Welcome to AstroBasics, an ongoing series that will explain those odd terms used by astrologers, what they mean, and how they affect your chart.
I want to start by explaining what I mean when I either say “loosely conjoining” or something like “1° orb.”
Today (December 6, 2017) Mercury (which is retrograde) exactly conjoined Saturn in the sign of Sagittarius. The two of them met up and shook hands. (I’ll talk about what that handshake means in another post.)
A conjunction’s maximum power occurs when the two planets are at the exact same degree. In the image, Saturn and Mercury are both at 28°25′ of Sagittarius. This is also true of the other aspects — opposition (180° apart), square (90° apart), trine (120°), and sextile (60°).
But the influence each has on the other fades in and out as they approach and recede. It’s strongest in the middle, but the effects are felt both before and after the conjunction. This “fade-in, fade-out” period is referred to as the “orb of separation” or just “orb.”
How far apart do they affect each other?
The default distance used in most astrological calculations is 10° apart. In my experience, that’s pretty far apart and the effects are minimal. I use an orb of 5° on either side of the exact point.
(For reference — go outside and hold up your fist at arm’s length against the sky. Your fist will cover about 15°, so a 5° orb is really pretty tight. The full moon covers about 1/2°; 5° is 10 full moon widths.)
So when I say “loosely conjoining,” I mean that the two planets are 3 or 4 or up to 5 degrees apart. They are affecting each other, but not incredibly strongly. “Closely conjoined” is <“comme çi, comme ça” handwaggle> up to a couple of degrees apart; stronger effect on each other, but less than exact.