Sir Harry Kroto and C60 – my friend, some science, some astrology

Sir Harry Kroto and C60

In May 2016, I opened a newspaper to be confronted with the sad news that my visionary friend Sir Harry Kroto had passed away at the age of 76. It turned out that he had been suffering from motor neuron disease. My mind went back to how I had got to know this lovely man, who contributed to the lives of many thousands of people across the world.

Around 1994, a friendly character used to come into the bar where I worked at the University of Sussex, ordering a half-pint of Fosters to go with his lunch. We gradually hit it off, leading to a fair amount of Pythonesque clowning around on a regular basis. One day, another customer approached me, looking rather worried. “You do know who he is, don’t you?” he asked. “I think he’s a chemistry professor, isn’t he? Great bloke, a really good laugh!” Much to my surprise soon after, I was watching a BBC2 science documentary and there on the screen came Mr. Half-of-Fosters, his usual eloquent, charming and cheeky self. I got to know who he was a bit better after that.

An extraordinary man

Harry was an extraordinary man, by any standards. As a scientist he helped discover C60, a new form of carbon which became known as Buckminsterfullerene. The discovery of the football-shaped molecule kick-started the nanotechnology revolution and led to his Nobel Prize (along with two other scientists) for chemistry in 1996. He predicted that C60 and a range of other new carbon molecules should exist in interstellar space from exploding and forming stars. It took thirty years before the scientific community finally proved his idea correct. Harry became a global ambassador for science and inspired countless school children around the world through his lectures and workshops. However, he was also an accomplished and award-winning graphic designer, an artist, musician, performer and speaker.

Long before I became an astrologer, I originally had plans to study chemistry at university. Like many, it was the scientific approach of repeated observation that drew me to astrology, rather than any kind of belief. As I gradually got to know Harry and one or two of his colleagues, inevitably the subject of astrology came up. Harry was an arch-sceptic but by then I knew him well enough to tease him that he was scared of having his chart done. Eventually he gave in and, although he didn’t know his time of birth, I wrote out a basic interpretation of his solar chart by hand. I remember immediately noticing a very close trine aspect between his Mercury in Libra and my Mercury in Gemini, confirming that we were on the same wavelength.

Harry’s astrological birth chart

Born on 7th October 1939, Harry Kroto had Sun, Mercury and Venus in Libra and was very much a typical Libran. He was charming, sociable and well known for speaking out on matters of justice and ethics. Initiating and communicating new ideas was Harry’s thing and his long and happy marriage to Margaret was a source of tremendous strength. The experimental and humanitarian energy of Mars in Aquarius was appropriate for a slightly eccentric scientist who was a keen supporter of both Amnesty International and the British Humanist Association. In common with many academics, Harry had a challenging close Mercury-Saturn aspect. As a balance to all the intellectual idealism, a warm and playful Moon in Leo (“To be a scientist is to be fascinated by the Universe, to have the same attitude as that of a child… Children learn from scratch. Children develop and learn quickly from their surrounding environment and the events that take place around them.”) was often on show, with further confidence and leadership ability coming from Jupiter in Aries trine to Pluto in Leo. Harry made full use of the consciousness-raising outer planet trine between Uranus in Taurus and Neptune in Virgo.

The next time I saw Harry after having done his chart for him, there was a big grin on his face as he handed me £40, which I hadn’t asked for. “So what did you think of it?” I asked him. Pause. Bigger grin on his face. “You just take that!” I think that was the closest I got to an endorsement of astrology by a Nobel Prize-winning scientist. That was good enough for me.

The astrology of the discovery of C60

Jonathan Hare, who was a close colleague of Harry’s, has kindly provided me with the birth data for the moment of the discovery of the C60 molecule. 6.56pm, 4th September 1985 in Houston, Texas – taken from the mass spectra reading from a cluster beam apparatus. Jonathan’s brief summary of the discovery:-

“The apparatus was a stainless steel piece of equipment that would fit into a small room: computers, vacuum pumps, electronics and the like.

At one side there was a powerful laser that can vaporise a sample, in this case carbon, graphite. The laser heated the carbon to 5,000 maybe 10,000 degrees C – as hot as a surface of a star – and the resulting plasma was quickly blasted into the main chamber of the apparatus by a pulse of helium gas. This large chamber had very little air in it, a very high vacuum. So in some ways the experiment represented the conditions of carbon coming off the surface of a star into the vacuum of space. Unlike space which is too far out to go and get a sample from, this experiment was on Earth. It could therefore be hooked up to a mass spectrometer that could ‘weigh’ out the things that were produced in the experiment.

They were looking for carbon chains that had been seen in great abundance out in space from carbon stars and they did see them on the mass spectrometer plots or data. But unexpected was also a strong peak for C60 – corresponding to 60 carbon atoms (and its companion C70 – “The Lone Ranger and Tonto, a-coming down the line, fixing every ones troubles, everyone’s except mine, someone must have told him I was doing fine!” Bob Dylan) which turned out to be a football of carbon! Named after Richard Buckminster Fuller (the engineer/architect who developed the geodesic dome seen in the Epcot Centre and Eden Project etc.), so called C60 or Buckminsterfullerene or a Bucky Ball.

C60 was discovered by accident, trying to understand something else, a classic case of serendipity!”

A quick look at the astrological birth chart confirms the story of C60. The ruling planet Uranus is up in the Sagittarius 10th house, corresponding nicely with an unexpected and famous discovery that spread around the world. Square to Uranus, the Sun is in Virgo and the 7th house, combining analysis and public service. Completing a T-square at the bottom of the chart is a 4th house Chiron in Gemini. Two groups of scientists had been involved in the discovery and there was some dispute about who had actually come up with the name C60. Such problems were later resolved. With the Moon exalted in Taurus, there was no problem attracting funding when it came to further research work on fullerene molecules. Close to the Descendant is a Mercury-Mars conjunction in Leo, as one might expect for a discovery that has been enthusiastically taught to thousands of schoolchildren.

In August of 2016, I had the great honour of contributing to a celebration of Harry’s life. It took place at the university building where I had met him all those years ago, now re-named the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts. Going on stage after Sir Ian McKellen (who had been at Bolton School with Harry), I shared a few of my memories with 200 people or so, many of them scientists who had flown in from around the world. One of the previous speakers had already mentioned Harry’s dislike of “pseudoscience” so I was very, very careful as I sneaked a brief summary of Harry’s birth chart into my speech! Having got away with it, I finished with a song on the guitar. Harry had also been extremely supportive of my music.

Harry frequently spoke about the importance of communicating complex science to public audiences: “Scientific discoveries matter much more when they’re communicated simply and well – if you can’t explain your work to the man in the pub, what’s the point?” That sounds like a lesson for astrologers too.

The above article was originally published in the May/June 2017 issue of the Astrological Journal magazine Thank you to editor Victor Olliver. This is the bimonthly publication of the Astrological Association dedicated to educating the public on astrology since 1958.

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Paul McCartney – astrological birth chart

Thumbs aloft! Sun in Gemini, Moon in Leo

Paul McCartney returned in September 2018 in spectacular style, with his excellent album Egypt Station going straight to Number One in the Billboard chart. It was his first solo Number One album since 1982’s Tug of War. As he sings on the new album track People Want Peace, “I’m not quitting while people are crying for more.”

Born on 18th June 1942 in Liverpool, Astrodatabank‘s currently preferred 2.00pm choice of chart (below) shows a hard-working and modest Virgo Ascendant (rising sign). Whatever the exact time of birth was, most of the main features of the chart stay the same in this case. All the planets are grouped in a small area across five signs of the zodiac, showing a shape somewhere between a Bundle or a Bowl, with strong emphasis on planets in Gemini and Leo.

McCartney is in many ways a typical Gemini. Starting with The Beatles, he has continually explored new ideas and new styles with his music, from pop to rock to classical compositions. There is often an effort to be up to date with contemporary trends and, along with the Gemini twinkle in his eye, a cheeky sense of humour is never far away.

Macca’s chart from

Gemini Sun conjunct Jupiter in Cancer

The Sun is at the end of Gemini, forming a conjunction to Jupiter at the beginning of Cancer (both in 10th house if the time of birth is reasonably accurate). Macca is known worldwide for his clever and funny Gemini self and of course he is also well known for being optimistic, romantic, a family man and proud of his Liverpudlian roots – all of which link nicely to a prominent Jupiter in Cancer.

The Sun-Jupiter conjunction forms a close square with Neptune. This combination of planets occurs in the charts of many musicians and artists, as well as spiritual leaders. The Neptunian universal visionary potential was there from birth. Paul’s long-term campaigning for vegetarianism is one expression of his high ideals and compassion. One could even say that McCartney is channeling a higher power – whatever that means! At the same time, his well-publicized use of cannabis is a classic example of Neptunian escapism.

He’s made a few quid…

Venus in its own solid sign of Taurus and Jupiter exalted in Cancer are two of the best basic planetary placements for potential financial success. McCartney has of course done rather well for himself and according to the Sunday Times, he is the richest musician in the UK as of May 2018. His net worth has been estimated at $1.2 billion, according to Celebratory Net Worth.

Moon, Mars and Pluto in Leo

The Moon in Leo gives a warm, enthusiastic and dramatic personality. There is more Leo in the chart from an explosively creative close Mars-Pluto conjunction. A Leo Mars carrying the creative power (and egomania!) of the Pluto in Leo generation, combines smoothly with the inspired intelligence, adaptability and potential mastery of language and communication shown by the Gemini Saturn-Uranus conjunction. McCartney is still fond of describing himself as working class – “I work bloody hard” – and that strongly positioned Mars in Leo is a sure sign that he does.

Egypt Station arrived with a Uranus transit to his Mars in Leo

Looking at recent transits and progressions, and after having allowed for the question mark around his time of birth, one relevant transit stands out. In the couple of months before Egypt Station was released in September 2018, transiting Uranus made (or came very close to) an exact stationary square to Paul McCartney’s natal Mars in Leo.

At that time, McCartney was very busy making unexpected (Uranus) playful promotional appearances (Mars in Leo). He popped up in New York, on the internet, television, in fact just about everywhere! Using the 2pm chart (above), Uranus is transiting from his 8th house, to Mars which is the ruler of his 8th house. Not only has Egypt Station suddenly regenerated (Uranus in 8th house) his career, there are also many more 8th house themes (emotional crises, sex, even some kind of spiritual salvation) in the lyrics than is usual for Paul. The final pass of this Uranus transit is in mid to late April of 2019, so worth keeping an eye out for some more unpredictable and playful Mars in Leo action from him then.

Long live Macca!

This is an edited version of an article originally published in the Nov/Dec 2018 edition of IAM astrology magazine

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2020 astrology – the end of an era and new beginnings

Astrology for 2020 – three major conjunctions

“For many reasons, 2019-20 and the years that follow will confront the world economy with reality”, astrologer Roy Gillett in ‘Economy, Ecology and Kindness’ (2009).

Thoughts from other astrologers here and here. Conjunctions occur when planets reach the same point in the sky, as seen from the Earth. Astrologically, according to the planets involved, they signify the end of one cycle and the beginning of another. It is unusual to have three conjunctions involving three of the five outer planets in the same year.

Saturn-Pluto conjunction in Capricorn, building during 2019, exact on 12th January 2020 and continuing during 2020 and beyond

At the time of writing this piece (January 2019), Saturn in Capricorn has recently moved significantly closer to Pluto for the first time, within about 8 degrees. Correspondingly, warnings of recession are being made by many experienced commentators in the world of global finance and the interconnected crises of capitalism, democracy and ecology appear to be accelerating. During April and May 2019, the conjunction will be within 3 degrees of exact, before easing off then building to January 2020.

Using the western tropical zodiac, the conjunction falls in Capricorn, hence the worlds of economics and politics and other Capricornian themes (hard reality, organization, limitation, integrity) are the focus of a profound transformation. Along with countless other astrologers, I have previously blogged about Pluto in Capricorn (2008-2024) and Saturn teaming up with Pluto in 2020 is a crucial focus of that process. As extensively researched and documented by Richard Tarnas:

“The successive alignments of the Saturn-Pluto cycle coincided with especially challenging historical periods marked by a pervasive quality of intense contraction; eras of international crisis and conflict, empowerment of reactionary forces and totalitarian impulses, organized violence and oppression, all sometimes marked by lasting traumatic effects. An atmosphere of gravity and tension tended to accompany these three to four year periods, as did a widespread sense of epochal closure; “the end of an era,” “the end of innocence,” the destruction of an earlier mode of life that in retrospect may seem to have been marked by widespread indulgence, decadence, naivite, denial, and inflation. Profound transformation was a dominant theme” Richard Tarnas, Cosmos And Psyche

The astrological charts of Donald Trump, the USA and China are all clearly impacted by Saturn-Pluto in 2020. The Cancerian Moon of the UK chart is already being hit with Brexit and other crises.

Jupiter-Pluto conjunction in Capricorn throughout 2020, exact on 5th April, 30th June and 12th November

Unlike Saturn-Pluto, the second conjunction of 2020 is potentially much more optimistic and creative, although not without a dark side. At its best, Jupiter-Pluto is all about positive healing and re-generation. It signifies upbeat new beginnings, here likely in relation to the broken Capricornian worlds of economics and politics. Many huge drives for success, improvement and achievement in the pursuit of excellence are likely to be launched at this time. Taking genuine responsibility is a key theme but a reforming zeal and obsession with power could be problematic. The old may have to be eliminated as organizations and bureaucracies dig deep into their roots. Hidden or secret aspects of reality may be brought to light, at its best (perhaps think Gandhi and Bill Gates who were born with Jupiter-Pluto) this conjunction can sow the seeds for healing the world. The currently scheduled date for the next USA election is 3rd November, immediately followed by the final pass of Jupiter-Pluto.

Jupiter-Saturn conjunction in Aquarius, exact on 21st December 2020

Many western astrologers have had their eye on this one for a long time. The general historic importance of Jupiter-Saturn cycles has long been observed. Since the 1840s, all the Jupiter-Saturn conjunctions (except a few in the early 1980s) have been occurring in the Earth signs Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn. Falling in the first degree of Aquarius, an Air sign. the late 2020 conjunction marks a significant long-term shift towards fairer social attitudes. The change of conjunctions from Earth to Air indicates moves away from, for example, fossil fuels and materialism. In their place come an emphasis on new ideas, information, technology, equality for all and respecting our environment. The decentralized political structures indicated here are very different to the regeneration of corporate power indicated by Jupiter-Pluto above. Perhaps they will combine, or just simply co-exist.

Many thanks to Roy Gillett of the UK Astrological Association for fully drawing my attention to the significance of the 2020 triple conjunctions, both through his talks and his book ‘Economy, Ecology and Kindness’. Also to Julian Venables for banging on (and on!) to me about the importance of the new Jupiter-Saturn cycle a few years ago. I recommend an extraordinary book by Professor Richard Tarnas – Cosmos And Psyche. which masterfully documents Saturn-Pluto correlations with countless traumatic periods throughout modern history, ranging from the beginning of World War One to the events of 911 and many more.

I haven’t mentioned the 2020 eclipses, retrograde Mars in Aries or even Uranus in Taurus (further emphasis on radical changes in relation to global finance and ecology) – the above is a deliberately brief and general summary. We may have to wait until Pluto enters Aquarius in 2023-24 for the real revolutions.  Good luck to all – I think we need it!

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Drake – astrological birth chart

At the end of June 2018, Canadian hip-hop rapper Drake (Aubrey Drake Graham) released his massively successful fifth album Scorpion, which would appear to have been named after his astrological sign of the zodiac.

Strong Scorpio emphasis and Mars square Pluto

Looking at his natal horoscope chart (born 2.31 am, 24th October 1986, Toronto in Canada), Drake has his Sun, Mercury and Venus in the sign of Scorpio. Perhaps more importantly, there is a also a Sun-Pluto conjunction in Scorpio, with the Scorpio Pluto forming a close square (always very important in a birth chart) to Mars in Aquarius. This is an explosive and mighty powerful combination which needs to be very carefully channelled. An independent, progressive and humanitarian (Aquarius) power is being unleashed on the world!

The dark, often hidden side of Scorpio can get very murky, with the rights and wrongs of the use of power needing attention. Anyone born with such a Scorpio emphasis is very likely to have to work their way through more darkness than most. As far back as being bullied at school, Drake has had many confrontational exchanges and clashes with others – ongoing feuds, legal disputes and relationship issues (Venus in Scorpio) which form the basis of many of his lyrics. At the same time, there is a determined and strong Scorpionic sense of purpose, with the potential for healing both himself and others.

Drake’s chart from

Early years

Drake was born to a mixed-race couple in Canada in 1986, and raised Jewish in a middle-class family. He initially became famous in Canada by playing wheelchair-bound Jimmy Brooks in seven seasons of the popular teen soap Degrassi: The Next Generation. It wasn’t until a personal crisis in 2008 that his musical career truly began to take off. At the time, Pluto formed a transit to his Scorpio Sun (he was written out of the soap opera, to be re-born as a hip hop artist), Saturn had just crossed into his 1st house (marking the beginning of a new 29 year cycle of personal responsibility) and Uranus squared natal Uranus (that age 21 transit, time to break free from childhood). In 2009, Drake signed a record deal with Lil Wayne’s Young Money Entertainment and began his rise to the top.

Leo rising and a Grand Trine in Water 

With creative and dramatic Leo rising, Drake’s Scorpio planets are in the 3rd house of communication. This fits very nicely with his intense, emotionally-driven rapping style. Drake has the confidence and arrogance of other hip hop artists (such as Jay Z and Kanye West, whose influence he has acknowledged) but as one might expect from a typical Scorpio with so much Water in the chart, Drake’s words and language are also a genuine expression of deeper soul-searching.

Drake’s nurturing Moon in Cancer (the handle of a Bucket shaped chart, similar to Taylor Swift’s as it happens) has easy flowing aspects to super-imaginative Jupiter in Pisces and intense Venus in Scorpio – a Grand Trine in Water signs. This says much about the sensitivity that sets him apart from the majority of hip hop artists, also helping Drake achieve mass popularity with the public. Not many hip hop artists would call an album Take Care, the title of his second album.

2017-2019 transits for Drake – the magic of Neptune, Uranus and others

Drake’s universal appeal has recently been helped by transiting Neptune forming a conjunction to natal Jupiter in Pisces and 7th house, together with easy aspects to his Moon (2017 to early 2018) and soon to come Venus (2019). This comment from him sums up the Neptune experience well: “The whole thing is unusual at this point, so we’re just rolling with the fairytale vibe”. Expansive Jupiter has also been moving through Scorpio, a positive boost that occurs for each sign of the zodiac every twelve years. Uranus, the great awakener, had just passed its first opposition transit to Drake’s Sun when Scorpion was released on 29th June. Worth keeping an eye on Drake for the final stage of his Uranus opposite Sun transit in March 2019 (as Uranus fully enters Taurus) – more powerful Scorpionic excitement indicated!

Scorpion broke several streaming records and Drake became the first artist to top one billion global streams in the first week of a studio album release. With Saturn still moving up through the bottom half of his chart, Drake has many years to go until he reaches the peak of his career. Despite what some critics say, it looks like he is only just beginning. Never underestimate the power of a Scorpio to be continually re-born, rising from the ashes, again and again.

This is an edited and extended version of an article originally published in the July 2018 edition of I AM astrology magazine

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Getting To The Heart Of Your Chart by Frank C. Clifford

Quality and quantity for anyone interested in modern astrology, beginners or advanced

Over the last twenty years or so, Frank Clifford has breathed new life into modern Western astrology in a number of ways, and this book demonstrates why. His direct, enthusiastic and straightforward Aries approach runs throughout this carefully presented, professional and well written volume. It has been recently re-published after an original 2012 release. There is an astonishing amount of information and there are countless examples of astrology in action, which both beginners and experienced astrologers can benefit from.

This is very much a 21st century book – now that astrology charts can be quickly generated by computer, the whole process of presenting and interpreting them has speeded up since many of the classic 20th century astrology texts (Derek and Julia Parker, Liz Greene, Hand, Arroyo, Cunningham, Elwell and so on) were written. According to the cover, there are over 150 charts here. Drawing on his many years of experience, the author expertly zips through sometimes brief and sometimes in-depth analysis of a huge range of the horoscopes of characters from all walks of life. Frank Clifford is often meticulous in his attention to detail, including the accuracy of birth data, which he is well known for in the astrological community.

Overall, an excellent book, packed full of insights and information for anyone interested in contemporary astrology.

Cosmos And Psyche by Richard Tarnas

An academically rigorous, complete, presentation of the case for modern Western astrology. Outstanding

Author and respected academic Richard Tarnas had already established a name for himself with “The Passion of the Western Mind” before the publication of this extraordinary book in 2006. “Cosmos And Psyche” is a substantial volume, masterfully written and the culmination of many years extensive research. It fully lives up to reviews that have described it as “groundbreaking” and “breathtaking”.

Tarnas has cleverly chosen to not use the signs of the zodiac or even use the word “horoscope”, and instead puts the focus entirely on the planets and their archetypes. Early on, he recounts his own journey from sceptic to astrological practitioner and researcher, made through repeated and extensive first-hand observation. gradually overcoming resistance along the way. He has thoroughly absorbed the best of late 20th century astrology (from the likes of Charles Harvey, Liz Greene, Robert Hand and others) and applied it to an extraordinarily thorough analysis of history and culture.

Whether the reader is familiar with deeper astrology or not, there is a ton of high quality work here. I found the analysis of Nietzsche’s life and the correlation with subsequent Jupiter-Uranus and Saturn-Pluto cycles particularly excellent. Apart from having to overcome huge cultural prejudice, astrologers also have to be pretty on the ball when explaining the often complicated nuances and subtleties of astrological symbolism applied to human affairs – Tarnas is masterful and precise with his use of language. Using his background as a cultural historian, and with hundreds of international examples, light is shone on historical cycles and their repetitive nature. Chapters are given to specific planetary cycles: Uranus-Pluto, Saturn-Pluto, Jupiter-Uranus and Uranus-Neptune.

For the open and educated mind, still sceptical but aware of the possibility that there might be something seriously going on with astrology, this is the book to seriously shift your paradigm! For established astrologers who have been frustrated for many years that astrology does not get the intelligent treatment or respect it deserves, this substantial volume is deeply satisfying. Tarnas re-unites the human and the cosmic, restoring transcendent meaning to both. Surely just what the alienated Western mind needs right now.

Astrology, Karma & Transformation by Stephen Arroyo

40 years later, still a modern classic, great for beginners or advanced

More than any other astrological text over the last thirty years, this book has continued to provide me with astrological wisdom and insights that no other book can match. The depth of Stephen Arroyo’s writing here is extraordinary, with perhaps the only criticism being that so much is packed into one single book, sometimes in the form of very long sentences. But this is hardly a complaint!

The outer planets are covered extensively with many examples of aspects and transits to the birth charts of people with relatively “ordinary” lives. This makes a refreshing change from much astrological literature that deals only with famous people, or people with severe problems of one kind or another. The chapter on Saturn is excellent, particularly the journey of Saturn through the twelve houses. Show any 29-year old (with a bit of self-awareness) the section featuring the Saturn return, and watch their reaction as they read!

This book is not only full of essential contemporary astrology; Arroyo also draws on his considerable experience of other tools for spiritual and psychological growth. He has a background in marriage and family counselling (chapter on “Karma and relationships”), and his many references to various spiritual teachers, Eastern religions, Western psychology and the Edgar Cayce psychic readings add to the spiritual power of Arroyo’s writing. Like nearly all of his books, still a modern classic.