14th May 2000
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Planets in line

By Tharuka Dissanaike
Here was another great opportunity for doomsday prophets. The strange grouping or alignment of five of the solar system's planets in line with the earth and sun, caused a flurry of dire prophecies about the end of time, the end of the world and huge natural disasters caused by the unholy movement of Venus, Mars, Saturn, Jupiter and Mercury. 

Bad enough, the planets are aligning themselves in a narrow span, but it also happens to be the year 2000, a very likely year for the world to end. But many doomsday predictors have been silent since the conjunction began on May 3.

Astrophysicists deny that this particular movement of the five planets would have any doomsday effects on planet Earth. Even scientists worried about natural disasters like tidal waves being caused by the planets' gravitational pull, volcanic eruptions or floods. But no such disaster is yet apparent, and is unlikely to happen within the next three days when the planets will move closer in line, a phenomenon culminating next Wednesday, May 17.

Early morning on Wednesday, just before sunrise, enthusiasts will be able to see a bright patch of light, which is the planets Venus and Jupiter moving close together on the eastern horizon.

"If one can watch for long enough, they will probably see the two planets moving away gradually. But there has to sufficient pre-dawn darkness to see the planetary lights," said Dr. Chandana Jayaratne of the Colombo University.

Dr. Jayaratne said that this type of planetary conjunction is not altogether rare. "There have been ill-effects of planetary conjunctions earlier."

He said that the gravitational pull of the planets was too small compared to the sun, and at this point of grouping, they lie farthest away from the Earth during their orbital movement around the sun.

There had been such a conjunction in 1962 and also in 1821. Scientists predict a closer alignment of planets in 2040.

On May 3, the planets were within an angle of 27 degrees and on May 17 when the span of the five planets reaches a minimum angle of 19.25 degrees, the closest moment will come at 10.30 UT (Universal Time) when Jupiter and Venus will be in conjunction.

During the last two millennia there have been only three conjunctions when the planets were within a span of 10 degrees. They were in 332 AD, 710 AD and 1186 AD. And in the next three millennia there will only be three more instances of this close grouping, one being imminent in 2040, when scientists calculate that the planets will be within a span of 9.15 degrees.

Scientists believe that there could not be a probable instance when all planets are perfectly aligned on one side of the sun.

Wait till June 6

By Hiranthi Fernando
The conjunction of five planets that started on May 3 has less effect astrologically than the planetary changes that are due to occur in June, predicts astrologer of repute Ramanathan Kurukkal.

According to this Swamy of the Sri Murugan Temple at Torrington Avenue on June 3, Jupiter enters the Rishaba rasi and on June 6, Saturn enters Rishaba. Saturn will be travelling in to Rishaba rasi after 30 years. This is of special significance to Sri Lanka since it foretells friendship, understanding and peace. 

"From April 4, 1998 Saturn has had no power. This was the cause of many of the problems we had. This position will change on June 6. There will be a favourable period for the country since Saturn will have its full powers," he says.

Swamy Ramanathan explains that when several planets come together there is a clash of power. But in 1962, when eight planets came together there were no major disasters although those who were born at that time experienced various problems. 

With regard to the war situation, the Swamy said that Saturn and Mars had been together since March. The change in position of Mars on April 25 gave an opportunity for slight improvement. 

"After June 6, we have reason to think that the beneficial influence of the planets will usher in success in development activities, education, agriculture and manufacturing ventures."

Well-known astrologer Daniel Gamaariya reaffirmed his predictions before the dawn of the millennium, that the period until June 6 was extremely unfavourable to the country.

"The change of planets in May is not so significant," he said. "From April 22 it was a very bad period, not only for Sri Lanka but for the world at large."

"There will be many disasters such as airplane accidents, fires, robberies and violence. For the whole world, the situation will get worse before it can get better. Rulers will be at risk. In Sri Lanka, it is possible that elections could get postponed," he added.

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