist air attacks on the US came less than a week before Mars' daily motion finally came back up to its mean value (0° 33') for the period between the June 13, 2001 Sun-Mars opposition and the August 10, 2002 Sun-Mars conjunction. Clearly, these Mars Maximum cycles promise saber-rattling - and threaten worse.

Mars phases of this sort happen once every couple years or so; the last one ran from fall 2009 to spring 2010, and this next one started in autumn 2011 and lasts into early summer 2012. Obviously, we've survived plenty of them to date. This isn't Armageddon, in other words. It's just a predictable upsurge in the already considerable nominal human penchant for mayhem: plenty sufficient to make for a surfeit of those "if it bleeds, it leads" headlines, but not likely the harbinger of the next world war - let alone some kind of mass extinction event. Such Red Planet close approaches are not unlike the Max cycles of Mercury and Venus, in that they emphasize the nature of the planet in question during that portion of its orbit where it passes closest to Earth. So the high Mars cycle that began in October 2011 and concludes in July 2012 indicates a period of elevated tension and conflict, the kind of atmosphere that cultivates inflamed passions, hot tempers and rash, even violent action - of the criminal and military type, from terrorist atrocities to large scale military conflict. (Not to mention the smaller scale stuff like domestic violence, school and workplace shootings, mass murders and spree killings, etc.) A notable increase in dangerous fires, crashes and explosions is also typical of the Mars Max cycle, which is accompanied by rash, hasty and impulsive action generally.

So what’s the worst that can happen? Well, consider the Iranian nuclear weapons program standoff. Some ten days into the current Mars Max cycle, the New York Times reported that United Nations weapons inspectors had just released "a trove of new evidence . . . that they say makes a credible case that Iran has carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear device and that the project may still be under way." The UN report was described in the Times as "the harshest judgment that the International Atomic Energy Agency has ever issued in its decade-long struggle to pierce the secrecy surrounding the Iranian program." It has provoked what the Times described as "a debate among the Western allies and Israel about whether increased diplomatic pressure, sanctions, sabotage or military action could stop Iran s program." This kind of international saber-rattling is exactly what I have described as a Mars Max phenomenon – the very kind of geopolitical tension that can lead to soaring energy prices and crashing markets. And worse, if it all goes to custard . . .

MAR 3, 2012 Sun-Mars Opposition Astro-MapBeing months in duration and planetary in scale, you can pretty well figure that Mars Max effects will be seen worldwide. But there may be one very broad hint as to areas of particular vulnerability during this cycle. Astro-locality mapping the March 3, 2012 Sun-Mars opposition that anchors the 2011-2012 Mars Max cycle reveals several longitudinal special risk zones, including one in the western US from southern California in the vicinity of Los Angeles due north through western Canada, passing over the pole to come down through Russia and the Middle East in the area of the border Iran shares with Afghanistan and Pakistan. Except for skimming the far north of Canada and the southern tip of Greenland, the Sun-Mars horizon arc mostly spans open ocean - except where it touches eastern Australia (around Melbourne), Papua New Guinea and New Britain on its way across the Pacific to the Kamchatka Peninsula and the coast of Siberia.

A word about astro-locality mapping is appropriate here, if you’re unfamiliar with the technique. The heart of the matter is that these maps show where on Earth the planets (and other points) are rising/setting and culminating/anti-culminating at the moment of an event – a birth, a planetary configuration, etc. Rising and setting should be self-explanatory: they’re the places at which a planet is on the eastern or the western horizon, respectively. Culminating/anti-culminating roughly equates to being directly overhead/directly below. The rising/setting lines are curving arcs, while the culminate/anti-culminate lines are longitudinal (straight up and down, i.e. north-south). In the format I use (Esoteric Technologies’ Solar Fire), rising arcs are white, setting arcs are black; culminating lines are solid, anti-culminating lines are dashed.

For example, in the above map for the 2012 Sun-Mars opposition, the Sun is rising (white arc) over far eastern Russia and eastern Australia, but sets over Greenland (black arc) at the moment of the event. The Sun is overhead for western North America (solid line) but directly below for the Iran-India-Pakistan border area (dashed line).

Once the history of the 2011-2012 Mars Max cycle is written, the above-mentioned danger zones will figure prominently - though certainly not exclusively - when it comes to the "if it bleeds, it leads" headlines of the times: the fires, crashes, explosions, military/paramilitary attacks (including terrorism) and criminal violence, etc. Astro-locality mapping the Sun-Mars opposition anchor of the 2009-2010 Mars Max showed Afghanistan right under the Mars meridian line for this alignment, for example. That was indeed the locus for the biggest military conflict of the year, but there was a whole lot more to the Red Planet story during that period. As I wrote in my 2010 World Forecast Highlights, "these are some but not all of the focal zones for the alignment." And so it will be for the 2011-2012 Mars Max.

In the span of the 2011-2012 Mars Max cycle as a whole, there are more than a few temporal hot spots during this close approach of the Red Planet. Examples include the January 24, 2012 Mars retrograde station, the March 3 Sun-Mars opposition (effectively the Mars perigee), the April 14 Mars direct station, and the July 12, 2012 end point of the Mars Max phase itself. Always remember – see note below – not to make a fetish of exact dates. Most of these Mars aspects are potent for at least a few days before and after the exact dates cited here. These aren’t the only hot spots in time, but they’re outstanding enough that I would be remiss not to mention them. And in any event, the nature of the Mars Max cycle is such that the entire period is effective, even though distinct points within it are especially noteworthy. Outside the Mars Max cycle itself, there are several other notable Mars alignments worth a mention, including the Red Planet’s July 19 opposition to Uranus, August 15 conjunction with Saturn, October 28 opposition to Jupiter, and November 27 alignment with Pluto. (In each case, these Mars alignments are within a few degrees of exact for days before and after the specific dates mentioned here, so the risk period extends several days before and after the indicated dates. Stay aware, keep your guard up! In addition to these specific alignments in the sky over the coming year, other temporal hot spots for martial behavior and all the rest of the Red Planet stuff – belligerence, clashes personal and social (from tensions and conflict in our personal lives ranging all the way – heaven forfend! to accidents, assault or murder and mayhem), military and paramilitary attacks (including terrorism), fires, crashes and explosions - will tend to cluster around Mars passages over (and opposite) the eclipse degrees of the year. – in addition to all the other normal Mars manifestations just cited. Indicated dates (plus or minus about a week) include September 24 ((on the degree of the November 13 solar eclipse) October 7 (Mars opposite the May 20 solar eclipse degree), October 16 (at the degree of the November 28 lunar eclipse), and October 26 (at the degree of the June 4 lunar eclipse), These are good times for extra awareness in potentially risky situations, whether it’s a matter of defensive driving or walking through whatever "Valley of the Shadow of Death" might lurk in your corner of the world. In that regard, bear in mind that Mars is associated with tools and weapons in general: if you’ve got your hands on such at times like these, do be careful and focused on what you’re doing, while you’re doing it. As for the social and collective expressions of these high Mars times, national and international hot spots are apt to get very hot . . . not a good time to go down to the local demonstration to get your fair share of abuse.

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