How Many Planets?

The word planet comes from the Greek word “planetes” which means “to wander.” This reflects the observation that the planets appear to wander against the backdrop of the fixed stars. Even though “grahas” can be loosely translated as “planets”, these 2 words do not have an identical meaning.

Science defines the solar system as being composed of the Sun and nine planets: Mercury, Venus, the Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. These are the astronomical planets. Vedic and classical astrology (astrology as practiced in the West and Middle East prior to modern Western Astrology) do not use Uranus, Neptune or Pluto because they are not visible with the naked eye. (Some modern Vedic Astrologers do choose to use the outer planets.) Also, Vedic Astrology, as well as classical astrology considers the Sun and the Moon as grahas/planets, and sometimes these are called the luminaries to distinguish them from the other planets.

Jyotish is unique in that it places special emphasis on the Nodes of the Moon. You may recall from the Astronomy section that the Nodes are mathematical points on the ecliptic where eclipses can occur. The North Node is called Rahu, and the South Node is called Ketu. (Review eclipses in Astronomy section.)

Vedic Astrology uses the two luminaries (the Sun and the Moon), the five visible planets (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn) and the two lunar nodes Rahu and Ketu as the nine grahas (planets.) From now on, we shall refer to this group of “planets” with this proper Sanskrit term. When we speak of nine planets we will use the term Navagrahas (Nava means nine in Sanskrit).

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