Posted by: Donna Cunningham | April 1, 2010

Surprising Results of the Planetary Scores Contest

©April 1, 2010 by Donna Cunningham, MSW

 For several months, I’ve been running a series of tests to help people find out how strong the outermost planets are in their charts—Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. They’ve been wildly popular, easily becoming the top posts of all time on Skywriter.

For the 2010 International Astrology Day Blogathon, I decided to run a contest to see who had the highest total scores on Pluto, Uranus, and Saturn, the planets in the Cardinal t-square. My ebook trilogy, The Outer Planets and Inner Life, v.1-3, would be the prizes for the top 3 scores.

 I promised to run the results after the contest closed on 3/27, and so here it is, along with the chart for the contest. I didn’t mean for this to be an article for Neptune Week, and I didn’t mean for it to be an April Fools joke, but it’s turned out to be both.

 How the Contest Was Set Up

 Earlier, readers had reported scores for Pluto and Uranus in the 70s, and I’d checked their results and found them accurate. Many born with the Pluto-Uranus conjunction of the 1960s were reporting high scores for both of those planets. Those at the top were born in 1967-8 with Saturn and Chiron closely opposite both Pluto and Uranus. Considering that Saturn also had many aspects in that era, I set the bar very high, saying that only people with scores above 150 could enter the contest.

 They had to send in the score sheet with their birth data and scores for individual items. That was because I was going to have to verify all the top scores by casting the charts and calculating the scores myself.

 The blogathon was taking up tons of time, so I created a folder in my email in box and saved all those entries until the blogathon weekend was over and I’d caught up a bit. Tons of people had participated by calculating and posting their total scores in the comment section, but only 12 people reported totals above 150. One reported a total of 188, seemingly the run-away winner.

 And the Winner Was…NEPTUNE!!

 Huh?  Neptune wasn’t even in the contest. It was excluded because 1) it wasn’t part of the t-square, and 2) the test for Neptune hadn’t been created yet. So why would I say it won?  You’ll see!  And I think you’ll agree.

 When the blogathon was all over, I went into the email folder and calculated the charts and scores for all 12 entries. It took hours over the course of two days because the scores I came up with were verrrrrry different from theirs. Only one of them had specified how they got the totals for each item, so I kept redoing the scores to see if I could figure out what chart features they were using.

 I sent them all copies of the worksheets with my comments on them and asked what orbs they were using and whether they were scoring Chiron or not.

 In the end, not one of them had a score as high as 150—most of them had overestimated their scores by 20-40 points. And therefore not one of them was eligible to enter the contest in the first place! There was no winner!

I don’t believe for one minute that they did it with fraudulent motives, as one Plutonian type named Charles had cynically predicted in the comment section.  They all knew I would be casting their charts to verify the entries.  The problem was a lack of clarity in the rules.

The Trouble with Orbs!

I had assumed we were all on the same page in using orbs, and so I didn’t add that part to the rules for several days after the contest began, in response to a reader’s question. And even after the orbs were added, nobody seemed to pay attention to them.

 What I discovered  from the feedback of the people who’d entered the contest was that they’d all gotten their charts done online on AstroDienst, along with the aspect grid, and AstroDienst uses much wider orbs than I do.

 Here are the orbs I use for aspects and that I used in scoring the charts: 8° for a conjunction or opposition, up to 6° for a square or trine, 3° for the minor aspects. The only exception would be a conjunction to the Midheaven or Ascendant, and, using the Gauquelin system, that is 10°.

 To me, these are pretty standard orbs among modern American astrologers, but I don’t know about European Astrologers, and AstroDienst is European. (If you’re aware of European standard orbs, let me know in the comment section.)

 Check out the Chart for the Contest—Neptune runs Amok!

 I was so flabbergasted by the results—and, after a good night’s sleep had restored my sense of humor, so tickled—that I started trying to reconstruct the chart of the contest. I knew Mercury hadn’t been retrograde, so I decided it must be a case of a Void of Course Moon, probably in Pisces.

 But how would I ever find the chart? And what would constitute a valid chart in the first place—when I conceived of the contest, when my fellow organizers approved it as part of the blogathon events, or when the contest announcement itself was published?

 Then it occurred to me that there is a time/date stamp on each published post, so I went with the announcement as the birth of the contest. It was on March 11, 2010 at 23:03 in Portland, OR. The chart appears below:

What stands out most about this chart is the overwhelming preponderance of Neptunian features. Having been deliberately excluded from the contest, the foggy planet seems to have seeped through the cracks and taken over. Neptune is like that. It doesn’t know how to set or respect boundaries, and what are orbs but the boundaries of aspects? 

In interpreting an event or electional chart, the procedures are similar to a horary chart.  The last aspects formed by the Moon before switching signs are one indication of how things will turn out, and the 4th house of the chart represents the end of the matter. The last aspects formed by the Aquarius Moon in the 3rd are conjunctions to Neptune and Chiron. The 4th house contains a Pisces stellium and multiple conjunctions of Jupiter, Mercury, Sun, and Uranus. All Neptune, all the time!

As befitting the chart, there was no real contest winner, since it all ended in confusion. A great many visitors took the tests, had a good time, and learned a lot about themselves, but nobody actually won a prize.  

I’ll have to claim full responsibility for the mess this contest turned out to be—the rules were poorly written, muddled, and with many inconsistencies between the three tests. My lame excuses are that I was mentally fried, juggling two article collections for the blogathon, and had never run a contest before. And if I ever do another contest, you can be there won’t be any math involved!!  I hope you’re at least laughing at how it turned out!  

COMING NEXT:  Today, April 1st, is the kick-off of National Humor Month.  Considering how much grim stuff has been in the blogs and magazines about the Cardinal t-square, I and several of my blogging buddies are posting astrological humor pieces in the next week or so.  Watch for them!  Sign up for a subscription at the top right hand side of the blog if you really need a laugh.  And if you know of any funny blogs or blog posts, send me a link at

In case you missed them, here are the tests for the 4 outermost planets:

LINK TO THE BLOGATHON ARTICLES COLLECTION ABOUT THE CARDINAL T-SQUAREBlogathon Article Collection on the Cardinal T-Square.  There are over 70 articles by talented professional astrologers sharing their insights about how to deal with these transit.


  1. And this got posted on April 1…

    • OK, so I can do a composite with the contest chart and find out how the contest impacted me! (Joking!)

    • Yes, Jennifer, and it wasn’t intentionally posted on April Fools Day. That was just the first chance I got, due to the posts on Neptune that I felt impelled to create in response to the reader response to the Neptune test. Donna

  2. Ah, Neptune…

  3. This is so funny. I’ve been thinking all day about Neptune and the fact that she was left out of the blogathon because she isn’t part of the T-square. And remember a few weeks ago I said to watch out for the fairy godmother that gets forgotten – she’s the one who causes all the trouble. I was so glad you were featuring Neptune this week because she has been decidedly neglected lately. Whoa – she made herself known, didn’t she?

    I didn’t know April was national humor month, so completely coincidently I was thinking about humor this morning and looked it up in Wikipedia. I was wondering all morning how astrologers think about humor, what planet(s) they think shows a heightened sense of humor, irony, etc. I even wrote to a comedienne I know this morning and asked her to write a guest post on my blog about the impact of humor in the business environment!

    I guess with my strong Neptune, I picked it up from the ethers!

    • LOL, you are sooooo attuned, Ellen. And, yes, I do remember about the fairy godmother who wasn’t invited, a very appropriate analogy here. Send us the link to any humor pieces. Donna

  4. Very amusing ending to your contest, really enjoyed all the tests, thanks! Might you be doing one for Jupiter?

    Here is a funny April Fool´s astrological Hoax story

    Planetary Alignment Decreases Gravity
    1976: The British astronomer Patrick Moore announced on BBC Radio 2 that at 9:47 AM a once-in-a-lifetime astronomical event was going to occur that listeners could experience in their very own homes. The planet Pluto would pass behind Jupiter, temporarily causing a gravitational alignment that would counteract and lessen the Earth’s own gravity. Moore told his listeners that if they jumped in the air at the exact moment that this planetary alignment occurred, they would experience a strange floating sensation. When 9:47 AM arrived, BBC2 began to receive hundreds of phone calls from listeners claiming to have felt the sensation. One woman even reported that she and her eleven friends had risen from their chairs and floated around the room.

    From Best April Fool’s Day Hoaxes of All Time

  5. I KNEW it!! But Donna, I must protest. I believe I said that it would be a good idea to verify the charts because it was *possible* that someone with a high score might be cheating, but would be more likely that they just calculated wrong. That’s called “Hanlon’s Razor,” which says, “never attribute to malice what can more easily be attributed to incompetence.” The rules were perfectly clear to me, and probably to anyone with even a modest amount of astrological ability, or more specifically, the kind of person who would be interested in calculating this in the first place.
    Now that being said, I am curious what the actual highest score is, I think I recall my combined score was over 90, and I used a computer astro program to calculate it exactly to your orb specs, so I know it was correct.
    So all in all, the only true winner was me, since I correctly predicted the outcome, that none of the alleged high scores were as high as anyone claimed. Can I claim a consolation prize?
    And of course, everyone who played won (well at least those who played correctly) as it sure seems like everyone enjoyed these calculations, even as the link spread to other blogs for discussion. And special kudos to Donna for following this discussion around the other blogs and engaging with everyone. That was way beyond the call of duty. So you have nothing to be ashamed of in this contest, it was great fun.

    • LOL!! I was hoping you’d show up, Charles! And, yes, I’d be happy for you to choose one of my ebooks for correctly forecasting the outcome of the contest. I surely didn’t see it coming, myself. Broadsided!

      don’t know what the highest score really was, because people who didn’t report higher than 150 were discouraged from entering, so I wouldn’t have to score every possible total. I would estimate, however, somewhere in the 140s, because I’d calculated scores in the 60s and 70s on Pluto and Uranus for people who won single book prizes earlier.

      And, yes, I like Hanlon’s razor–never heard it before, but it’s got to be true. Donna

  6. I was teasing you about the consolation prize, but I’ll gladly accept. I know this wasn’t a “second-guess Donna” contest but I’ll gratefully take what I can get.
    Maybe I should send you my chart and let you pick which book I should read. I understand that you’re retired from personal consultations, so that’s probably as close as I could get. Ha.
    I’ll drop you a note via email soon and make arrangements. Oh and P.S. for your amusement, other (more blunt) forms of Hanlon’s Razor:'s_razor

  7. Very funny! I agree with Charles – everyone who participated won, because your articles during the contest and the comments they generated were so wonderfully insightful and informative – this one not least among them!

    A lot of the computer-generated programs use much higher orbs than I think are justified. Perhaps they do this so as not to disappoint people who don’t have a lot of close aspects in their charts. Unfortunately, for those of us who have a lot of fairly close aspects, getting overwhelmed with too much interpretation just ends up being confusing (Neptune again) and defeats the whole purpose. I think it’s great that there are so many websites that will calculate accurate charts for people at no cost – but I’m not a big fan of free interpretation programs.

  8. OMG that is so funny, since I was one of the people involved! Hilarious! Well, since Neptune won, I believe he has some excellent reading to do now, right Donna, hehe!! 😉 Who knows? Maybe all of us scored high in our Neptunes in our charts too! However, I will figure it out later….

    • I know, it’s getting funnier to me, too, as time goes on, and as I see just how Neptunian the whole thing was. My own Neptune isn’t that strong–only 22–but I do have a Mercury-Neptune square, with Mercury on the cusp of the 12th and Neptune in the 3rd. It’s being activated by transiting Uranus and Neptune. Donna

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