Mercury Continues the Race

17 November 2012

Spinning through a New Synodic Cycle.

so I’m 3 days late – forgive me, I know Mercury will.

As of Nov 17 2012, all the planets have begun their Cycle 0, in the parlance of theAbysmal Calendar. We’re waiting on the Moon to get going (on Dec 13 2012) and then we’re all set for the New Year and the launch of theAbysmal Calendar.

Mercury was at inferior conjunction, which begins its synodic cycle. Only Mercury and Venus lie between Earth and the Sun. All other planets begin their cycles at conjunction, when they are on the opposite side of the Sun from Earth.

Mercury is the fastest orbiting planet, and its synodic cycle takes an average of 116 days or so. This means that any given Year will see the start of two or three synodic cycles.

Tracking the planets as a means of timekeeping is as old as staring up at the night sky and thinking, “what the hell is that?” May as well call them gods, give them personalities, tell stories about them, and include them in our collective cultures.

Here’s some background on our friend, Mercury, and his association with Wednesday.

Saturn’s Return

25 October 2012

Synodic Cycle of Saturn begins at  Conjunction

In case you were wondering (and you know you were, even if you weren’t, or didn’t think you were, or hadn’t thought that you weren’t)…

Previous post: Weekdays Explored – Saturday – Saturn the planet, and the titan

As part of theAbysmal Calendar (just because I say so), I’ve added the cycles of the 8 planets (sorry Pluto, but since you’re the devil, I’ll leave you to the cold darkness of planetoid status). theAbysmal Calendar tracks the synodic cycles, that is, the time it takes for the planet to return to the same position in the sky as seen from Earth. This is different from the orbital period. Just as we measure the lunar month by its synodic period of 29.53 days instead of its orbital period of 27.32 days.

Planetary cycles are numbered beginning with 0, which is the cycle that takes place during Day 0 of theAbysmal Calendar (equivalent to Dec 21st 2012). So this marks the beginning of Saturn’s cycle 0. Mercury’s cycle 0 begins next month, and all of the other planets have already begun theirs.

Clear? Probably not, but let’s move on, shall we?

The start of the planetary cycle depends if it’s an inferior planet (i.e. Mercury & Venus, whose orbits are between Earths & the Sun), or superior (Earth’s orbit lies between theirs and the Sun). Saturn is superior (just ask him).

Superior planetary cycles begin at conjunction, when they are on the opposite side of the Sun from Earth, and therefore invisible to us (just as the Moon is invisible at the New Moon which begins its cycle). This is in keeping with theAbysmal symbolism of the Abyss. Thus, today, Saturn is at Conjunction. Now you know. Use this information wisely.

Saturn’s synodic period takes an average of 378.09 Earth days. However, each period will be a set number of days. Cycle 0 will take 377 days. Planetary cycles are tracked by theAbysmal Calendar’s chromatic counter, as well as its Lunations (lunar months).

Why track the planets?

We’ve been doing it forever, and 6 of the 7 other planets are visible from Earth with the naked eye (although you have to squint to see Uranus). Living in brightly lit cities has removed us from the aeon-old practice of stargazing and skywatching. It’s a pity, really, as these are the foundations of daykeeping and calendar systems. As a result, since we have advanced astronomy by leaps and bounds over the centuries, we may as well take advantage and keep an eye (if only the mind’s eye) on what’s going on in the celestial heavens.

Also, Saturn, at least in Greco-Roman mythology, began time when he separated Earth and Sky (or, as the myth has it, castrated his father Ouranos – the sky – while he was copulating with Gaia – the earth. Messy business this inventing time).

3 D Universe

25 June 2012

Where can I get one of these?

It drove me mad for the longest time, trying to find a coherent description of the solar  system’s place in the universe. I did manage to get ahold of this excellent visual (see below), and this particular TED lecture is just the thing.

179 Days to Dec 21st 2012

Solstice with the Mostice

20 June 2012

Renaming the Tropics

Today marks the Solstice (Summer in the Northern Hemisphere, Winter in the Southern), when the Sun is directly above the Tropic of Cancer. Likewise, the Solstice in December puts the Sun over the Tropic of Capricorn. At the Equinoxes, its over the Equator. Simple enough, right? Where did the Tropics get their names?

Although the origin remains murky, the reason for the names has to do with astrology. The Sun enters Cancer on the June Solstice, and enters Capricorn on the December Solstice. However, these signs are fixed, and although they are named after the constellations, they have no bearing on their actual location in our skies.

According to the International Astronomical Union, the Sun is in Taurus on the June Solstice, and sidereal astrology (based on the actual constellations), the Sun is in Gemini. At the December Solstice, the Sun is in Sagittarius.

Should we use scientific means to name the key lines of latitude; the Equator, the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, and the Arctic Circles? Why are we relying on a system that most astronomers dismiss out of hand?

As such, do we rely on the IAU to label these the Tropics of Taurus and Sagittarius, or sidereal astrologers to rename them Gemini and Sagittarius?

Regardless of how we change the names of the Tropics, they will continue to change as the Precession of the Equinox shifts the location of the Stars in our skies. Eventually, Gemini will shift to Taurus, Sagittarius will shift to Ophiuchus, and so on, until eventually the Northern Tropic will be Capricorn, and the Southern becomes Cancer. This is over 20,000 years away, so we have time to consider how confusing that might be.

Now if I could only get some input from people living above the Arctic Circle as to how they perceive the world – the four directions and the Sun rising in the East, setting in the West just doesn’t work up there…

184 Days to Dec 21st 2012

Music of the Spheres

17 June 2012

Planetary synodic cycles and you.

Along with all the other fun and games that go along with following the motions of the Earth, Moon, and Sun, we shouldn’t forget about our friends the Planets, whirling around us like a dysfunctional family at a big fat Greco-Roman wedding.

I think that in keeping with the apparent motion of celestial bodies from our point of view on Earth (it’s all relativity, right?), I’d look primarily at the synodic cycle of the 2 inferior planets (Mercury and Venus), and the 5 superior planets (Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus [stop giggling], and Neptune). The synodic period for Mercury and Venus begins at Inferior Conjunction, when they are between the Sun and Earth; for the Superior Planets it begins at Conjunction, when they are on the opposite side of the Sun from Earth (this is traditional).

I’m using‘s online ephemeris for these calculations.

The following table lists the Gregorian dates the cycles begin – Cycle 0 in each case is the cycle underway when theAbysmal Calendar launches this December 21st 2012. Saturn and Mercury are, appropriately enough, the two planets that have yet to start their first synodic cycle of theAbysmal Calendar, and Venus began hers with the transit (which is quite serendipitous).




Cycle 0


Cycle 1


Cycle 2




Nov 17


Mar 4


Jul 9




Jun 6


Jan 11


Aug 15




Feb 4


Apr 18


Jun 14




May 13


Jun 19


Jul 24




Oct 25


Nov 6


Nov 18




Mar 24


Mar 29


Apr 2




Feb 19


Feb 21


Feb 23


Solar Cycles

One Solar Cycle of sunspot activity takes about 23 years, and is usually divided into two lesser cycles of just over 11 years. Successive cycles begin in alternate hemispheres. Our current Solar Cycle 24 began January 4 2008, and we are entering into its peak of activity after a very slow start. I can’t figure out if the first sunspot of this cycle, Sunspot 981 for those keeping track. The previous cycle, 23 began in May 1996.

For the sake of convention, the current Solar Cycle 24 beginning Jan 4 2008 is theAbysmal’s Solar Cycle 0.

Precession of the Equinoxes

The apparent rotation of the stars due to a wobble in the Earth’s axis (and not that due to its rotation & orbit) shifts the constellations of the ecliptic by about 1 degree every 71 years or so. This means that as the Sun passes in front of the Constellation Aries starting on April 18th, it will continue to do so for another 71 years, after which it will pass in front of Aries beginning on April 17th. It will take close to 26,000 years for the Sun to pass in front of Aries starting on April 18th again.

Granted that these designations are arbitrary, and not every culture sees the same images in the stars, theAbysmal uses the boundaries established by the International Astronomical Union (at least, I hope I got them right). If my calculations are correct (let’s assume they are, because in the end, does it really matter if I’m off by a decade in the course of 26 millennia?), then the Sun will pass in front of Aries beginning on December 21st (theAbysmal New Year Day) in about 8,500 Years.

The reason to include these cycles is that they have been an intrinsic part of our timekeeping for as long as anyone can remember. These take longer periods of time into account, and are cycles that relate to how we see the celestial heavens from our home. If our great an intricate technology, which has let us peer into the furthest reaches of space should fail us, we will still be able to watch the heavens, and observe the dance of lights.

187 Days to Dec 21st 2012

Happy Day and an Invitation

23 September 2010

Equinox, Full Moon, New 260-Day Cycle – time to put theAbysmal Calendar into practice

today is a particularly auspicious day, particularly on theAbysmal Calendar. It is the Autumnal Equinox (vernal in the Southern Hemisphere), the Full Moon and also the beginning of the 260-Day cycle of the Calendar.

The 260-Day Cycle is borrowed from the Mesoamerican calendars, but is used in a different manner and not to be confused with the Mayan and Aztec use of it. It does reinforce the cycles of the calendar, but most importantly, it is a weaving of two progressions: a cycle of 1-13 days and another of I-XX days (that’s 1-20 in roman numerals). The second cycle is meant to stand in for a progressive series of 20 glyphs, which are best left determined according to the cultural preference of the calendar users.

Regardless, today, the designation is 1-I, tomorrow 2-II and so on, through the possible combinations 13-XIII, 1-XIV and all the way to 13-XX. This calendar can be followed in cycles of 5, 13 and 20 days (and other factors and multiples as well). Following this calendar is an effective means of developing a project. 260 days is approximately the period for human gestation (by the moon it’s about 266 days).

In the womb, it takes about 13 days for the cells to duplicate themselves after fertilization. However, this is followed on day 14 by the miraculous process of gastrulation, whereby the cells differentiate into 3 different membranes, which will eventually develop into all of our tissues. Following this timing, which was the first any of us has ever known, may just be an effective means of scheduling the days.

Although that remains to be seen.

The author and developer of the calendar endeavours to follow theAbysmal Calendar starting with Dec 21st 2010, in order to better surmise its practical applications. Today marks the first steps towards incorporating it into the day-to-day. A chronicle shall result.

All who wish to participate are more than welcome.

theAbysmal Calendar vs the Gregorian

26 November 2008

A Calendar Challenger, one calendar at a time.

This challenge, of putting up theAbysmal vs all of the rest of proposed and existing calendars is strictly in its role as the world’s calendar. theAbysmal was designed to facilitate the translation of dates between calendars, so that people following the Moon can more easily figure out what a day on a solar calendar may be.

note: that Common Era Calendar refers to the Gregorian Calendar using CE & BCE instead of AD & BC, but otherwise identical. Here I’ll just call it the Gregorian CE.


from the Calendars Wikia

First: Reasons for retaining the Gregorian CE calendar:

1. The calendar year stays in sync fairly well with the seasonal year. More exactly, the vernal equinox always occurs during a 51-hour period spread over March 19, 20 and 21.
2. Everyone is familiar with it.
3. The rules of the calendar are already embedded in innumerable computer programs.
4. The calendar is an integral part of the vernacular of many cultures.
5. It maintains an uninterrupted seven-day week, which is important to religious groups.
6. It may be difficult to promulgate changes to the calendar because all countries that use it would need to agree to make a change. The Gregorian calendar took nearly 350 years to be adopted by all countries that previously used the Julian calendar.

Addressing these points in kind, allow me to retort:

1. theAbysmal Calendar is more affixed to the seasons throughout the year. Each quarter starts and ends on or about either Solstice or Equinox.
2. theAbysmal uses the 7-Day Market Week, as the world is scheduled most broadly by the week. There will be no disruption in the flow of weekdays in the implementation of theAbysmal Calendar on Saturday December 22nd, 2012 CE.
3. theAbysmal Calendar begins a linear count of seconds, minutes and days as of its implementation, which is a simple arithmetic step away from the Unix Time Code and Julian Date already used in many cases. Also, the Internet broadcasts a standardized time, such that it would be a relatively easy modification to one’s operating system.
4. theAbysmal Calendar allows for the naming of days, months and so on as suits each culture,  and the observation of religious and secular calendars may go on with no disruption to any of the vernacular. (On a side note, the progression of days in September align with the numbers in Month 9 of theAbysmal Calendar. Thus, 9/11 becomes Month 9 Day 11.)
5. theAbysmal Calendar has two days that are not weekdays, but again, as it doesn’t intend to replace any religious calendars, each may continue the uninterrupted week as they will.
6. theAbysmal Calendar is using the Internet to promote itself, and is free for download, printing and spreading around free of charge (although the owner of theAbysmal’s images reserves the rights to make a living off of them). It was designed for all of the people of the world. It will allow the varied calendars of the world to continue being used, while translating between one and the other with greater ease.


Second: Reasons for replacing the Gregorian CE (as the global calendar only):

1. The structure of the months is irregular, with month lengths ranging arbitrarily from 28 days to 31 days.
2. The leap year rule is hard for many people to understand: “An extra day is added at the end of the second month every four years, except in years whose number is divisible by 100 except in years whose number is divisible by 400.”
3. The conventional 7-day-week cycle does not fit exactly into a Common Era year (there are always one or two days left over). This means that it is difficult to know which day of the week a CE date falls on.
4. The irregularity of the structure of the CE Calendar makes it difficult to formulate schedules of events occurring on certain days of the week which can be re‑used from year to year.
5. That irregularity also makes it very difficult to design schedules which can be used in any quarter (of three months), term (of four months) or semester (of six months).
6. Despite the existence of a proposed standard way of writing CE dates (the ISO 8601 date format) such dates are currently expressed mainly either as month-day-year (in the U.S.) or day-month-year (in Europe and most of the rest of the world). This creates major confusion for people in one part of the world reading dates written by and for people in another part of the world.
7. The months of the CE Calendar, although called “months”, have no relation to the lunar cycles. The sequence of months and the sequence of lunations are completely unrelated, and a new moon or a full moon can occur on any day of the CE month.
8. The leap year rules cause the timing of the equinoxes and solstices to vary by about 51 hours, which can be reduced if alternative leap year rules were adopted.
9. The intercalary day is inserted at the end of the second month instead of at the end of the year, which adds complexity to various date calculations. In particular, the number of days between a particular date in January or February and a particular date after the end of February is not constant.

Once again, theAbysmal retort:

1. theAbysmal months are 4 Weeks of 28 Days each.
2. The Leap Year Day isn’t a weekday, so its observation doesn’t disrupt the perpetual 52 Weeks. The rule is a little easier than the Gregorian CE’s and more accurate. Observe a Leap Year Day every 4 Years with an exception every 128 Years.
3. Each Year, Quarter, Month and Week begin on Saturday and end on Friday. This makes future scheduling easier, and allows people to think ahead without having to consult an external calendar.
4. See point 3 above.
5. theAbysmal 52~Week Year divides evenly into Months of 4 Weeks, Quarters of 13 Weeks, and Semesters of 26 Weeks.
6. theAbysmal Date format can be introduced with set, universal rules, which will prevent such difference of standards.
7. theAbysmal Calendar follows both Lunations and Months
8. theAbysmal 52~Weeks observes a Friday and Saturday on or about each of the Cardinal Dates. theAbysmal Lunar Calendar serves as the observational Calendar, recording actual dates of astronomical phenomena.
9. theAbysmal Leap Year Day falls on the Day before New Year’s Day. Neither are a Weekday, and occur after the last Friday of one Year, and the first Saturday of the next (Leap Year on dec 20th, New Year on dec 21st).

It appears that theAbysmal has addressed all of the above issues in some capacity. The one concern is that it may appear too complex, when truly its usage can be quite simple. One doesn’t need to observe all of theAbysmal Calendar’s cycles and time periods, but simply the ones that are relevant. One doesn’t need to observe the Lunation and the Month, or the 260~Day Calendar at all. They are simply options for consideration.

There are other points of consideration with respect to theAbysmal:

10. theAbysmal Calendar has an innate 13~base symmetry between the 260~Day (13×20), the 52~Week Year (13×4), the Lunar (Leap Years have 13 Lunations), and the 13 Constellations through which the Sun travels.
11. theAbysmal 260~Days weave an annual progression to each Day, so that with practice, we can think in terms of “this day next year, and this day last year.”
12. theAbysmal harmonises aspects from many of the world’s calendars including: Hebrew (weekdays with Latin~ and Teutonic~derived names), Buddhist Lunar (Lunar New Year at Winter Solstice), the Maya & Mexica (the 260~Days), Jose Arguelles & the law of time foundation (the 13~Moon Calendar), the Chinese (aligning the four directions with North at the bottom, the I~Ching, the tao), and the Mesopotamian (astrological & astronomical symbols).
13. theAbysmal Calendar begins each of its cycles (with the exception of the Year in the Southern Hemisphere) in darkness. Midnight for the Day, New Moon for the Lunation, Winter Solstice for the Year. As much as our universe and we ourselves developed and grew out of darkness (the unknown, the unknowable), so does the measures of time in this calendar.
0. theAbysmal Calendar has a Year 0 (as well as a Quarter 0, Lunation 0, Month 0, Week 0 and Day 0), which the Gregorian CE lacks altogether. This changes our system from a chronology (first, second, third day of the month) to a numbering, where the number indicates the amount of time completed, not that taking place. The Day, Month, Week etc… taking place includes “now” which is really when all time happens.