Centaur Spotlight: Nessus

Thumbnail-HeliosHelios– Allright, allright! I hear your incessant demands, and after a long embargo, I will be opening up the TNO watch to Centaurs. I mean we already opened it to asteroids and other minor planets, might as well go one step further, right?

The Astronomy– 7066 Nessus is a centaur that was discovered by David L. Rabinowitz, working with Spacewatch, at Kitt Peak on 26 April 1993. It was the second centaur found by him (5145 Pholus being his previous find), and the third centaur discovery (2060 Chiron, discovered by Charles Kowal in 1977, was the first). Nessus has an orbital period of 122.4 years, an eccentricity of 0.52 and an inclination to the ecliptic of 15.6 degrees. At perihelion, it moves much closer to the Sun than Uranus, while at aphelion it moves out well beyond the orbit of Neptune. The orbits of centaurs are unstable due to perturbations by the giant planets. Nessus is an “SE object” because currently Saturn controls its perihelion and its aphelion is within the Edgeworth–Kuiper belt. Nessus is estimated to have a relatively long orbital half-life of about 4.9 Myr. Fifty clones of the orbit of Nessus suggest that Nessus will not pass within 1AU (150 Gm) of a planet for at least twenty thousand years.

The Myth– In Greek mythology, Nessus was a famous centaur who was killed by Heracles, and whose tainted blood in turn killed Heracles. He was the son of Centauros. He fought in the battle with the Lapiths and became a ferryman on the river Euenos. Nessus is known for his role in the story of the Tunic of Nessus: After carrying Deianeira, the wife of Heracles, across the river, he attempted to force himself upon her. Heracles saw this from across the river and shot a Hydra-poisoned arrow into Nessus’s breast. As a final act of malice, Nessus told Deianeira, as he lay dying, that his blood would ensure that Heracles would be true to her forever. Deianeira foolishly believed him. Later, when her trust began to wane because of Iole, she spread the centaur’s blood on a robe and gave it to her husband. Heracles went to a gathering of heroes, where his passion got the better of him. Meanwhile, Deianeira accidentally spilled a portion of the centaur’s blood onto the floor. To her horror, it began to fume by the light of the rising sun. She instantly recognized it as poison and sent her messenger to warn Heracles but it was too late. Heracles lay dying slowly and painfully as the robe burned his skin—either in actual flames or by the heat of poison. He died a noble death on a funeral pyre of oak branches. Heracles was then taken to Mount Olympus by Zeus and welcomed among the gods for his heroic exploits. A similar theme appears in certain versions of the story of Medea.

Why He Matters– Now, as far as minor planets go, Nessus is pretty famous. He has been covered extensively, and therefore how he acts in the chart is more or less common knowledge in the asteroid community. Nessus relates to poison, whether that is in a glass vial to use on your enemies or the sexual urges and drives that you try to keep locked away in the shadows so that they can never come out and be used against you. As with all of the centaurs, Nessus is connected to Heracles, but in the case of Nessus it is not because of the war fueled by Heracles raging alcoholism and terrible manners, no… This one is the one who killed the Hero. It’s just so fitting, isn’t it? Heracles couldn’t be beaten by any adversary, no- he could only be undone by his own passions. In fact, I would go so far as to say that Nessus is our real face behind the mask, the authentic self that is ugly and depraved that we don’t want anyone to see. Take our hero- The world built him up as a champion, lauding him with gifts, praise, and giving him whatever he wanted- Rewarding him unjustly. To them, he was a hero but in truth he was a philandering, raging boor (fitting of a son of Zeus!). Trouble is no one remembers that bit- Only the legend of the hero, not the true story of the man he was. Sex scandals, infidelity, blood, rape… Nessus has it all, my friends! It’s not all bad though- Nessus can heal as well. Nessus rules over homeopathy (though its efficacy is debatable), the ability to build up a tolerance to toxic substances in small doses over time, and chemotherapy.

To find out where he shows up in your chart, go to astro.com, put in your birth details and in the extended options, all the way at the bottom of the next page, there will be a menu of additional objects. Under that is a blank space where you can enter the number 7066, for Nessus. Once you have it entered, generate the chart! Where does Nessus affect your life? Let us know in the comments below!

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