In the Stars

In the Stars

Article from Issue 217/2018

OpenAstro helps users determine the positions of stars and generate charts to use when creating horoscopes for friends, relatives, or celebrities.

The plane in the sky defined by the Earth's revolution around the sun is known as the ecliptic. Stargazing ancients were well aware of the mysterious properties associated with this band of sky, in which the sun, moon, and planets appeared to move across a fix background of the stars [1]. Western and near-eastern sky watchers referred to the 20 degree band around the ecliptic as the Zodiac and divided this band into 30 degree segments, each corresponding to one month of the Sun's apparent motion. The constellations that traversed the Zodiac, rising and falling, then reappearing at the same time and place the next year in what appeared to be a giant celestial clock, were especially important to these ancient astronomers, who believed the motion of the sky held clues for understanding the universe. The ancient art of astrology developed around the practice of analyzing this celestial motion and using it to make predictions about people and future events.

Modern-day astrologers still use information about the locations of the planets and constellations to perform astrological readings. If you're interested in exploring this ancient practice, an open source tool called OpenAstro will help you get started.


Several distributions currently have OpenAstro 1.1.56 [2] in their repositories, and you can install the program conveniently with the package manager. You then launch it from the menu via a starter or use the openastro command in a terminal window.

OpenAstro is primarily intended for creating astrological diagrams, less for their interpretation: According to professional astrologers, computer horoscopes should only be used as a last resort, as it takes several years for an astrologer to master the craft. The software stores the star and planet information necessary to create astrological diagrams for any time between 1800 and 2399.

The place where an event took place plays an important role. OpenAstro integrates an offline atlas that includes the longitude and latitude of 80,000 locations, making it easy to find even small locations.

OpenAstro allows you to create several types of diagrams, including a radix, transit, synastry, or solar diagram (see the box entitled "Diagram Types.") The program also takes into account the position of lesser-known stars, such as Chiron, Pholus, Ceres, Pallas, Juno, Vesta, as well as the lunar nodes and the monthly timeline of all aspects.

Diagram Types

  • Radix – a diagram that shows the position of the planets and points at the time of birth.
  • Transit – a diagram used for predicting future events.
  • Synastry – a diagram that serves as a basis for partnership horoscopes by merging the diagrams of the partners.
  • Solar diagram – Basis for most weekly or monthly horoscopes. It places each of the 12 characters as ascendants.

Before you start, you should configure some important settings. OpenAstro is capable of creating Vedic (Hindu) astrology diagrams; however, this article deals exclusively with Western astrology. Under Settings | Settings you can set the house system. The house system divides the astrological space into regions associated with different realms of experience. Astrologers use a variety of different house systems. In this case, set the house system to Placidus and the Zodiac type to tropical. The tropical Zodiac serves as the basis of Western astrology.

Next, use the Set Location submenu to set your current location. OpenAstro shows the current status of the stars related to your place of residence. If you select a language other than English in the main settings, you can change the translation of the English technical terms in the Names submenu. In addition, the colors of the individual Zodiac signs, planets, stars, and aspects can be changed by calling the Colors submenu.

Short Horoscope

The short horoscope takes into account the position of the sun, the moon, and the Ascendant at birth. It also takes a closer look at the houses of these planets and the relationship between the sun and the moon. With the two planets and the Ascendant (the Zodiac sign that was rising on the eastern horizon when you were born), an astrologer can already say a lot about a person.

For example, the sun sign indicates strengths and weaknesses, identifying advantageous professions and suitable partners, as well as your lucky day and lucky stone (Figure 1). The Ascendant, on the other hand, is responsible for how others perceive you, and it also influences your appearance. The moon stands for mentality: It describes how you think and how your mind works [3].

Figure 1: On the disk, you can see the twelve zodiac signs and their "rulers," i.e., the planets. In order to interpret planets at the time of birth, you still need the matching houses – the first house is attributed to Mars. The inner circle lists the meaning of the houses.

Since the sun stays in a Zodiac for about a month, but the moon just two and a half days, the houses are needed to determine the character. Many people have the same sun sign or the same moon, so that the houses and the aspects give the short horoscope more individuality. The sun, the moon, and the Ascendant influence us most.

There may be no aspect between the sun and moon. This is because the difference between the degrees of the two planets is greater than that defined in the settings (Figure 2).

Figure 2: The symbols of the individual aspects appear together with the permissible difference of the degree number.

To draw the chart, you need the date and time of birth of the person for whom you are creating the chart. First, deactivate all planets and stars that are irrelevant for the short horoscope under Settings | Planets and Corner Points (Figure 3). Since this is a birth chart, select the radix chart under Chart type.

Figure 3: OpenAstro makes it possible to (de-)activate planets, stars, and the four angles if so desired.

Enter the date of birth below Event | Edit Event and press OK to confirm. If you want to save the event permanently, click the Add to database button. The diagram can then be called up quickly at a later stage by clicking on the corresponding entry below Event | Fast database access. (See the box "Creating a Horoscope" for more information.)

Creating a Horoscope

To create a horoscope, you first need a diagram that you can export as a PNG or other image format below Diagram | Save as. Programs such as LibreOffice Writer or Scribus are useful for composing the horoscope. In the document, a cover page is usually followed by a small table of contents. Usually, the diagram follows on a separate page before the analysis begins. The symbols of the aspects, as well as planets and the Zodiac signs, are best represented with a suitable font [4] – this gives the text a special flair. The main part of the text contains the interpretations of the planets and the Ascendant. For more on composing and formatting a horoscope, see the website of astrologer Elbert Wade [5].

In the main part of the document, you insert the interpretation for the sun and describe what it says regarding the position in the sign and house. Repeat the same thing with the moon. With the Ascendant, you need to pay attention to the sign, because it is always in the first house.

Significant Factors

For an advanced analysis, you need to include the ten planets, the Ascendant, and Descendant (the sign that is at the horizon in the West), as well as the Imum and Medium Coeli. (The Medium Coeli is the point in the radix that is highest above the horizon at the moment of birth. The opposite is the Imum Coeli.)

You also need the radix diagram and the correct aspects as the diagram type. To set the aspects, click Settings | Aspects and disable all aspects except Sextile, Conjunction, Opposition, Square, and Trine.

The factors mentioned in this section serve as preparation for advanced character analysis, as recommended by astrologer Jeff Mayo [6]. First, you determine the prevailing polarities in the diagram by dividing the planets into even and odd ones. Odd or even refers to the position of the Zodiac signs in the individual planets.

Male characters like Aries, Sagittarius, or Leo are in an odd position; female characters like Pisces are in an even position. You only consider the planets from the Sun to Mars and only mention the other planets when they enter an aspect with the angles. The following example of an analysis refers to the diagram of a woman named Maria who has both the Ascendant and the sun in Sagittarius (Figure 4).

Figure 4: The birth chart shows the aspects between the planets and the angles. A list of aspects at the time of birth is shown at the bottom right. The lines inside the circle represent the aspects: Green stands for Trine, red for Square, ochre for Sextile, and purple for Opposition. The dashed lines between the signs represent the boundaries of the houses.

In Maria's case, the sun, Mercury, Venus, and Mars are in an odd position; the moon in an even position. This indicates that she is an extrovert. Next, you look at the mental types of the planets listed above. There are three mental types in astrology: cardinal (drive, initiating something), fixed (concentration), and variable (absentmindedness).

Maria has no planet in the cardinal. Venus, Mars, and the moon correspond to the fixed mental type; the sun and Mercury to the variable one. Accordingly, she is a woman who concentrates in a few areas but still has a tendency to be distracted.

Another important criterion is the temperament, which refers to the four elements fire (eagerness), earth (deliberation), water (assimilation), and air (interaction). In Maria's case, the sun and Mercury fall under the element fire; there is no planet for earth. The moon stands for the element water; Venus and Mars for air. Clearly, Maria's temperament consists mainly of fire and air – energetic and with a lot of interaction.

The last step is to take a closer look at the angles (Figure 5). The angles represent four different sectors of relationships. Thus the Ascendant stands for the ego sector, in which the emphasis is on ego-related relationships with the world around us. In the case of this characteristic, which is particularly susceptible to stress, the emphasis is on being different from the others.

Figure 5: The four angles known as the Ascendant, Descendant, Medium Coeli, and Imum Coeli have additional meanings. When a planet enters a conjunction with an angle, that planet is highlighted.

The "community" sector, also known as the Imum Coeli, focuses on interdependent interests between the ego and the community. Imum Coeli describes a 1:1 relationship for mutual interests and benefits. In the you sector known as the Descendant, the interests, the behavior, and the effect of the "you" on the ego dominate. Finally, there is the you sector known as Medium Coeli, where the interests and requirements of society dominate.

The distinctive zones are located in the four sectors, each with two. They identify the planets of these zones by observing in the diagram with which planets the angles enter a conjunction.

Planets located above the Ascendant belong to zone 1. Planets located below the Ascendant, and also in conjunction with the Ascendant, belong to zone 2. The zones highlight the function of the planet.

The results for this example are shown in Table 1. It can be inferred from this that the "community" and "you" sectors occupy an important place in it. The planets sun, Mercury, and Venus are also important in the horoscope. Only the first distinctive zone is occupied, indicating that Maria is a restless person who often takes risks. The second distinct zone also loves risks but is more controlled and with less restlessness.

Table 1

Sector Analysis for Maria





Ego sector

Mercury, Venus

Imum Coeli

Community sector

Sun, Mercury, Venus


You sector

Mercury, Venus

Medium Coeli

Them sector

Sun, Mercury, Venus

Distinctive Zones

Zone 1



Zone 2


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