Asteroid Files: Pholus

Helios– Ah, Pholus… where do I begin with him? Well, right at the beginning, as the usual aphorism goes. So pour yourself a glass of wine, and lets get into this month’s Centaur!

The Astronomy– 5145 Pholus is an eccentric centaur in the outer Solar System, approximately 100 to 200 kilometers in diameter, that crosses the orbit of both Saturn and Neptune. It was discovered on 9 January 1992. The minor planet orbits the Sun at a distance of 8.7–32.0 AU once every 91 years and 12 months (33,601 days). Its orbit has an eccentricity of 0.57 and an inclination of 25° with respect to the ecliptic. Pholus has not come within one astronomical unit of a planet since 764 BC, and will not until 5290. It is believed that Pholus originated in the Kuiper belt. Pholus was the second centaur to be discovered and was quickly found to be quite red in color, for which it has been occasionally nicknamed “Big Red”. The color has been speculated to be due to organic compounds on its surface. It is classified as a Z class object on the Tholen taxonomic scheme. The surface composition of Pholus has been estimated from its reflectance spectrum using two spatially segregated components: dark amorphous carbon and an intimate mixture of water ice, methanol ice, olivine grains, and complex organic compounds (tholins). The carbon black component was used to match the low albedo of the object. Unlike Chiron, Pholus has shown no signs of cometary activity. The diameter of Pholus is estimated to be 185±16 km.

The Myth– In Greek mythology, Pholus was a wise centaur and friend of Heracles who lived in a cave on or near Mount Pelion. The differing accounts vary in details, but each story contains the following elements: Heracles visited his cave sometime before or after the completion of the capture of the Erymanthian Boar. When Heracles drank from a jar of wine in the possession of Pholus, the neighboring centaurs smelled its fragrant odor and, driven characteristically mad, charged into the cave. The majority were slain by Heracles, and the rest were chased to another location where the peaceful centaur Chiron was accidentally wounded by the arrows of Heracles which were soaked in the venomous blood of the Lernaean Hydra. In most accounts, Chiron surrendered his immortality to be free from the agony of the poison when it came to helping Hercules free Prometheus.

While this pursuit and second combat was occurring, Pholus, back in his cave, accidentally wounded himself with one of the venomous arrows while he was either marveling at how such a small thing could kill a centaur or preparing the corpses for burial. He died quickly as a result of the poison’s outrageous virulence and was found by Heracles. Hyginus reports versions of the story where it is not Pholus’s foot on which the poison arrow accidentally falls, but Chiron’s instead. In the Divine Comedy poem Inferno, Pholus is found with the other centaurs patrolling the banks of the river Phlegethon in the seventh circle of Hell.

Why He Matters– Okay, so out of all the centaurs, this guy might be the most understood one aside from Chiron. Pholus represents a catalyst- Something small that grows to have a huge effect and takes on a life of its own. When Pholus opened up the wine for Heracles (because he was being a whiny primadonna, as he was want to do), he gave away something that was communal for the entire centaur tribe, and as we have already seen it had disastrous effects on them. Asbolus lost himself and embraced his own death, and led the other centaurs to theirs- Cyllarus, Amycus, Bienor and Crantor were among the dead (we’ll get to all of them, I promise) and the extermination of all the centaurs aside from Chiron all started here. Pholus is the spark that killed his entire tribe, he is the fall guy for the genocide that occurred.

With all of that, he clearly is more potent in transit than he is in the natal. When he hits something in the chart, he can take a vague idea into an actual plan, and put it on the track to becoming real. He is a visionary, and can inspire you if he hits the right point; Hit the wrong one, and you lose yourself to his altered states. He is great for releasing pent-up pain and aggression through transit. He is easy to overlook, but he is arguably the most active centaur, even more than Chiron. I say that because Chiron is far more Jupiter/Saturn in his expression, but Pholus is exceedingly Martian, even though he never touches Mars’ orbit.

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 5145, for Pholus. Once you have it entered, generate the chart! Where does Pholus affect your life? Let us know in the comments below!

Tags: , , , ,