Celestial Alignments
and the Columbia Tragedy

by Anthony J. McGettigan

The New Moon Alignment

In the early morning hours of February 1, 2003, there occurred a rare alignment of planetary bodies involving Earth, Moon, Sun, Neptune, and Jupiter. The exact time of the event was 4:48 am Central Standard Time, approximately three hours before the scheduled landing of the space shuttle Columbia.

This alignment is somewhat rare as it involves an opposition of Jupiter and Neptune. Jupiter and Neptune are opposite only once every 13 years. The alignment of Jupiter and Neptune with the new moon is what makes this event particularly notable. At the time of the new moon, five of the 10 major bodies in our solar system all lined up within 2.5 degrees of each other--an unusually close arrangement.


Note: The sizes and distances shown in this picture are not proportional. The actual distances involved (approximately 2.3 billion miles from Jupiter to Neptune at the present time) would make even the Sun appear very small.


Timing of the Disaster

Communication with the Columbia space shuttle was lost at approximately 8:00 a.m. CST (9:00 a.m. Eastern) while the orbiter was flying over northcentral Texas eastbound for a landing in Florida. Simultaneous with the loss of communication, the orbiter appeared to break into pieces which fell to the ground over eastern Texas and Louisiana.

From northcentral Texas, at the moment of last contact with Columbia's crew, the positions of the planets existed as depicted in the chart below.

For the benefit of the layman, here's a hint about how astrological charts are constructed--they're created from the perspective of an observer looking at the planets from the northern hemisphere. From this perspective, the left side of the chart represents the eastern half of the sky. The right side represents the west. The horizontal line represents the horizon. The vertical line connects the highest and lowest points of the sky (mid-heaven and nadir).

Examining the chart for the time and location of the disaster, there are several notable aspects. First, and most prominent, is the new moon closely aligned with Neptune and closely opposed by Jupiter (see article on Feb 1 new moon). In addition, Uranus is poised just below the eastern horizon and Mars is at the mid-heaven.


Two Views of the New Moon Alignment

When examining how a combination of celestial patterns might relate to a particular terrestrial event, it is important to understand that planetary alignments are not claimed to be the cause of any earthly event. Instead of causation, correlation is what we're observing--we're looking at patterns emerging in the celestial dimension while simultaneously observing patterns emerging in the terrestrial dimension.

This type of examination is somewhat forensic, however, not in the sense that we're trying to pick apart the details of the event. It's more like we're looking deeply into the background and surroundings of the event for any hints that might reveal qualitative information about the context and circumstances of the occurrences in question. Seeing the background and context of an event often reveals a clearer picture of what's actually happening in the event itself.

Having said that, it's also necessary to point out that there are many ways to look into the background and context of any event. Astronomical observations are only one thread in a vast tapestry of data, and interestingly, there's always more than one way to look at this information. Naturally, intuition plays an important part in gathering these types of clues.

For example, there are at least two perspectives one could use to examine the influence of the Jupiter-Earth-Moon-Sun-Neptune alignment. The most obvious way would be to break the alignment into an opposition with Jupiter on one side, Moon, Sun, Neptune on the other, and Earth in the middle. This perspective of the alignment suggests that the situation involved elements of tension and struggle.

Traditional interpretation of such a set of relationships pits Jupiter in Leo (strong leadership, high aspirations, benevolence, cultural brilliance, expressed idealism) against the new moon (concentration, identification with collective efforts, renewal) and Neptune (unconsciousness & revelation, forgetting & remembering) in Aquarius. The resulting combination of forces suggests a dynamic of overextending oneself by holding unfounded or unrealistic intentions. Another possibility is that critical information might be either missing, unavailable, or forgotten in the process of arriving at the moment of the event.

This combination of forces can be observed working to erode the effectiveness of ideals, ideologies, and intentions through workings of the forces symbolized by Neptune (forgetting and remembering). Similar dynamics were at work in 1989 (the previous Jupiter-Neptune opposition). That celestial alignment was accompanied by the dismantling of the Berlin Wall. The events of 1989 marked a time of great shifting, dissolving, and reshaping in the intentions and circumstances of human experience.

However, another perspective of the February 1 planetary alignment is possible--one that observes the planets working more as a cohesive whole and less as an oppositional polarity. This perspective is encouraged by the placements of Pluto and Mars, which occupy favorable and supportive positions relative to the lineup. Pluto (regenerative power) and Mars (action, desire, will) in Sagittarius harmoniously connect the two sides of the polarity. Seen as a cohesive whole, the pattern strongly suggests qualities like profound inspiration and insight, heroic choices, and the potential for realizing a transcendent level of experience.


Uranus Rising and Mars at Mid-Heaven

At the time of Columbia's demise, two other celestial factors appear to be relevant. From the time and place where the orbiter appeared to break apart, Mars was directly overhead and Uranus (sudden and accelerated changes, intuition, enlightenment) was just below the eastern horizon.

The qualities implied by Mars at the mid-heaven include true motives, high ambitions, and penetrative action. With Uranus on the ascendant, however, the situation held the potential for both rapid success and rapid failure. In the situation of Columbia's final moments, it appears that the resources and tools were in place for the last steps in an ambitious and heroic journey. The successful resolution of the adventure required only the precise application of those resources toward a rapid penetration of the atmosphere. Something unseen, and unanticipated, caused a perturbation in the balance of the reentry process. That hidden disturbance is the factor that resulted in the demise of Columbia and her crew.


Related Events on Our Collective Horizon

Through the experiences of February 1, 2003, all of us are powerfully connected with the brave explorers who sacrificed their lives with the loss of the Columbia space shuttle. Just like them, we are presently poised for an important step in our collective journey. We have an abundance of tools and resources at our disposal. We would be wise to carefully consider the widest possible range of factors in the application of these resources. We stand together at the edge of a great realization--and, possibly, a great tragedy.

The Jupiter-Neptune opposition, at the time of the Feb 1, 2003 new moon, was very closely aligned but not exact. This opposition will be exact, however, on two days later this year, February 16 and June 2. (Note: February 16th is also the date of a potent full moon with Sun conjuncting Uranus). These are important dates for individual and collective action. For these next few months, we are in a time when our intentions and priorities will have large and long-reaching effects. (These dates will also be powerful days to remember and bless the Columbia Astronauts and their families.)

During this period, our prayers and meditations will continue to have greatly magnified effects. Jupiter and Neptune represent forces that are working to dissolve our limitations and open us to wider dimensions of potential. Collaborating with this process will yield a harvest of great discoveries with benefits for all.


Anthony J. McGettigan is a consciousness researcher, shamanic astronomer, author of A Voyage in Consciousness, Ecstasy of the Everyday Experience, Experiential Cosmology, and he is the producer/host of the Vibrational Voyage radio program.


Related story: "A Full Moon of Surprising Potential"


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Copyright 2003 AJ McGettigan