(10.14.02) WHAT IS QUAOAR? Would you believe me if I told you that it was the newest planet to be discovered in our solar system? Well, if you said "no", then you are in good company, as many astronomers also hesitate to assign the term "planet" to this latest discovery—even though it is the largest solar-system body to be detected since Pluto entered our consciousness in 1930. Quaoar (pronounced kwáh-o-wahr) is an icy rocky mass about half the diameter of Pluto, located in the faraway trans-Neptunian region known as the Kuiper Belt. Quaoar was first identified by astronomers in June, with the news of its discovery being publicly announced last week. (Read more about it here.) An exciting announcement, to be sure—but, for us astrologers, the inevitable next question crops up: What does it mean?

I've personally always believed that the discovery of the next planet, out past Pluto, would signify a new level of planetary consciousness, linking us in a more profound way with the vast universe beyond our tiny solar system. Astrologers relate the historically recent discoveries of the "outer planets"—Uranus (1781), Neptune (1846), and Pluto (1930)—to corresponding shifts in the global collective mind which occurred during the last three centuries. In that time, our world witnessed a transformation from more limited and structured local communities to modern nations to a complex global interrelation of entities, marked by revolution, industrialization, and the deep dark power of the Atomic Age. Considering the astrological synchronicity between these planetary discoveries and the concurrent event-manifestations of their archetypal energies, we should be eagerly exploring Quaoar's properties and anticipating how its observed presence will coincide with changes here on Earth. We get a hint of this from Quaoar's namesake who, in the creation myth of the Tongva (native inhabitants of the southern California region), was the great force of creation that sings and dances the deities into existence. (The name Quaoar, incidentally, remains "unofficial" until it's voted on by the International Astronomical Union.) So let's start singing and dancing.

But what if Quaoar isn't that "next planet"? What if, as many astronomers argue, Quaoar's discovery is instead further evidence that Pluto itself should never have been called a "planet" in the first place? Based on similarities in their composition, mass and eccentric orbital paths, it is highly likely that both Pluto and Quaoar (as well as several other known and as-yet-unknown celestial bodies) are Kuiper Belt objects (or KBOs) rather than planets. Under this astronomical revisionism, Pluto goes from being the lone planet on the solar-system frontier to the largest and most celebrated leader of the pack of KBOs, mysterious bodies that hold scientific clues to the solar system's origin and evolution—and possess the ever-present potential to abruptly enter the inner solar system and collide with planets. (For a great sciency article about this region of our solar system, click here.) From an archetypal perspective, Pluto is that dark force representing the deepest psychological recesses of humankind—power and control, sex and violence, death and rebirth. With the new knowledge that (as astrologer Philip Sedgwick puts it) Pluto has "puppies", maybe we are realizing that there are more variations to uncover, and a deeper distance to go, before we truly understand our destructive and thus transformational human drives.

The Quaoar announcement comes just as the expansive energy of Jupiter approaches the first peak of its flowing trine (120-degree aspect) to Pluto, an aspect that will affect us through next summer. It makes perfect sense that we are now broadening our concept of Pluto to include new astronomical data. In our own lives, the Jupiiter-Pluto trine helps along our growth-oriented transformations by making the necessary breakdowns occur a little more quickly and painlessly. We realize that, just by being ourselves and expressing our truths (Jupiter in Leo) in a sustained fashion, we are gradually turning our insides out and becoming different than we may now realize we are. This trine accompanies the Jupiter-Neptune opposition which also marks this current period. While the Jupiter-Neptune combination fosters a belief that our ego-affirming actions and free creative self-expressions will eventually put us where we need to be, the added influence of Pluto shows us that these actions and expressions can have a profound effect on our development, and on those around us.

Of course, with Pluto comes power dynamics. While the Jupiter-Pluto trine inflates our individual confidence levels and intensifies our individual growth processes, it also deepens clashes between individuals whose visions collide in incompatibility. Philosophical disagreements breed nasty conflicts. One current popular example of this is Rosie O'Donnell's recent announcement that she is leaving her eponymous magazine Rosie due to disagreements with the publishers over its editorial direction. Rosie (who has a natal Jupiter-Pluto aspect increasing in intensity through progression) spent her last several months publicly uncovering hidden aspects of her personality—yes, she's queer, and no, she's not really the "queen of nice"—and now must contend with an outdated formula for a magazine bearing her name. For her, it was an issue of integrity; for the publishers, unable to deal with the transformed Rosie, it was a breach of contract. Both sides are suing.

Another, more menacing result of the Jupiter-Pluto expansion of power appears in the world political forum, as the U.S. prepares to attack Iraq. President George W. Bush exemplifies the nature of Jupiter-Pluto contacts perfectly, as transiting Jupiter is right now crossing his natal Pluto (situated right past his Ascendent in the First House). His idea of entitlement to power is clearly inflated, as his confidence blinds him to the potential for compromise and instead propels him ahead toward conflict. It is a bleak state of affairs when the power issues of a few individuals can so easily thrust much of the world into war. Returning our thoughts to the profundity of Quaoar's discovery, I am left to wonder how its astrological significance plays into these growing world tensions. Just as its name is still unofficial, so too are the archetypal properties that Quaoar and its fellow KBOs will come to possess through their interactions with us. Since there is still time to effect the meaning we want, I say that we do our part to prevent them from being associated with catastrophic war.