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 https://www.facebook.com/AstrologicalJournal Thank you to editor Victor Olliver. This is the bimonthly publication of the Astrological Association http://www.astrologicalassociation.com dedicated to educating the public on astrology since 1958.

Consultations and readings available at https://www.timburnessastrologer.co.uk

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 https://www.astro.com

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 https://infinityastrologicalmagazine.com/

Consultations and readings available at https://www.timburnessastrologer.co.uk

David Bowie – astrological birth chart

DavidBowieNo introduction is needed for this man, born David Jones at 9.00 am, 8th January 1947, in Brixton, London. In terms of the elements in his birth chart horoscope, Fire and Earth are strongest, followed by Air, with the weakest being Water. This combination shows an ambitious and action-orientated individual, at home in the world of ideas, but not always so comfortable in the world of emotions.

Any experienced astrologer will be immediately drawn to the two close conjunctions involving Bowie’s Sun and Moon. Sun conjunct exalted Mars in Capricorn shows the potential for tremendously focused, organized, sustained, conscious action. Moon conjunct Saturn (Serious Moonlight) in Leo shows a controlled approach to expressing dramatic and playful Leo emotions on the 7th house public stage. Being born with these two planetary conjunctions alone shows the potential for huge creative achievement. Success comes through hard work, even though the sense of responsibility could be almost overwhelming at times. Jupiter in Scorpio, close to the top of the chart, is another sign of personal charisma, power and business acumen.

Assuming the time of birth is accurate, the Sun-Mars conjunction is also in Bowie’s 12th house. This is not an easy astrological house to handle and Bowie has had problems with drug use, no doubt bound up with a confused sense of identity. In common with many highly creative individuals, mental illness has also featured in his family background. At best, any problems with planets in the 12th house can be transcended and shared with the universe – the collective consciousness, a world in which everyone and everything is interconnected.

BowieChartBowie has a close square between Mercury in the 12th and Neptune, bringing a very active imagination but some confusion when it comes to clear communication. The meaning of his intriguing lyrics is often open to interpretation.

According to Astro Databank, the time of birth has been fairly well established as 9.00 am. This gives Aquarius rising, which makes sense. The futuristic theme of alien intelligence has appeared in much of Bowie’s work (famously acting in The Man Who Fell To Earth), he has been heavily involved with the Aquarian internet since its early days and he has the typical look of an Aquarius Ascendant (rising sign). As the ruler of Aquarius and the chart, a 4th house Uranus in Gemini plays a key role, a sign of constant Changes at the roots of Bowie’s being.

Venus is close to a Sagittarius Midheaven at the top of the chart. This indicates an open-minded, freedom-loving approach to relationships as well as an artistic career. Venus forms easy aspects to Bowie’s Moon-Saturn conjunction and his Aquarius Ascendant axis. Very nice, in fact a great position for giving and receiving love across the whole wide world.

AladdinSaneDavid Jones the tough Capricorn has survived years of rock’n’roll excess (typical of the Pluto in Leo and Neptune in Libra generation of rock musicians), health scares and even The Laughing Gnome. At the time of writing this interpretation in August 2015, astrologers can look forward to seeing how powerful Uranus and then Pluto transits to Bowie’s Sun-Mars conjunction in Capricorn play out over the next eighteen months. Saturn will also be transiting through his 10th house. A personal re-birth and even greater claim to fame? Knowing David Bowie, it will probably be something unpredictable.

Consultations and readings available at https://www.timburnessastrologer.co.uk