Mars' Synodic Cycles
including the 2003 Close Encounter

The Astronomy and the Astrology

Mosaic of the Syrtis Major hemisphere of Mars

Mosaic of the Syrtis Major hemisphere of Mars. Image Processing by Jody Swann/Tammy Becker/Alfred McEwen, using the PICS (Planetary Image Cartography System) developed at the U.S. Geological Survey in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Valles Marineris, the Grand Canyon of Mars

Soaring high above Valles Marineris, the "Grand Canyon of Mars," viewers look down and catch a sight resembling parts of the desert West of the United States, but on a vastly greater scale. Here the canyon averages over a hundred miles wide, and its floor is heaped with rocks, sediments, and landslide debris. Within the canyon walls lie possibly hundreds of layers filling many pages of Mars' geologic record. Image & Caption Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

Special Feature Video

Planetary Bio-harmonic Special Feature Video
The Moon & Mars

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The Close Encounter of 2003

Throughout the first half of 2003, Mars moved progressively closer to Earth. As it did, Mars appeared to grow larger and brighter each night. By late August 2003, Mars was closer to Earth than it had ever been in about 60,000 years—about 191 million miles closer to Earth than normal. It appeared to be more than six times larger and 85 times brighter than normal—brighter than Jupiter.

Mars was closest on August 27, 2003. On Aug. 28, Mars arived to its "opposition." This is the moment when the Sun, Earth and Mars are in alignment (as shown below). Mars grows larger and brighter every time a Mars opposition occurs, about every 26 months (780 Earth days), but this specific event is unique for two additional reasons. The orbits of Mars and Earth are elliptical rather than exact circles—that of Mars even more so than Earth's. At the time of the alignment, Mars was at its closest point to the sun in its orbit (called a Mars perihelion). This phenomena (a Mars perihelic opposition) occurs about every 15 to 17 years. In addition, Earth is quite close to its furthest point from the Sun (call an aphelion), which actually occurs a bit earlier in the year. Thus, Earth is pushing outward toward Mars while Mars is reaching inward toward Earth. This rare coincidence of events brought Earth and Mars extraordinarily close (~55.8 million kilometers). See the table below for Mars-Earth distances occuring from 2003-2020.

In 2003, Mars was seen to be in sidereal Aquarius
magnitude -2.9;
size: 25.13 seconds of arc

Mars Earth 2003

The Mars-Earth Synodic Cycle

Mars orbits the Sun in 1.881 Earth years, moving slightly slower than Earth. Because of the two different orbital rates of Mars and Earth, it takes 780 Earth days (on the average) for the two planets to align. This period is called the Earth-Mars synodic cycle (a synod means a place of meeting). This alignment of Earth and Mars (also called a Mars opposition) marks the beginning of a new Earth-Mars synodic cycle.

To learn the basics about Synodic Cycles and their astrological significance, see: "Synodic Cycles and Planetary Retrogrades."

Phobos, the largest Moon of Mars

Phobos, the largest Moon of Mars

"The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter took two images of the larger of Mars' two moons, Phobos, within 10 minutes of each other on March 23, 2008. This is the first, taken from a distance of about 6,800 kilometers (about 4,200 miles). It is presented in color by combining data from the camera's blue-green, red, and near-infrared channels."

Image & Caption Credit:
NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

Full Story Here:

Mars Distances 2003 - 2020

August 28, 2003 Synod
Closest Earth-Mars distance occurs on August 27, 2003 (~55.8 million kilometers)
0.37272 AU = 55,758,166.56 km

November 7, 2005 Synod
Closest Earth-Mars distance occurs on Nov 3, 2005 (~69.7 million kilometers)
0.46583 AU = 69,687,236.34 km

December 24, 2007 Synod
Closest Earth-Mars distance occurs on Dec 18, 2007 (~88.2 million kilometers)
0.58934 AU = 88,164,085.32 km

Jan 29, 2010 Synod
Closest Earth-Mars distance occurs on Jan 27, 2010 (~99.3 million kilometers)
0.66398 AU = 99,330,080.04 km

March 3, 2012 Synod
Closest Earth-Mars distance occurs on March 5, 2012 (~100.7 million kilometers)
0.67368 AU = 100,781,180.64 km

April 8, 2014 Synod
Closest Earth-Mars distance occurs on Apr 14, 2010 (~92.4 million kilometers)
0.61758 AU = 92,388,732.84 km

May 22, 2016 Synod
Closest Earth-Mars distance occurs on May 30, 2016 (~75.3 million kilometers)
0.50322 AU = 75,280,705.56 km

July 27, 2018 Synod
Closest Earth-Mars distance occurs on July 31, 2018 (~57.6 million kilometers)
0.38497 AU = 57,590,742.06 km

October 13, 2020 Synod
Closest Earth-Mars distance occurs on October 6, 2020 (~62.1 million kilometers)
0.41491 AU = 62,069,706.18 km

1 AU (astronomical Unit) = 149,598,000 kilometres (92,955,887 miles). I AU is the mean distance between the Earth and the Sun over one Earth orbit.

The Mars Retrograde

A Mars opposition is also the time when Earth overtakes Mars in their respective orbits, which creates the Mars retrograde cycle. The Mars retrograde period of 2003 (during the close encounter) occurs from July 29, 2003 through September 27, 2003 in early sidereal Aquarius.

A retrograde period can be thought of as a time when we disengage
from the previous synodic cycle and re-engage in the next to come.

Unlike Venus, which has a repeating 8-year synodic pentagonal pattern, and 5 retrogrades which repeat in the same areas of the ecliptic and drift only over a long period of time, the Earth-Mars synodic alignments and subsequent Mars retrogrades walk around the ecliptic in a non-repeating and irregular pattern—spaced about 48.8 ° apart (on the average). This is due to the highly elliptical orbit of Mars and also because the 780-day cycle does not create a whole number Earth year pattern.

Mars Retrograde Path

The Mars 2003 Retrograde Path.

The sidereal signs (not tropical signs) are shown in the above illustration.
To learn of the difference between the sidereal and tropical zodiaks, and their
relationship, please explore the Sidereal Astrology WEB page.

To view the entire heavens visit "The Sidereal Heavens: Under the Stars"

The 2003 Mars Close Encounter

In the above star chart, Mars is shown (as seen from Earth) in the midst of its retrograde path at the location when the Mars-Earth-Sun alignment of Aug 28, 2003 occurs, marking the beginning of a Mars synodic cycle. The star alignments at this moment reveal the theme of the new 780-day synodic cycle. Mars conjoins the principal star Fomalhaut of Pisces Australis (the southern fish). Fomalhaut is one the "Four Royal Architects," and is the embodiment of sidereal Aquarius. Fomalhaut holds the future vision for an evolved humanitarian-based society. Mars conjoining Fomalhaut (and the other very fortuitous stars, Enif, Sadalmelik, and Deneb (the latter not shown) inspire creative action and use of power to support the manifestation of this Aquarian vision.

The Previous (2001) Synodic Cycle

Just for perspective: Mars conjoined Lesath, the sting of the Scorpion, in the last couple of degrees of sidereal Scorpio in the synodic cycle that began on June 13, 2001. The mythical image here is of the Centaur placing Lupus the beast (lower self interest) upon the "Altar of the Centaur" to be consumed in the Centaur's pyre. From the sting of the Scorpion (the often harsh lessons of life) drips the transmutational elixir so higher self can rise from the ashes. The 9/11 Twin Towers attack occurred 90 days into the "sting of the scorpion" synodic cycle. Need I say more?

Mars Synodic Cycles

The Psychophysiology of Mars

Although many people think of Mars as the god of war (and associate it with the patriarch of the world), Mars is not negative. Mars simply governs our creative use of power. In fact, when humanity matures into spiritual soul awareness and grounds this awareness through the mental, emotional, and physical planes, Mars will have become one of the most spiritual and transformational forces embodied within ourselves.

Mars governs the base chakra (the seat of survival and unconsciousness) and our sexual capacity and function. Mars governs our creative force and our capacity to use our creative power to initiate action and response.

Mars in its clear expression is creativity assertively applied with power, strength, and confidence. Mars embodies abilities of leadership, is self-reliant, victorious, audacious, brave, instinctual, passionate, erotic, and willful.

Mars is generally associated with only the male while Venus and the Moon with the female, but both males and females have hearts and base chakras. Both have the capacity for love and application of creative power and sexual force. In Atlantian lore, the female was the aggressor, the male the seduced. The Moon in many cultures is also thought of as male, though today generally its intuitive quality is considered a female trait. I suggest it is neither and both. Although we can associate Mars with the male and Venus with the female in today's world, it helps to think of Mercury, Venus, and Mars vertically aligned in both sexes rather than only defining the sexes. Respectively they embody the three primary bio-energy centers: the intellect, communication; the heart, intuition; and sexuality, creative power.

Mercury alone is "logistical thinking": the integration of Mercury with Venus results in "intuitive knowing": and the integration of Mercury, Venus, and Mars results in "experiential wisdom" applied in creative manifestation.

Mars (base chakra / sexuality) is generally the facet of self that is held in most judgment due to this force having been used destructively and manipulatively in the history of our solar system. Because of this, total rejection and lack of love is often projected toward the Mars (male) energetic—alienating it even more. Mars is now dubbed the planet of war. Without love (heart - Venus - female), Mars expresses as a wayward and ballistic use of power in conflict.

Mars in its aberrant expression (base chakra issues): all survival issues; fear of not having enough, hoarding, and jealousy. There can be a need to control, manipulate, and exploit others or one's environment for personal gain and sustenance. There can be an inability to trust self, Earth, and to experience the connection between the two. Aberrant Mars feels unloved and unsupported, with the experience to affirm it, which can result in wayward or ballistic behavior, isolation, loneliness, hate, greed, brutality, or self-annihilation. Aberrant Mars can express as an inability to see or discern manipulative or dark forces; it can be over-bearing, argumentative, and intimidating, which hides a lack of self-confidence. Aberrant Mars can also expresses as judgment about use of other's creativity, use of power, and sexuality, as infertility or impotency, and as sexual frustrations and dysfunctional reproductive organs.

Primary associated bio-energy centres: Base chakra; all reproductive glands: prostate, testicles, ovaries; also the adrenals and kidneys, and the liver and blood. There are musculature tie-ins to the right arm, right knee, and the right calf (the ability and power to act on both short term and long term goals). Common secondary tie-ins occur to the thyroid and liver. Associated brain centers: Ego Pressure (sex regulation), cerebrum, pituitary, and hypothalamus—regulating blood pressure, stress response, sexual activity, Qi (Chi), and kundalini release.

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Reference and further information for the 2003 Close Encounter


"The initial computations that brought this event to light were made by Jean Meeus of Belgium.
The figures, slightly refined, were supplied to on Dec. 13, 2002
by orbit expert Myles Standish at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory."

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