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Current Planetary Positions
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If you have our mobile version enabled then we'll be showing you a simpler view of the solar system showing you the current planetary positions with the option of moving up to 30 days forwards or backwards. Both apps show a solar system map - a "plan view" of the planets laid out in the plane of the ecliptic the flat plane in which all the main planets move about the Sun.
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Dwarf planet positions are also shown - but it should be realised that these objects often rise far above and below the plane of the ecliptic. This is because their orbital planes are tilted with respect to the ecliptic - by more than 40 degrees in some cases. So be aware that just because the app may occasionally show a planet and a dwarf planet to be very close to each other in the plan view, they may, in fact, be separated by a large perpendicular distance.
As you may know, the Earth's axis is tilted over by The app is arranged so that the view is fixed to the stars and that Polaris is always off the top of the screen and not shown. This means that the Earth's north pole is currently pointing towards the top of the screen, and the south pole towards the bottom.
During the summer months of the northern hemisphere the north pole is pointing more towards the Sun and so the Earth is currently shown below the Sun. During the summer months of the southern hemisphere, the south pole points towards the Sun and so the Earth is shown above the Sun. Unlike other online orreries in which you can look at the solar system from all angles, this site always shows the same view to try and help you keep your orientation. This allows you to tailor the view to the hemisphere you are in so that you can more easily relate the planetary positions as shown in this app with what you are seeing in the night sky.
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In both views the North Star is kept towards the top of the screen. Because the display is locked with north tilting upwards, it acts rather like a clock face in which one revolution of the Earth about the Sun is one year, and each of the constellations approximately map to months of the year with January being when the Sun is mostly in Capricorn and December when the Sun is mostly in Sagittarius, etc.
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The Zodiac display is centred on the Earth and oriented with the tilt of the earth. This display shows in which sign of the zodiac the Sun lies at any time. The sign of the Sun at a persons birth is called that person's Star Sign. The Zodiac is locked to the tilt of the earth in this way: Because the earth is tilted the Sun lies in the northern hemisphere for six months and then in the southern hemisphere for six months.
When the Sun crosses from the northern to the southern hemisphere this is called the Vernal Equinox and this event defines the direction between Aries and Pisces and hence the orientation of the whole Zodiac for the following year. Currently, the winter and summer solstices occur as the Sun crosses the vertical zodiac line and the spring and autumn equinoxes when the Sun crosses the horizontal zodiac line. So, to use our anti-clockwise clock analogy e. The longest and shortest days occur at the Solstices.
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At the Equinoxes, the day is almost exactly the same 12 hours long all over the world. The zodiac in the desktop version always shows which sign of the zodiac the Sun is in. However it may not be correctly showing which sign each planet is in. The reason is that the app has a slider control which changes the orbits of the planets from a diagrammatical view i. Only when the orbit realism slider is in the real position against the tick icon are all the planets definitely shown in the correct sign of the zodiac. For info on the desktop version controls, click here.
This page by default shows the diagrammatic view. The Astrology page by default shows a geocentric view in which all the planets are shown where they are relative to the Earth - but without distances. This makes it easier to see where they are in the sky, and also means they are always shown in the correct sign of the zodiac.
Sometimes people look into the night sky and expect that a planet shown to be in the zodiac sign of say "Cancer" will be sitting over the star constellation Cancer. This is not always true since zodiac signs and constellations do not match up one to one. The reason for this is that for one the constellations vary in size whereas zodiacs are all the same and two the constellations have moved or rather the direction the Earth's north pole points has changed since astrology began.
Indeed the direction the north pole points changes by 1 degree every 72 years it's called precession , and completes a whole circle about every 26, years. This means that although the stars mainly stay in the same place, the solstices and equinoxes which are defined by the movement of the Sun with respect to the Earth's axis change by 1 degree every 72 years with respect to the stars.
And because the position of the zodiac is defined by the equinoxes, it also rotates by 1 degree every 72 years with respect to the starts. Our desktop app shows this precession in the zodiac.
As time is wound forwards the Zodiac rotates in a clockwise direction northern hemisphere view.