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Finding Planetary Positions

Planetary positions are recorded in an ephemeris - a table or book of tables that look like the diagram below:

Example ephemeris

The top line tells us that this is the table of planetary positions for the month of April 2003.
The figures at the right of the top line - 00:00 UT - tell us that the positions are recorded for the moment zero of Universal Time (abbreviated to UT or UTC), which equates to midnight in Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).

If your clock is not fixed to GMT you will need to add or subtract the difference in your local time zone, or apply daylight saving adjustments to find the equivalent for your locality. You can do this online by referring to the fixed time calculator at The table on their site is set to midnight GMT. Simply click on the box in the table where it says 'show fixed time' and it will bring up the equivalent time for most of the major cities in the world. So, for example, if you live in Los Angeles, it may show you that the equivalent time for midnight GMT in your area is 4:00 pm. This ephemeris will therefore be exactly correct each day at 4:00pm of your local time.

The first column of the table lists the day of the month. The second column lists an alternative method of time-keeping called 'sidereal time', which is used when making astronomical calculations, but needn't concern you. The third column shows the positions for the Sun, the fourth for the Moon, and so forth - see the planetary symbols at the top of the table. The last four columns show the positions for the moon's nodes, the minor planet Chiron and the mathematical point 'Lilith' or 'Dark Moon'. Some astrologers use these, some don't. If you don't know much about them, just disregard them.

You might notice the R symbol at the top of the Jupiter column. This shows that Jupiter is 'retrograde', which means that it is moving backwards through the zodiac. On Friday 4th April it will stop moving backwards and start to move forwards through the zodiac, which is called 'direct motion'. The D symbols indicates this, it means that it is turning 'direct'.

By understanding how to read an ephemeris you can follow the movements of the planets as they pass over the positions in your birth chart. Some will pass quickly and some will pass slowly. Taking notice of the effect is the best way to build your own understanding of planetary cycles as they directly affect you. The Astrodienst site offers free ephemeris files for every year between 1400 and 2199.

Click the following links to view or print the ephemeris for 2004-2010 external link 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010

© Deborah Houlding