2020 Lunar Apogees & Perigees
© 2019 by Richard Nolle
All data are computer generated using Esoteric Technologies' Solar Fire Gold software, except for distance values, which are calculated by John Walker's free Home Planet software.
If you're familiar with the SuperMoon concept (introduced to the astrological community with my 1979 article for Dell Publishing Company's HOROSCOPE magazine), you already know that I have described a new or full moon which coincides with lunar perigee as an important indicator of extreme tides on Earth - atmospheric, oceanic, geological and even emotional tides, that is. (See SuperMoon: What It Is, What It Means for more.)
But what of perigee as a thing in itself, regardless of any association with a new or full moon? The table above lists time and zodiacal position data for all of them for 2020, along with the opposite point in the lunar orbit (apogee, maximum distance from Earth). In addition, the actual distance in kilometers from Earth to Moon is shown for each apogee and perigee of the year. The closest perigee of 2020 (APR 7, at 356,908 kilometers), is marked with an asterisk; as is the farthest apogee (MAR 24, at 406,688 kilometers). To put these figures into perspective, the farthest apogee in the period 1750-2125 is 406,720 km. (on February 3, 2125), and the closest possible perigee during this same period is 356,375 km. (on January 4, 1912): see John Walker's excellent article Inconstant Moon: The Moon at Perigee and Apogee for more on this.
Perigee means closest approach to Earth. It arises because no orbit is perfectly circular. They’re all ellipses. A circular orbit would have one focal point only – at the center of the circle. An ellipse has two foci – one being the massive object which the lesser object orbits, and the other being the focus of the external forces acting on the lesser object in orbit around the greater one. The farther apart those two focal points are, the more eccentic is the ellipse they define.
The Moon’s orbit around Earth is defined by an ellipse having Earth at one focus. There’s nothing at the other focus, which is shy it’s called the Empty Focus. When Luna passes in front of this point in space as seen from Earth, the Moon is at apogee – the point in its orbit where it reaches its greatest distance from our home planet. That’s why I call it the LAP; the Lunar Apogee Point.
Conversely, when Luna is opposite the LAP as seen from Earth, the Moon is at perigee – the point in its orbit where it makes its closest approach to our home planet.
Since the days of Johannes Kepler (1571-1630), the German astrologer-astronomer whose three laws of planetary motion first mathematically described elliptical orbits, astronomers have been well aware of the Empty Focus in every orbit. Astrologers, not so much. Fortunately, the popular Solar Fire software from Esoteric Technologies supports calculating the Empty Focus of the lunar orbit. You wouldn’t know this if you searched for it in their literature or instructions, however. That’s because they don’t call it what it is. Instead, it’s called "Black Moon Lilith" (abbreviated BML). Which is peculiar, because it isn’t black, it isn’t a moon, and it has had a proper name for centuries already – and it isn’t Lilith. That said, I’ll use all three terms interchangeably, for the benefit of readers who may prefer one over the others. BML (Black Moon Lilith), the Empty Focus or the Lunar Apogee Point: they all refer to one and the same astronomical reality; namely, the Empty Focus of the lunar orbit. (For more, see my article my article on Lilith in the May/June 2018 issue of Dell HOROSCOPE, the world’s leading astrology magazine.)
Still, as the Bard wrote, "a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." And so we astrologers can use the BML function in Solar Fire to study this key point in the Earth-Moon system. In so doing, it’s essential to use the true (osculating) BML, rather than the mean BML – much the same as it’s vital to use the true lunar node rather than the mean node. The actual (true) Lunar Apogee Point moves both retrograde and direct, as you can see from the table above; the mean LAP is direct by definition – which is to say, inaccurate.
Examining the table above, you can see that lunar apogee occurs when the faster-moving Moon conjoins the slower BML. This occurs once a month, roughly speaking. The rough factor is due to the Moon’s anomalistic cycle (the time from one apogee or perigee to the next) being shorter than its synodic period (the time from one new or full moon to the next). Conversely, when the Moon opposes the LAP, we have lunar perigee. It’s simple, and you can do it at home if you have Solar Fire.
As I pointed out in my 1979 article naming and defining SuperMoon, there are hints dating back to Ptolemy (2nd Century CE) that the Moon's perigee is a time of magnified lunar significance here on Earth. After all, at lunar perigee the Moon is closest to Earth and therefore biggest and brightest in our sky. That is, if it's in a visible phase, most spectacularly when it’s a full Moon SuperMoon). However, when perigee coincides with a new Moon, it can’t be seen at all; which is why I have named this alignment a Stealth SuperMoon.
The Moon’s apparent motion as seen from our home planet is greatest at perigee; in other words, the Moon is 'swift in course' at such times, to use an archaic astrological term. Regarding the significance of the planets (a term he used to include Sun and Moon, following the practice of his time), Ptolemy advocated paying special attention to any planet "when it may be oriental, swift and direct in its proper course and motion – for it has then its greatest power."1 (Emphasis added.)
A lunar perigee can't match a SuperMoon in terms of tide-raising power, and won't even measure up to an ordinary new or full moon in that respect. These factors, after all, combine Sun, Moon and Earth in alignment (with the added element of lunar perigee included in the case of a SuperMoon). Lunar perigee on the other hand is only a particular class of Earth-Moon alignment. But consider the calamitous January 25, 1999 Colombian earthquake, which struck at 6:19 PM UT on that date – within 30 hours of the January 26 lunar perigee. Coincidence? Perhaps one of many. Such as, for example, the 6.4 Richter that rocked the Loyalty Islands region on February 22; the 6.8 that struck Andreanof Island in the Aleutians on March 20; the 5.6 that hit Hawaii on April 17 (the same day Richter 5.0 quakes struck southern Xinjiang China and the central Mediterranean Sea); the 7.0 temblor that shook up the New Britain region of Papua New Guinea May 14, followed by a 5.1 in the same area on June 13; the 6.6 quake that hit Honduras on July 11 (followed 13 hours later by a 5.8 quake in Pakistan); the 5.0 quake that messed with Mindanao August 8, reprised at 5.3 in the very same place during the very next lunar perigee period (September 1); the Richter 5+ quakes that struck Taiwan, southern Sumatra and Halmahera (both in Indonesia) September 27, followed the next day by a 6.1-magnitude temblor in the Komandorsky Islands region (one of nine Richter 5+ quakes recorded within 30 hours of the September 28 perigee); and the quintet of Richter 5+ quakes logged within 30 hours of the October 26 perigee (including a 5.6 at North Island, New Zealand) - and these comprise only a partial seismicity catalog for a single year.
You might want to consider the dates listed in this table for the year 2020, and watch the seismic and meteorological developments in the news of the day. I'm guessing that within plus or minus 30 hours of lunar perigee, you'll see a greater than usual number of significant seismic events (magnitude 5 or greater quakes, volcanic eruptions) and meteorological events (strong storms). Strike-slip faults in particular, on the other hand, often become active around the time of lunar apogee, particularly if the Moon is at or near maximum declination at the same time. You decide.
And here's something else to observe and test. Within the 30 hours-either way time frame, lunar perigees may signify a general excitation in living things: an upwelling of emotion, excitability, restlessness, etc. Conversely, within the same time window, lunar apogee may indicate just the reverse: a sense of detachment, listlessness or even malaise.
Speaking of lunar apogee, there’s a lot more to it than meets the eye - literally. And in that regard, there’s even a certain poetic fitness in the mythological Lilith being connected with the Empty Focus. After all, they’re both invisible, they’re both connected to the Moon, they both move in mysterious ways, and they both carry a certain cringe factor – which anyone familiar with the Lilith of myth already knows. But that’s a topic for another time.
- 1Ashmand, J. M. trans., Ptolemy's Tetrabiblos. North Hollywood CA: Symbols & Signs, 1976, p. 39.
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