The Astronomy and Astrology of Varuna

Nick Anthony Fiorenza

Varuna - It's Nature's Way

Varuna is the all-knowing creator god in the mythology of India: "He knows the pathway of the wind" (Rig Veda, the oldest of the Vedas and the oldest book in Sanskrit). Varuna is the merciful, supportive, and heavenly king of both the gods and humans who controls the physical order of the universe. He expresses physical power in battle and pro-creative vigor as he upholds cosmic law (not man's law) and a path of order. Varuna is considered to be the protector of people, keeping them from evil.

From a mythological viewpoint, Varuna has traits similar to Quaoar, who supports our return to natural law and the sacredness of life; and also of our more familiar Jupiter, who is also of higher (not man's) law. Vaurna perhaps has more to do with nature's way taking its course, where as Quaroar may have more to do with our relationship with natural law.

The orbit of Varuna

Varuna was detected on November 28, 2000 by Arizona-based astronomer Robert S. McMillan in the Spacewatch Project. The discovery team was led by David Jewitt of the Institute of Astronomy in Honolulu. Varuna has an estimated diameter of 900 (+125/-145) kilometers, which makes it slightly smaller than Charon (Pluto's companion). Varuna's orbital period is ~281.5 years. Pluto's is 248 years. Varuna has a similar orbital plane orientation to that of Pluto's and a similar orbital inclination at 17.197°, where as Pluto's inclination is 17.14° Varuna however has a more circular orbit, with an eccentricity of 0.05139, whereas Pluto's is 0.24876. Perihelion occurred around April 13, 1930 at a distance of ~40.74 AU in early Pisces conjoining Diphda of Cetus. Varuna has a rather fast rotational rate of about 6.3436 hours.

Discovery Circumstances: Quote From (July 3, 2001)

"During routine scanning with the Spacewatch 0.9-meter telescope on 2000 November 28, observer R. S. McMillan was manually blinking the displayed scans in real time and noticed this relatively slow-moving object. Its rate of motion was too slow for the real-time software to detect; normally the slower objects such as this one are found with another program that processes the data off-line.

The target was subsequently reobserved by J. A. Larsen, whose observing shift followed McMillan's. With their 12 observations spanning 3 nights, The Minor Planet Center determined a preliminary orbit that suggested the object is 43 AU from the Sun and 42 AU from the Earth. With an apparent magnitude of 20 at those distances, the object would be one of the brightest known Trans-Neptunian Objects other than Pluto and its satellite Charon.

Subsequent to that original announcement, an image of the object was found by A. Knofel and R. Stoss on an old photographic plate taken with the Big Schmidt telescope at the Palomar Observatory in 1955, about 3 degrees away from the backward extrapolation of the approximate orbit determined in December 2000. This means that the motion of the object around the Sun has been measured over an arc of 57 degrees, enough to establish that the orbit is slightly eccentric and has a mean distance from the Sun 43 times farther than the radius of the Earth's orbit. Observations in December 2000 from observatories in Japan, Hawaii, and Arizona also helped to refine knowledge of the orbit, which indicates that the object is a member of the classical Kuiper Belt.

The orbit is now known well enough that the Minor Planet Center has assigned 2000 WR106 a permanent number; it is minor planet (20000). This makes the object eligible for naming. According to the guidelines set by the International Astronomical Union's Committee on Small Body Nomenclature, it should receive a name from among those of creation gods.

Furthermore, the submillimeter and optical measurements required to determine the object's thermal output, reflectivity, and size have been made by D. Jewitt, H. Aussel, and A. Evans from observatories on Mauna Kea in Hawaii. They indicate the object is relatively dark compared to Pluto and is about half the diameter of that planet. So 2000 WR106 is indeed one of the largest, as well as one of the brightest, of the Trans-Neptunian population excepting Pluto and Charon (at the time). The darkness of the surface tells us there is very little surface frost.... 2000 WR106 was discovered in a moderately rich star field, closer to the galactic equator (in Gemini) than where most TNOs are deliberately sought. This may explain why it had not been discovered earlier.

2001 March 6: Minor Planet (20000) 2000 WR106 has been named by the IAU. It is now known as Minor Planet (20000) Varuna."

IAU Citation: "In the Committee of Small Body Nomenclature (CSBN), we accepted the following citation which will appear in the March MPC batch: (20000) Varuna = 2000 WR106. Discovered 2000 Nov. 28 by Spacewatch at Kitt Peak. Varuna is one of the oldest of the vedic deities, the maker and upholder of heaven and the earth. As such he is king of gods and men and the universe. The name was suggested by M. Sarabhai." Dr. Lutz D. Schmadel Astronomisches Rechen-Institut Heidelberg Moenchhofstr.

Varuna's Discovery Location

Star Chart of Varuna's Discovery in Gemini

Varuna's Discovery Location

First Kit Peak Observation recorded time and location.
Ref: Minor Planer Circular (MPS 22964)
2000 11 28.41086 UT. (9:51:38.304 AM UT) RA: 06 45 51.26 DEC: +23 47 44.7

First Mauna Kea Confirmation recorded time and location.
2000 12 05.54084 UT. RA: 06 45 19.48 DEC: +23 48 49.3

Varuna was discovered when it was making passage through mid-sidereal Gemini, conjoining Alhena and Alzir, the feet of Pollux, and Mebsuta of Castor. This was just after Varuna crossed its North Node, just a few degrees earlier in the ecliptic conjoining the feet of Castor, moving from south to north of the ecliptic.

"The Twins" are marked by the two principal stars: Pollux, the immortal extraterrestrial one, and Castor the mortal terrestrial one, the extraterrestrial incarnate. These two stars mark the last few degrees of sidereal Gemini. The Twins stand upon the galactic equator at a 60° angle to the ecliptic plane, with the "Feet of the Twins" lying in earlier Gemini, upon the "galactic node" of Earth's Precessional Cross—the "Gate of Man." Thus, Gemini is a galactic constellation, one common to our solar plane (ecliptic), and so with sol / soul purpose expressing in the daily activity of humankind. (Our feet are associated with our longer term / sole / sole / soul purpose, and taking action in the world.)

The stars of Gemini are of high intensity intellectual communication, information, commerce, goods and services, and of their exchange. The Twins are of partnerships in mutual cooperation, linking and uniting efforts through their daily affairs in the world. The Twins work hand-in-hand for the betterment and evolutionary fulfillment of humankind.

Alhena, Gamma Gemini, and Alzirr, Xi Gemini, mark the feet of Pollux. Alhena is the brand, mark or seal, a marking stone for the unfoldment of what lies ahead. Alhena indicates a milestone or a turning point has been reached or is to be acknowledged. Alhena indicates the need to get off the fence of indecision, to drop any hesitation, as the time is at hand to go forth anew, to go the distance. Alhena marks a time of commencement and engagement. As the brand, Alhena also indicates that the time, events, or relations are marked or may be destined. Alhena can also manifest simply as a unique sign, indicating an opportunity at hand.

Varuna's conjunction with Alhena suggests its arrival indicates a turning point has been reached, a separating of the ways is at hand, that it is time to get off the fence of indecision and take action to re-establish order out of the chaos, separating what is just from the unjust, perhaps regarding ecological, environmental and social issues.

It would be worth exploring Varuna's astrological role in charts related to ecological-related events, natural disasters, and in the charts of activists in ecological-related affairs. Varuna's arrival into humanity's awareness in 2000 may have been a part of our motivation to take serious action regarding ecological conditions in the world—making blatantly clear that we must change our ways—to nature's way. Varuna imparts a desire to support and protect the rights of others and all life in general.