How to Calculate a Solar Return by Hand

A recent question at Altair Astrology has motivated me to show how the solar return can be calculated by hand. Now that we have the convenience of a computer to do the calculations for us, there is also a danger that the ‘how’ – that is the calculations the computer is doing for us – are forgotten. Many of the younger generation, who have grown up with computers, may never have calculated a chart by hand and may not really know what calculations the computer is really doing, as it takes only a few seconds between a choice of a menu item and the results presented on the computer screen.

With a solar return one is searching for the time that the Sun reaches its radix position. (radix = root or birth position). Three things are known:

  • the birth position
  • the position at midnight (or noon depending on which ephemerides you use) for the day before the Sun reaches its radix position
  • the position at midnight (or noon depending on which ephemerides you use) for the day after the Sun reaches its radix position

We are looking for an unknown; the time of the birth position. So we have the ingredients for a simple proportional relation:

daily movement of the Sun (a) : movement from previous midnight (noon) to radix position (b) = 24 hours :  unknown time (x)

simply put:

a:b = 24 : x

or

x = 24 (b/a)

Now an example. Let us say someone has the Sun at 29 Pisces 00. We want to calculate the solar return chart for 2009.

Sun position on March 20th, 2009     29 Pisces 30 49
– Sun position on March 19th, 2009      28 Pisces 31  10 (I am using an ephemeris with midnight positions)

daily movement of the Sun (a) =  59m 39s

radix position of the Sun                       29 Pisces 00 00
– Sun position previous midnight          28 Pisces 31  10

Suns’ movement to radix position (b) = 28m 50s

Now to use the above formula:

x = 24 (b/a)   =

24 (28m 50s/ 59m39s) =

24 (1730 seconds/3579 seconds) =

11 hours 36 minutes and 4 seconds

since we are using a midnight ephemeris the Sun reaches 29 Pisces 00 at 11:36 am GMT on the 19th of March, 2009. Now all that has to be done is decide to calculate the chart for the birthplace or if we use Morin’s method, for the place where the person is on their birthday.

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12 thoughts on “How to Calculate a Solar Return by Hand

  1. Hi,
    First time on your site. What is my solar return for this year. Will be 72 on april 24. 4/24/1938 Milwaukee, WI
    Thanks Rosie
    P>S> Have a great summer !

    • Hello Rosalie,

      Well, you have the instructions above. All you have to do is calculate the chart for your 72nd birthday at the location that you were on that day. (position of Sun on 72nd birthday = position of Sun at birth). And voíla you have your solar return.

      If you wish a reading then you might want to consult a traditional astrologer of your choice. Private readings are not part of Altair Astrology’s policy.

      PS happy return! :-)

  2. when we have the time for sun position for the solar return and then calculate the solar return chart is summer time taken into account when plotting the chart – hope you can shed some light on this matter as none of the books mention it thanks

  3. Hello, I’ve just a little problem. I’m from Argentina and I’m 18 years-old. When I calculate my solar return by hand it gives me than it is at 5:6:33 GTM. But, when I make my SR by computer with Astroworld or in carta-astral.es it gives me different ascendants. For exaple by hand gives ASC Gemini, by Astroworld gives ASC Virgo and by carta-natal.es gives Cancer!

    What’s the matter with my calc?

    Thanks a lot

    • Hello Román,
      There are a few possibilities for the differences. Most astrology programmes use your birthplace or the last position you calculated a chart from as default. You should check which longitude and latitude the programme used. Another possibilty is using your time zone time instead of GMT for your calculations. Check also whether your ephemeris uses midday or midnight for its entries and adjust accordingly. Without seeing your calculation I can’t tell where the error is. Sometimes when one calculates by hand a slight error might creep in. The only thing to do is to recheck them.
      best regards,
      Thomas

  4. As you know there is a longstanding debate regarding the uses of progressions in calculating a solar return. Could you please let me know how your calculations take (or do not take) progressions into account.

  5. Dear Ireyna,
    The above calculations do not involve progressions. Some astrologers however do use progression within the solar return to time possible events. There is some debate whether to use to place of birth for every year or whether to use the locality of the native (Morin recommends this approach) for any particular year.

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